Saturday, July 23, 2011

Q & A: Prognosis for Child

This is a question asked of me in a radio interview with the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization:

What will happen to the children if they do not have access to both parents? Boys without mothers and girls without mothers and vice versa what changes will take place and at what age do you see these changes, if there are any.

Predicting outcomes depends on so many factors that general statements need to be offered with a great deal of caution.

The brain is both experience-expectant and experience-dependent.  For example, with language, the brain is experience-expectant in that it expects to acquire language and it has brain networks already pre-wired to receive language, but the specific language the brain learns is experience-dependent; i.e., it depends on what language is spoken by the parents in the home.

The brain also acquires patterns for relationships, what Daniel Stern calls “schemas-of-being-with,” that are both experience-expectant and experience-dependent.  The brain expects relationships with a father-role and a mother-role, and these experience-expectant and experience-dependent representational networks organize relationship patterns in a variety of ways.  Broadly speaking, a boy’s sense of gender self-identity, i.e., what it means to be a man, a husband, and a father will be strongly influenced by the boy’s relationship with his father, while a girl’s gender self-identity of what it means to be a woman, a wife, and a mother will be strongly influenced by her relationship with her mother.  Future spousal relationships will similarly be influenced by the cross-gender relationships each child has with the opposite-gender parent.  So a boy’s future spousal relationship with his wife will be influenced by the boy’s relationship patterns developed with his mother, and similarly, a girl’s future spousal relationship with her husband will be influenced by the girl’s relationship patterns developed with her father.

This being said, however, children also grow up in a variety of family structures including single-parent households, step-families, and extended family arrangements without obvious systematic disturbances.  Far more important than the mere existence of the relationship is the quality of the relationships the child has with parental figures, and this is of far greater concern in parental alienation than the potential impact of gender related relationships.  The alienating-Beta parent usually has a serious degree of psychopathology, otherwise they wouldn’t be so insensitive to the significant degree of psychological injury they are inflicting on the child through the alienation process.  Conversely, the targeted-Delta parent is typically much healthier psychologically, which is why they tend to refrain from engaging in compensatory alienation measures of their own. 

But the healthier efforts of the targeted-Delta parent to refrain from engaging in their own compensatory alienation efforts toward the other parent only allow the pathological alienating-Beta parent, who has no conscience about harming the child psychologically, to have full sway in influencing the child.  It is the biblical story of Solomon and the disputed mothers of the infant.  When two women each claimed to be the mother of the child, Solomon instructed that the child be cut in half so that half a child could be given to each mother.  Upon hearing this judgment, the true mother couldn’t bear to see her child cut in half and she told Solomon to give the child to the other woman.  Solomon, in his wisdom, recognized the self-sacrifice of the true mother and awarded the child to her.

I wonder if Solomon’s judgment could be cited as legal precedent in court.  The alienating-Beta parent is fully willing to psychologically injure the child by triangulating the child into the spousal conflict as a weapon to be used against the other parent.  The targeted-Delta parent is unwilling to psychologically injure the child by triangulating the child into the spousal conflict, so the targeted-Delta parent does not actively fight back with compensatory alienation to counter the alienating-Beta parent’s triangulation of the child.  This results in the child feeling the pressure of alienation from only one side, so that the child is coerced-seduced into an alliance with the pathological alienating-Beta parent targeting the psychologically healthier parent for abuse and suffering.  The true parent, the parent who loves the child, is the one that sacrifices their love so that the child is not cut in half.  Based on Solomon’s wisdom, the child should be awarded to the targeted-Delta parent.  Instead, the child is typically given to the parent who would cut the child in half.  Would that our current courts possessed Solomon’s wisdom.

Of far more concern than the gender relationships of the child with parents is the psychological-developmental influence on the child of being in continual close relationship with a parent who has significant psychopathology and limited to non-existent empathy and compassion for the child’s developmental needs and healthy psychological development; and the simultaneous estrangement of the child from a relationship with a psychologically healthier and more loving parent, a parent who places the child’s psychological and developmental needs above the parent’s own emotional needs.

The prognosis and time frames for psychological injury are too dependent on the extent of pathology of the alienating-Beta parent and the degree of court and therapeutic support available.  Among the areas I would be concerned about include the child’s later development of significant depression (potential ages; 22-35), the child’s later development of alcohol problems (potential ages; 22-32), and the child’s later development of marital problems and divorce (potential ages; 30-40).  The triad of concern would be significant depression, alcohol problems, and marital problems in the child’s early to mid ‘30s.

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