Robert Gougaloff ‘s Parent Alienation Blog

A blog about Parent Alienation

Don’t take the bait !!!

I have made the discovery over the last few years that an alienating parent with narcissistic tendencies will often try to throw some “bait” at the target parent (usually right in front of the children).  What is “bait”?  Any kind of challenging comment that when responded to can ignite a conflict.  It is often very difficult to take the “high road” on that and let it go, but it is usually the better way to go.

I heard a great comment not too long ago in a parenting group made by one of its participating members: “Well, I don’t know how to make it better with ………….., but I DO know how to make it worse!”  Now, I consider this to be a statement with a rather powerful message.  The message being that you, and you alone makes the decision on how a person with a narcissistic personality disorder affects you.

People like this will always try to throw bait out in order for you to grab it and more often than not their anger and disappointment increases if you don’t, but at least you are not part of it.  Anger and resentments are horrible burdens to carry around.  If you are not convinced about the devastating physiological effects emotions like anger, fear and resentments can have on the human body, I encourage you to read some of David Hawkins’ books.



October 28, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why do PAS/HAP parents act like they do?

Just to put my disclaimer upfront, the following post is just an opinion, based on multiple books and publications I read and seminars I attended.

I firmly believe that PAS/HAP parents have never left the “Egocentric Stage” , which is the very first stage in child development, where survival skills are learned.  This stage usually lasts about three to five years in children, after which they move on to the “People Pleasing Stage” and the “Fairness Stage”.  Many adults however never move out of these primitive stages of child development.  To the parents still stuck in the first stage, having complete control over their child or children is a life and death matter.  Since they don’t know how to please people, every attempt to do so comes with strings attached.  They usually feel very uncomfortable giving, but will readily take.  They usually don’t obey the rules and may not obey any court order.

My observations have lead me to the conclusion that such parents are usually unable to “individuate” (see children as separate humans from themselves) and usually become overly enmeshed with their children.

Many psychologists diagnose such people as narcissists, a condition of self-centerdness, where they believe that they are entitled to whatever they want.  These people are also often called “sociopaths”, which is a person who has no moral conscience.  These people are unable to have empathy or compassion for others and are usually unable to see a situation from another person’s point of view.

The severe PAS/HAP parent usually has a very poor prognosis.  It is unlikely that they are ever able to “get it”, and it is even more unlikely that they will ever be able to stop the alienation process, because after all it is a survival issue to them.

The victimized children however, are being heavily abused by such behavior.  They end up in a double bind.  Their instincts and genetics tell them to love the target parent, but they also figure out “which side the bread is buttered on” and their survival needs push them into an unnatural and uncomfortable, not to mention confusing direction.  That is why Parent Alienation is considered a severe form of child abuse by many psychologists.

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October 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Rationality and Emotion – Can both co-exist in the same Brain?

Most psychologists will say “NO” to this question, because these originate from two different areas of our brain. Rationality originates predominantly from the pre-frontal cortex, whereas emotions, such as anger, fear and resentments originate from the more primitive limbic system, the latter one usually winning out over the former one when it comes to a response.

How does this tie in with parent alienation?  Well, my greatest struggle is understanding how one and the same person (the HAP parent) can be a scientifically trained person, accepting nothing less than empirical evidence when it comes to making professional decisions or decisions for the general health of his or her children, yet at the same time can act in a manner which has been proven through empirical evidence to cause a great deal of psychological harm to children.

Is it because the emotions of anger and resentment (which are really just fear-based sub-emotions) are so strong that they literally shut down the rational thinking process, or is it perhaps that the satisfaction of the ego is at that moment more important than the possible negative effects that behavior might have on children? What about when the conflict started over 6 years ago (as it is in my case)?  Does the brain not engage into a natural protective mode, where it down-regulates such emotion over time, because it is unhealthy to the human body to live with such resentments over long periods of time?  Or is this perhaps a pathology in itself?

What exactly is the mechanism that allows an otherwise rational person to become suddenly emotion-driven and act in the most irrational way to the point where children are being abused (I do consider parent alienation to be a form of child abuse)?

These are a lot of questions, which I try to find answers to.  Perhaps answers to these questions will allow me to pave a better substrate for a psychological ecology that is healthy for my children.  I will continue to scour the psychological literature until I find a satisfactory answer to these questions, and when I do, rest assured, I will be the first one to share them with the rest of you!

