Criteria For The Diagnosis Of Parental Alienation

Diagnosing parental alienation is based upon the level of symptoms in the child, not the symptom level of the alienator. The primary behavioral symptoms involve the following two criteria:

  • Campaign of denigration against the target parent.
    • The child often presents complaints in a litany, some trivial, many false or irrational.
    • The child often denies ever having experienced good times with the target parent when that is clearly not the case.
  • Frivolous rationalizations for the child's criticism of the target parent.
    • The child's reactions of hatred or disdain are unjustified and disproportionate to the circumstances they describe.
    • They may claim to be fearful, but they do so easily and without typical fear reactions.

When a child exhibits both of these criteria along with two or more of the following, it is parental alienation.

  • Lack of ambivalence:
    • The child manifests all-or-none thinking, idealizing the alienating parent and devaluing the target parent.
  • Independent-thinker phenomenon:
    • The child proudly states the decision to reject the target parent is his or her own, not influenced by the alienating parent.
  • Reflexive support of the alienating parent against the target parent.
    • The child immediately and automatically takes the alienating parent's side in a disagreement.
  • Absence of guilt over exploitation and mistreatment of the target parent.
    • The child may be oppositional, rude, disrespectful, and even violent toward the target parent and shows little or no remorse for those behaviors.
  • Borrowed scenarios.
    • The child makes rehearsed statements that are identical to those made by the alienating parent.
    • Younger siblings may mimic what they have heard their older sibling say.
    • They usually are unable to elaborate on the details of the events they allege.
  • Spread of the child's animosity toward the target parent's extended family.
    • Expressed feelings and hatred often include the extended family or friends of the target parent, even when the child has had little or no contact with them.
    • Occasionally, the child's hatred extends to pets of the target parent.