Examining Parental Alienation Treatments: Problems of Principles and Practices

  • Jean MercerEmail author


When children of high-conflict divorced parents prefer one parent and resist or refuse visitation with the other parent, some authors have spoken of this situation as parental alienation (PA). PA refers to cases of avoidance of a parent in which the preferred parent is alleged to have manipulated the child’s thinking and created antagonism toward the non-preferred parent, and in which neither abuse nor neglect has been substantiated. Advocates of the PA concept have offered treatment methods that entail court-ordered separation of the child from the preferred parent, followed by intensive treatment and aftercare through specialized counseling, with separation and treatment sometimes lasting years. This paper examines the published evidence and other material related to the safety and effectiveness of PA treatments, and concludes that the treatments have not been shown to be effective, but are in fact potentially harmful. Suggestions are made for research approaches that could help to explain avoidance of a parent and that could yield effective treatment for such avoidance.


Parental alienation Divorce High-conflict families Visitation, reunification 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author declares that she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockton UniversityGallowayUSA

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