Not all children who reject a parent are alienated. To know if a child’s sudden rejection of a parent is parental alienation, it isimportant to first determine if the child has valid reasons for rejecting the parent, such as abuse or neglect. Is the rejection alienation or is it estrangement? Sometimes the rejected parent may have abused or neglected the child, or perhaps the parent has a mental illness that affects his or her relationship with the child, or the use of drugs by the target parent may have impaired the relationship with the child. Rational rejection for reasons such as these does not qualify as parental alienation. An assessment of the family that includes all members of the family—mother, father, and the children—is the first step to making this determination. Unfortunately, this step is often overlooked in many family courts.
The Five-Factor Model refers to a method for identifying parental alienation by understanding the components of the problem. It includes the following criteria:
• Factor One: the child manifests contact resistance or refusal, i.e., avoids a relationship with one of the parents.
• Factor Two: the presence of a prior positive relationship between the child and the now-rejected parent.
• Factor Three: the absence of abuse, neglect, or seriously deficient parenting on the part of the now-rejected parent.
• Factor Four: the use of multiple alienating behaviors on the part of the favored parent.
• Factor Five: the exhibition of many of the eight behavioral manifestations of alienation by the child.
Once alienation is established, the level of severity of the alienation is critical to determine the type of treatment needed to resolve the alienation.
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