Parent Alienation Syndrome

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After reading in chapter 7 about how children are especially vulnerable to suggestibility and coercion, I became curious to know more about how this susceptibility may effect a child. I came across something called parent alienation syndrome which can be described as a parent conditioning his or her child to turn against or even become afraid of the other parent.
The controlling parent in this situation can be distinguished in many ways. The first thing a parent will do is try to discontinue contact with the child and the other parent. A child may be threatened with withdrawal of love, home, or support if he or she does not accept the views of the controlling parent. The controlling parent may also coerce the child to believe that the other parent has abused them. By continually repeating false stories of abuse a child eventually comes to accept them as true, consequently alienating the child from the innocent parent.
This syndrome is the result of a conditioned response. Imagine that a child sees his father who helps him with his homework and then takes him out for an ice cream. After this enjoyable day the child returns to his controlling mother who punishes him and treats him as if he was a possession as a result of the day he spent with his father. In this situation, the father would be the unconditioned stimulus, the enjoyable day would be the unconditioned response. Eventually, as the child continues to be abused by the mother as a result of seeing his father, the child will develop a conditioned response to the sight of his father and automatically become emotionally stressed.
This syndrome is a tragic example of how children can be controlled to become afraid of something that they would normally have no fearful response to. If a child can be coerced to become emotionally distressed at the sight of a parent, who is supposed to represent safety and love, what else can they be coerced to feel?

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This page contains a single entry by wagne856 published on October 23, 2011 9:08 PM.

Negative Reinforcement- possible personal example was the previous entry in this blog.

Classical Conditioning is the next entry in this blog.

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