Louisiana 10.14.2022 Alienation
is just one
piece of the puzzle:
Understanding and responding
to the needs of
the polarized child
(c) Benjamin D. Garber, Ph.D.
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process of evaluating a polarized family,
one must consider many mutually compatible hypotheses
including these (in the order presented):
Questions that must
temporal and proximal factors
changing the time or place reduce the child’s
transitional objects reduce the child’s
contact with absent parent/sibs/friends via
distance media reduce the child’s resistance?
child’s resistance temporary and short-lived or
consistent and chronic?
child’s resistance event- time- or place-specific?
interviews in different relationship contexts are
evaluation of the child will help to consider
parent-child “fit” and “mis-fit” questions
child saying and doing what the proximal parent
needs to hear and see? (Chameleon child)
child’s resistance due to temperament?
child’s resistance due to diagnosable social,
emotional, behavioral, and/or cognitive
A-Child Dyadic factors
for affinity clues in shared characteristics,
encouraging Parent B to express interest in
(“teach me”) shared interests and activities
reduce the child’s resistance?
can help reduce discrepant parenting practices and
thereby reduce the child’s resistance.
child’s resistance due to a relationship AFFINITY
appropriate to development and culture?
child’s resistance due to
overly permissive parenting?
child resist all separations from Parent A (but
manages separations from others)?
Parent A redirect needs being foist upon child to
alternate healthier resources (e.g.,
psychotherapy, religion, book group, pet)
Parent A supports (e.g., substance abuse program)
so that the need the child is fulfilling is
a “graduation” event to thank the child for
supporting Parent A but now ready to move on.
B-Child dyadic factors
Parent B’s risk of danger
child’s ability to advocate for self
B in individual therapy, substance abuse
treatment, medication consultation
therapies involve entire system in anxiety
management and graduated exposure.
child ever have a healthy relationship with Parent
child directly experienced Parent B as
insensitive, unresponsive, abusive or neglectful?
child vicariously experienced Parent B as
insensitive, unresponsive, abusive or neglectful?
F2F encounters at transition
F2F transitions – transition through school? Child
trusted, safe surrogates at transition
child anticipate and avoid her parents’ F2F
encounters, e.g., at transition?
can help to diminish “cultural” discrepancies so
as to reduce the child’s resistance.
adult’s pressure (e.g., bribery, threats) is a
selfish and destructive act that speaks to that
person’s willingness and ability to put the
child’s needs first.
calls for prompt, forceful, and salient
consequences for the alienating adult and systemic
residential interventions and custody reversal are
among possible interventions in extreme
child’s resistance an effort to avoid culture
child’s resistance due to Parent A’s pressure?
child’s relationship with Parent B been damaged by
exposure to Parent A’s unwarranted negative words,
behaviors, and/or emotions about Parent B?