Alienation is more prickly than sweet! …
There are lots of reasons why we need a name for the pattern commonly called Parental Alienation.
Some people do great work with Alienated children and families but without using that label. So you won’t find their good work by Googling ‘Alienation’.
We want to feature two important papers on Alienation by another name. They go under our radar because they don’t use our word for it.
First though, there is already a very well known different name for Alienation … under which some very well known work with Alienated families has been described. Richard Warshak gives us his striking informal alternative name: Divorce Poison. It’s certainly been good at getting attention in the market place.
Why don’t we use that term more? Well, ‘divorce’ doesn’t include other family separation. Maybe Warshak’s is a more neutral description of general misery for the whole family?
But divorce poison – like Parental Alienation too – may picture one person doing the poisoning of someone else. So both terms carry the victim / blame picture. Poisoning sounds very medical, but otherwise ‘divorce poison’ doesn’t sound scientific enough to be taken seriously, does it? No label can convey both the one-sided-ness, as well as the subtler complexity of the pattern.
Incidentally, this victim / blame thing is why many professionals don’t like any of these terms. Maybe we should categorise PA / Divorce Poison along with other Child Abuses which are very widely accepted … despite the term Child Abuse meaning that there is a victim and perpetrating to sort out. It is widely recognised that PA is emotional abuse of the children … if you need any proof, just look up at that 7-year old’s drawing. The implied perpetrator in PA though would need to not be just one culpable individual, not even both parents. The perpetrator in PA is a more collective adult system – a collective culpability that includes legal and other professional and social agencies too. Read the van Lawick & Visser paper for how the wider social system can actually be involved in making things better.
Anyway, here’s the less well-known papers you might miss without our familiar tag on them.
David Pitcher: ‘Do you see what I see?’