Parental Alienation: the lived experience of alienated parents 

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Parental Alienation: the lived experience of alienated parents

This doctoral research study seeks to explore the lived experiences of alienated parents.

Parental Alienation is a phrase used within the context of post-divorce and post-separation relationships in which there are children.  The term refers to the intentional or unintentional actions, most usually by the parent with care, which turn their child or children against the non-resident parent.  

The issue of parental alienation in the UK is contentious.  It is sometimes referred to as “implacable hostility”.
Some of the actions and behaviours employed by parents include:
·       Denying or withholding direct contact with the absent parent
·       Preventing indirect contact – letters, phone calls, texts or emails
·       Getting annoyed or upset when a child talks about an absent parent
·       Bad-mouthing the absent parent, extended family or friends
·       Discussing adult aspects of the separation with the child – infidelity, financial matters, disagreements
·       Telling a child to choose between parents, sometimes saying that they can only love one
·       Making false allegations of abuse or domestic violence
·       Offering alternatives such as treats, sleepovers, special days out on planned contact days

A child may:
·       Be nasty, hostile, abusive towards the absent parent
·       Reject letters, gifts and contact
·       See only bad qualities in the absent parent, extended family or friends
·       Stop seeing the absent parent after a minor disagreement, or for no apparent reason
·       Insist the decision to stop contact is his/her own – nothing to do with the parent with care

There is very little research, into how an alienated parent manages to live their life overshadowed by rejection by a loved child.  An understanding of alienated parents’ experiences could identify where practical and psychological support are lacking, inform policy and practice, and work towards a better outcome for both parent and family.  

If you are an alienated parent, living in the UK, you can take part in this doctoral research project by following this link:
If you have any queries about this study, please contact:
Sue Whitcombe
Counselling Psychologist in Training

This project is supervised by:
Dr Sarah Hirst-Winthrop
Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol)

Mad, Bad and Not My Problem:  A Q Methodology Exploration of Teachers’ Negative Attitudes Towards Students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

In the United Kingdom there exists a steadily evolving climate of educational inclusion.  Teachers’ positive attitudes towards young people with special educational needs are key factors in ensuring appropriate good quality education for all.  Whilst there is good evidence that the British teaching body in general favours inclusive education – this positive attitude does not extend to the full range of learning difficulties and disabilities.  Evidence to date would suggest that teachers embrace a range of feelings, beliefs and practices which convey a general negative attitude towards the inclusion of students with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties within a mainstream setting.  As the drive in the UK is now that all but the most challenging and disabled children are educated within mainstream schools, it is important to consider these attitudes if effective outcomes for all young people are to be obtained.
This paper explores these negative attitudes using a Q methodology approach to sample the diverse range of views held by a range of teachers in the North East of England.  Q methodology begins with the premise that each respondent has a valid, yet subjective, viewpoint of any given situation.   The aim is not to find a definitive truth but rather to explore the range of accounts that respondents construct, enabling an analysis of how individuals make sense of pre-identified factors, with reference to their personal experience, and subsequently to ascertain patterns (factors or themes) based on shared viewpoints.  Teachers from pre-school settings and post-16 colleges responded alongside teachers from the primary and secondary education phases.  Pre-qualified, newly qualified and teachers with a considerable number of years’ service took part in the research.  Many of the existing research findings about the cognitive, emotional and behavioural attitudinal factors are corroborated, though some more positive attitudes related to the teaching and learning encounters with these students are also revealed.  

This research was conducted as part of a Graduate Diploma (Conversion) in Psychology at Teesside University, under the supervision of Dave Woodhouse.  If you would like further information please contact: Sue Whitcombe  on

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