Recognizing the mild form of alienating behavior is tricky: the alienating behavior is
subtle, and the alienating parent prone to deny motivation and acts, and driven to
verbally assert the opposite of what is true.
Although such statements are sincerely meant, the alienating parent's view of the other
parent is compromised at this stage, as indicated by behavior. Not aware of the
feelings that motivate the unintentional alienating behavior, the evaluator must look at
the underlying messages that are given directly to the child. In this milder form
there is less polarization of the external sources of the divorce impasse system
(attorneys, courts). The communications to the child of the regard with which the other
parent is held is the key to detecting alienating behavior.
Examples of mild forms of alienating behavior include:
1. Little regard for the importance of visitation/contact with the other parent:
"You're welcome to visit with Mom; you make the choice; I won't force
No encouragement of visits;
No concern over missed visits;
No interest in the child's activities or experiences during visitation (in a positive
2. Lack of value regarding communication between visits:
No encouragement of communication between visits.
Little awareness of the distress a child may feel if a visit or phone call is
3. Inability to tolerate the presence of the other parent even at events important to
4. Disregard for the importance of the relationship to the child:
Displaying a willingness to apply for and accept a new job away from the other parent,
without regard to the child's relationship with that parent.
At this stage alienation is most likely to become obvious during family system
transition times, such as when children leave one home and go to another, when one parent
remarries or has another child. The knowledge that a child needs the other parent
may be present, but this rational belief may become overwhelmed by internal and
interactional problems at this phase.
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