Foundations: Recovering your Children

My book, “An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations” is on its way.  I’m anticipating it will be available June 1 on Amazon.com.  It will fundamentally alter the dialogue surrounding the construct of “parental alienation.”

It defines the construct of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs. 

It fully and completely describes the psychopathology. 

It fully and completely describes the complex and manipulative communication processes by which the narcissistic/(borderline) alienating parent induces the child’s rejection of the other parent. 

It fully and completely describes the core pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality that is creating the pathology of “parental alienation.”

Everything is explained.  Everything.

In the final three chapters, I turn to professional issues. In this discussion I provide a broad overview of diagnosis, treatment, and professional competence.

Attachment-based “parental alienation” is defined as psychological child abuse that REQUIRES the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting practices of the alienating narcissistic/(borderline) parent during the active phase of the child’s treatment and recovery.

From Foundations (Childress, 2015):

“The creation of significant developmental, personality, and psychiatric psychopathology in the child through highly aberrant and distorted parenting practices as a means for the parent to then exploit the induced child psychopathology to regulate the parent’s own psychopathology warrants the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed. The form of the child psychological abuse is a role-reversal relationship in which the child’s induced psychopathology is used to regulate the psychological state of the parent. The psychological child abuse is confirmed by the presence in the child’s symptom display of the three definitive diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation.” When the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present, the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed is warranted because of the highly destructive developmental impact on the child that is created through the child’s role-reversal relationship with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.” (p. 312)

“Attachment-based “parental alienation” is a child protection issue. When the three definitive diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are present, providing an immediate protective separation for the child from the severely distorting pathogenic parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent represents both a warranted and a necessary child protection response to the severity of the role-reversal pathology.” (p. 322)

“Attachment-based “parental alienation” is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.” (p. 257).

In the final chapter I take professional mental health to task for its prior ignorance and incompetence in colluding with the psychopathology of “parental alienation” (i.e., the “bystander” role that I discuss earlier in the book in the trauma reenactment section), in which ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals directly contribute to and collaborate with the destruction of children’s lives and the lives of targeted parents.

From Foundations (Childress, 2015):

“The children and families evidencing attachment-based “parental alienation” represent a special population requiring specialized professional knowledge, training, and expertise to appropriately and competently diagnose and treat. Failure to possess the necessary specialized knowledge, training, and professional expertise needed to appropriately assess, diagnose, and treat this special population of children and families likely represents practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in possible violation of professional practice standards. To the extent that professional ignorance and practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence then causes harm to the child client and to the targeted parent, the mental health professional may become vulnerable to professional or legal sanctions.

Given the domains of psychological processes involved in attachment-based “parental alienation,” three areas of professional expertise are required for professional competence in assessing, diagnosing, and treating this special population of children and families…” (pp. 341-342)

“If a mental health professional wants to work with this special population of children and families, it is incumbent upon the mental health professional to acquire the necessary knowledge and expertise needed to appropriately assess, diagnose, and treat this special population of children and families. Professional competence is not a suggested professional practice, it is a professional obligation. Otherwise, the mental health professional should refer the client child and family to someone who does possesses the necessary knowledge and professional expertise necessary to competently assess, diagnose, and treat this special population of children and families.” (p. 351)

The battle for the recovery of your children is about to be joined in earnest.  When “Foundations” becomes available on Amazon.com, you must read this book, and then you must get this book into the hands of every therapist, child custody evaluator, parent coordinator, attorney, and legal professional who deals with “parental alienation.”

With “Foundations,” the solution to “parental alienation” becomes immediately available.  The only barrier becomes the ignorance, indolence, and inertia of professional mental health.  Once the paradigm shifts in mental health, we will turn our full attention and focus to the legal system.  Mental health must become your ally first.  Then, with mental heath as your staunch ally, we will enlist the legal system as your ally in the recovery of your children from the pathology of “parental alienation.” 

The battle for your children is about to be joined.

Here is a description of the theoretical overview of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” from the Introduction chapter of my book (pp. 17-22)


From “An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations” pages 17-22:

Theoretical Overview

          The psychological processes involved in attachment-based “parental alienation” are complex, but they become increasingly self-evident with familiarity.  The primary reason for the initial apparent complexity of the dynamics is that they involve the psychological expressions within family relationship patterns of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality structure that has its origins in early attachment trauma from the childhood of the parent which is influencing, and in fact driving, the patterns of relationship interactions currently being expressed within the family.  The inner psychological processes of the narcissistic/(borderline) mind are inherently complex and swirling, and linking these distorted personality processes into the functioning of the underlying attachment system adds another level of complexity.  However, the nature of the pathology is stable across cases of “parental alienation,” so that this consistency in the pathology provides ever increasing clarity of understanding from increasing familiarity for the concepts.

