‘I see a wall… then I cannot reach my son.’ Coercive control tactics by one parent alienate the child from the other

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  • 1 Public Health Agency Dijkstra, , The Netherlands
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This article, drawing from practice-based research, explores the impact of coercive control tactics used by one parent against the other to alienate the affections of the child from the other parent. Such tactics tend to corrupt the child and disempower the victimised parent. In the first of three sections is a research-based consideration of relevant terms and meanings. In the second part, the results of the qualitative research based on interviews with ten victimised mothers are presented. Analysis of these interviews illuminates some gendered ways in which the dominant partner can sabotage the relationship between the other parent and the child(ren), employing a pattern of coercive tactics. The interviews also reveal how social professionals can be manipulated to misperceive the situation, assuming without sufficient evidence that the two divorced partners have equivalent power, when in fact the power relationship is asymmetrical, with emotional violence happening under the surface. In such situations, the poisoning of parent–child relationships can lead to the alienated parent’s losing direct and even indirect contact with the child(ren). In the third and last section, recommendations pay particular attention to gendered manifestations of child–parent alienation such as diminishing space for action, distorted views and fraying bonds of affection.

The article concludes with a plea for more awareness of asymmetrical and gendered parental relationships after divorce and the relationship between coercive control, gender and alienation of affection.

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  • 1 Public Health Agency Dijkstra, , The Netherlands

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