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Parental alienation: the case for parentification and mental health




Kraus, Allyson, author
Biringen, Zeynep, advisor
MacPhee, David, committee member
Harman, Jennifer, committee member

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Parental alienation typically occurs in families with separated or divorced parents, and one parent actively campaigns against the other parent to elicit the support of the children. Due to the detrimental effects that alienation can have on a child and the apparent lack of awareness on the part of the alienating parent, it has been speculated that alienating parents may experience poor mental health. Parentification is a common tactic used by alienating parents in order to align with the child(ren), and the boundary disruption involved in parentification further supports the idea that these parents may be experiencing a mental illness. Interviews with parents who report being alienated from a child were coded for their descriptions of the alienating parent's level of parentification and their mental health status. Results indicated a significant relation between the level of parentification and mental health status. The marital status and gender of the targeted parent, as well as parenting time, were also tested as contributors to the parentification in the family, but no significant associations between these variables were found. The significant association between parentification and mental health status implies that poor mental health may predispose parents to use parentification as a tactic in the process of alienation.


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