Alienated mothers being let down by advocacy groups

New figures from the Family Separation Clinic, in London, suggest that more than a third of parents affected by parental alienation are mothers.


Subjecting its therapeutic coaching caseload to a sex-disaggregation analysis revealed that, of 94 active cases in the six months to 30 April 2019, 60 parents seeking support were fathers (63.83%) and 34 were mothers (36.17%). The European Institute for Gender Equality describes sex-disaggregated figures as ‘any data on individuals broken down by sex’ to ‘reflect the realities of the lives of women and men.’


The Clinic’s therapeutic coaching service helps individual parents affected by post-separation rejection by a child to analyse the unique dynamics of their own case, understand their child’s experiences and consider the most appropriate steps for dealing with the problem. Alongside this, the service provides psychoeducation and coping strategies. Some parents access a single or small number of sessions but many will work with the Clinic for a number of years.


Nick Woodall, who is a psychotherapist and partner at the Clinic says that the figures challenge many assumptions about who is affected by parental alienation.


He said:


‘The focus of our work is always the child and we work with rejected parents to help them think about strategies for dealing with the problem. These figures underline what we already knew which is that a substantial proportion of our client group are alienated mums.’


He went on:


‘However, at a policy level, we’re finding that, far from supporting those mothers, women’s rights organisations consistently argue that parental alienation is an invented term that allows abusive fathers to shift the blame for a child’s rejection onto the mother during contested court hearings.’


‘Whilst it may be true that a small number of parents will make false claims of parental alienation in court hearings, a proper analysis of any case will reveal false claims from genuine cases. As long as women’s rights advocates and political lobbyists continue to ignore the true picture, many, many children and mothers, as well as fathers, will continue to be affected by this terrible phenomenon.’


Nick Woodall also argued that the figures may even under estimate the number of mothers affected by the problem.


‘Anecdotal evidence suggests that rejected mums are less likely to seek support than dads because society’s attitudes towards rejected mothers tend to be even more negative than towards rejected fathers. We need to recognise that parental alienation is a form of domestic abuse and is often a continuation of pre-existing coercive control dynamics.’


‘The truth is that parental alienation is a serious mental health problem that has the potential to cause significant and lasting harm to both children and rejected parents. Mental health professionals working with the problem recognise its distinct clinical markers and we know that both mothers and fathers can become alienated from their children.’




Parental alienation is a term used to describe a child’s pathological alignment to one parent and unjustified rejection of the other within the context of divorce or family separation which is typically caused by the deliberate or unconscious behaviours of the parent that the child becomes aligned to that results in a traumatic corruption of the child’s attachment bonds.