Why do people say parental alienation isn’t real?

It is non-gendered abuse and millions of us suffer it? Children, fathers, mothers, step-parents, siblings, grandparents …. Wake up world! 

Some argue that parental alienation isn’t a real phenomenon (or mental health issue/abuse) because it is not recognized as a specific diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) or the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). They also argue that it is difficult to distinguish between cases where a child has become estranged with valid reasons for rejecting a parent (e.g. due to abuse or neglect) and cases where a child is being abusively, negatively, selfishly, coercively, vindictively and/or narcissistically, influenced by the other parent to reject the targeted parent.

Additionally, some critics argue that the term “parental alienation” is sometimes used as a legal strategy by one parent to gain custody or control over the child, rather than as a genuine concern for the child’s well-being. They argue that the concept can be used to further conflict between parents and harm the child’s relationship with both parents.

However, despite these criticisms, mental health professionals and legal experts increasingly recognise parental alienation as a real and serious issue that can have significant negative consequences for the child’s emotional and psychological well-being (and target parent and others too). While there is an ongoing debate about the terminology and diagnostic criteria for parental alienation, the fact remains that many (too many!) children and families are affected by it and may require specialized support and intervention to address it effectively.