Parenting in Isolation, Without or With a Partner

  • Valentín Escudero
  • Myrna L. Friedlander
Part of the Focused Issues in Family Therapy book series (FIFT)


This chapter describes the therapeutic challenges of addressing problems in parenting with overburdened single parents, with high-conflict separated or divorced couples, and with two-parent families where one parent is uninvolved with the children or is actively obstructive to the therapeutic process. The focus of the chapter is the use of specific alliance strategies to empower families when one parent is literally or psychologically absent, as well as when both parents are actively involved in treatment but are in sharp disagreement about their child’s behavior (e.g., use of alcohol/drugs, eating problems, “coming out” as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender). We recommend specific ways to engage the absentee parent and discuss how to approach the case when this strategy fails. We also describe ways to use the therapeutic alliance to empower single parents to address their children’s internalizing and externalizing difficulties. Often the lack of coordination in parenting arises when the child or adolescent is in crisis. An extended example shows, through annotated dialogue, how a therapist approached working with a Chinese mother who had the sole burden of parenting a 13-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome who had recently made a sexual advance to another boy. When the father eventually agreed to attend a session, the therapist used various strategies to ensure safety and enhance the within-couple alliance around shared parenting responsibilities, all the while being careful not to shame the father about his lack of involvement or create a split alliance that would have harmed the fragile couple relationship.


Isolated parent One-parent families Absent parent Co-parenting High-conflict couples Empower single parent 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentín Escudero
    • 1
  • Myrna L. Friedlander
    • 2
  1. 1.University of A CoruñaA CoruñaSpain
  2. 2.University at Albany/SUNYAlbanyUSA

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