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The Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP): a form of child maltreatment

The Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP): a form of child maltreatment

November 27, 2021

The separation of a marriage is not easy for those affected, and it seems incredible the reaction they can have with respect to the other party. The hatred that they are capable of feeling for each other has attracted the attention of many psychologists, because the behaviors of contempt, often unimaginable, that can be seen in this situation, mask the love that may have been felt in their day. ex partner.

But the problem gets worse when there are children through . They can suffer more than anyone from this painful situation. Especially when the parents use them to hurt the other. This is known as Parental Alienation Syndrome .

What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

The Parental Alienation Syndrome (SAP) is a set of symptoms that result from the use of different strategies by a parent, in which exerts influence on the thinking of children with the intention of destroying the relationship with the other parent.


The SAP can occur when the child is influenced by one parent (parent A) to reject the other parent (parent B). For example, parent A can tell the child that parent B does not want to visit, when, in fact, parent B is working.

Many times, this type of negative influence, used repeatedly, causes the child to reject the other parent .

It is necessary to reflect on the Parental Alienation Syndrome and the real danger of parents who use this type of behavior to harm their ex-partner, because the child is the one who really suffers the negative consequences of this situation . But this issue must also be treated with care, since some parents, for their legal defense, may accuse the other member of the ex-partner for using SAP against him even if it is not true.


Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome

How do alienating parents act? These are the characteristic behaviors of the parents who carry out the SAP:

  • To belittle, insult or devalue the other parent in front of the child, mentioning topics of the couple that have nothing to do with the parental bond.
  • Tell a child the details of the divorce when the ex-spouse is not present, but as if the latter was the culprit. The parent is looking for the child to think that the other parent is the victim and that, in this way, he does not empathize with him.
  • Do not allow the right of coexistence of the child with the other parent.
  • Influence children with lies over the other coming to scare them.
  • Include family environment and friends in the attacks on the other parent.
  • Underestimate or ridicule the feelings of children towards the other parent.
  • Gratifying and reinforcing derogatory behavior and rejection by the child towards the other parent.

Causes of this phenomenon

Why can a parent want to damage their child's relationship with the other parent? The causes may differ from one parent to another, since each case is usually different. These are some of them:


  • Annoyed accumulated during the relationship for not having treated the problems in the right way . The lack of control of anger can cause, in these cases, that parents are not able to separate the problems of the relationship of their parental functions.
  • Self-esteem problems What causes emotional dependence towards the other parent.
  • Lack of social skills and difficulties in the expression and understanding of emotions. They may be unable to feel empathy towards the child and towards the ex-spouse.
  • Personality disorders . For example: narcissism or Personality Limit Disorder.

Preventing SAP is the best therapy

The Parental Alienation Syndrome is a complex phenomenon because of the environment in which it occurs. It is a real problem that separated families or families that are in the breaking phase can experience, but It also manifests itself in the judicial field . There are many men and women who use their children as a weapon against the other and induce them to have negative thoughts about the other parent.

The American Psychological Association it has not recognized it as a disorder and, therefore, it does not appear in the DSM-V. But the suffering it can cause in the actors is devastating, because the emotional damage that this phenomenon brings can affect kids for the rest of their lives.

The best way to treat it is to prevent it. Since, once it happens, it is necessary to attack it from different fronts. That a child suffers from the irresponsibility of parents is tremendously unfair. Because, The attitude of the parents around their break is crucial for the welfare of their child .

Since the SAP is a form of child maltreatment, once it has occurred and is diagnosed, it can have legal consequences. For example, the change of custody for the child to re-establish links with the parent who has been the victim of parental alienation. Sometimes it can happen that the child refuses, and that is why the subject must be treated with great care. The therapy is necessary to reverse the situation and, in many cases, it is the judge himself who can intervene.

Bibliographic references:

  • Infocop

PAS: Child Abuse Case Seminar - Parentally Alienated Children Treatment - Part 2 - Dr. Michael Bone (November 2021).


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