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October 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Can children recover?

Can children recover from the symptoms left behind by the hostile-aggressive parenting strategies of one parent?  The answer is: I don’t know.  Actually I wish I knew!  If you have any experiences in these type of scenarios, please share them with all of us.

What is known is that psychological damage will eventually arise in children consistently subjected to PA.  This cluster of symptoms is formerly known as PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) which, by the way,  will most likely finally be included as a pathological behavior syndrome in the next edition of the DSM-IV.

My sentiment on the recovery issue is this:  It takes a lot of energy and effort to coerce a child or children into denigrating against another parent, because it is not within their genetic repertiore to do so.  It is therefore extremely difficult to force a child against its own natural instincts.  However the more successful the denigrating parent becomes in his or her effort to do so, the more damage is also done to the child.

Now,  the good news is that I have heard of many cases like that to have been successfully reversed with proper therapy.  Perhaps it is easier to fall back into the state of genetic normality (which is to allow the child to love both parents) than it is to move away from it, however it is the deep-rooted underlying damage that was done in the process, which I am concerned with and have no answer to.  A sudden reversal of symptoms in the children is to be taken cautiously, because this may just be a temporary veneer of behaviours that still have the actual deeper-rooted problems underneath it.  A HAP parent can easily convince the children to show affection and niceness to the target parent just to offer the appearance that the children are fine, however the psychological issues more likely than not are still present and need to be dealt with properly.

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October 5, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Tender Years Presumption

Divorcing spouses today contest few issues more bitterly than child custody. This was not always the case. When a married couple petitioned the courts of ancient Rome for a divorce, any disputes over which parent would retain primary physical custody of the children were easily settled, because there were no disputes. In the eyes of Caesar’s jurists, children were property owned solely by their fathers. The legal rights of mothers were limited since the courts also considered them to be the property of their husbands.

This custom eventually spread around the world and continued well into the 19th century. Under English common law in the 180Os, this practice became virtually self-perpetuating. English property laws decreed that once a man lost title to his assets, in this case his children, his financial responsibility for them also ended. Since few women of that time possessed the resources to support a family on their own, the courts remained averse to awarding custody to the mother even if the children stated a strong preference for living with her.

A gradual shift in custody decisions occurred as the courts entered the 20th century. Historical trends forced a division of family responsibilities, leading fathers away from the family home and into roles as wage earners, while mothers stayed behind as caretakers to the children. This division of roles, as well as an increasing interest in children’s welfare, led to a shift from paternal preference to maternal preference in custody decisions. The Tender Years Presumption suggested that children under the age of 10 could not attain normal emotional development without the continual influence of a maternal presence. By the 1920s, tender years became the standard in 48 states. Over time, it became the father who seldom retained custody of the children, even if the children were adolescents and presumably beyond the consideration of any tender years’ standard.

As time went on and men demonstrated parenting skills comparable to women, judges became less reluctant to award custodial rights to fathers. Fathers began to seek primary custody more often, at times even claiming sex discrimination in custody proceedings. Gradually, court rulings and statutory guidelines awarded more rights to fathers. In a landmark decision in 1981 in the case of Devine vs. Devine, the Alabama court asserted that the tender years presumption represented a form of gender bias against men and violated the Fourteenth Amendment by denying fathers “the equal protection of the law.”

By the 1970s, most states had substituted the tender years doctrine with the “best interests of the child” standard. This standard compelled jurists to award custody based on what is best for the child considering the particular circumstances, rather than simply the gender of the parent. The acceptance of the best interests standard led the way to the development of joint custody in divorce proceedings. Parents argued that it was in the best interest of the children to have access to and rearing from both parents. Child welfare experts began to uncover evidence that access to both parents is critical to a child’s self-esteem and coping (Lewis, 1978; Derdeyn and Scott, 1984; American Psychological Association, 1994; Ackerman and Ackerman, 1997; Herman, 1997). In 1979, California became the first state to enact a joint custody statute. At this time, nearly all states have adopted joint custody statutes or recognize the concept of joint custody in case law. To this date, virtually all states will take the “best interests of the child” standard as the base of their decision making, and rarely will a state cite the Tender Years Presumption as a basis for awarding custody to the maternal side.

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October 2, 2008 Posted by | General Information | , , , , | 2 Comments