            Fully understanding these seemingly complex psychological and family factors requires an integrated recognition of the psychological and interpersonal dynamics across three interrelated levels of clinical analysis, 1) the family systems level, 2) the personality disorder level, and 3) the attachment system level.  Each of these levels individually provides a coherent explanatory model for the dynamics being expressed in “parental alienation,” and yet each individual level is also an interconnected expression of the pathology contained at the other two levels of analysis as well, so that a complete recognition of the psychopathology being expressed as “parental alienation” requires a conceptual understanding of the process across all three distinctly different, yet interconnected, levels of analysis.

          The family systems processes involve the family’s inability to successfully transition from an intact family structure that is united by the marital relationship to a separated family structure that is united by the continuing parental roles with the child.  The difficulty in the family’s ability to transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure is manifesting in the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent (the allied and supposedly favored parent) against the other parent (the targeted-rejected parent).  These principles are standard and established family systems constructs that are extensively discussed and described by preeminent family systems theorists, such as Salvador Minuchin and Jay Haley.

          The problems occurring at the family systems level of analysis have their origin in the narcissistic/(borderline) personality dynamics of the allied and supposedly favored parent.  The personality pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is creating a distorted emotional and psychological response in this parent to the psychological stresses associated with the interpersonal rejection and perceived abandonment surrounding the divorce.  The inherent interpersonal rejection associated with divorce triggers specific psychological vulnerabilities for the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, who then responds in characteristic but pathological ways that adversely influence the child’s relationship with the other parent.

            The characteristic psychopathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent draws the child into a role-reversal relationship with the parent in which the child is used by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as an external “regulatory object” to help the narcissistic/(borderline) parent regulate three separate but interrelated sources of intense anxiety that were triggered by the divorce,

  • Narcissistic Anxiety: The threatened collapse of the parent’s narcissistic defenses against an experience of core-self inadequacy that is being activated by the interpersonal rejection associated with the divorce;
  • Borderline Anxiety: The triggering of severe abandonment fears as a result of the divorce and dissolution of the intact family structure;
  • Trauma Anxiety: The activation and re-experiencing of excessive anxiety embedded in attachment trauma networks from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that become active when the attachment system of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent activates in order to mediate the loss experience associated with the divorce.

          At the core level of the psychological and family dynamics that are traditionally described as “parental alienation” is the attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is being triggered and then reenacted in current family relationships.  It is this childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is responsible for creating the narcissistic and borderline pathology of this personality.  The childhood attachment trauma experienced by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent subsequently coalesced during this parent’s adolescence and young adulthood into the narcissistic and borderline personality structures that are driving the distorted relationship dynamics associated with the “parental alienation.”  The childhood attachment trauma (i.e., a disorganized attachment) creates the narcissistic and borderline personality structures that then distort the family’s transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure.

            At the foundational core for triggering this integrated psychological and interpersonal dynamic is the reactivation by the divorce of attachment trauma networks from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that are contained within the internal working models of this parent’s attachment system.  The representational schemas for this childhood attachment trauma are in the pattern of “victimized child”/“abusive parent”/“protective parent,” and it is this trauma pattern from the childhood of the “alienating” narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is being reenacted in the current family relationships.

          The childhood trauma patterns for role-relationships contained within the internal working models of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s attachment system are being reenacted in current family relationships.  The current child is adopting the trauma reenactment role as the “victimized child.” The child’s role as the “victimized child” then imposes the reenactment role of the “abusive parent” onto the targeted parent, and the coveted role in the trauma reenactment narrative of the all-wonderful “protective parent” is being adopted and conspicuously displayed by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the “bystanders” in the trauma reenactment.  The “bystanders” in the trauma reenactment are represented by the various therapists, parenting coordinators, custody evaluators, attorneys, and judges.  Their role in the trauma reenactment is to endorse the “authenticity” of the reenactment narrative.  These “bystanders” also serve the function of providing the narcissistic/(borderline) parent with the “narcissistic supply” of social approval for the presentation by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as being the idealized and all-wonderful “protective parent.”

          At its foundational core, “parental alienation” represents the reenactment of a false drama of abuse and victimization from the childhood of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is embedded in the internal working models of the “alienating” parent’s attachment networks.  This false drama of the reenactment narrative is created by the psychopathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent in response to the psychological stresses of the divorce and the reactivation of attachment trauma networks as a consequence of the divorce experience.  In actual truth, there is no victimized child, there is no abusive parent, and there is no protective parent.  It is a false drama, an echo of a childhood trauma from long ago, brought into the present by the pathological consequences of the childhood trauma in creating the distorting narcissistic/(borderline) personality structures of the alienating parent.

          The child, for his or her part, is caught within this reenactment narrative by the distorting psychopathology and invalidating communications of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent that nullify the child’s own authentic self-experience in favor of the child becoming a narcissistic reflection for the parent.  Under the distorting pathogenic influence of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child is led into misinterpreting the child’s authentic grief and sadness at the loss of the intact family, and later at the loss of an affectionally bonded relationship with the targeted parent, as representing something “bad” that the targeted parent must be doing to create the child’s hurt (i.e., the child’s grief and sadness).  The (influenced) misinterpretation by the child for an authentic experience of grief and loss is then further inflamed by distorted communications from the narcissistic/(borderline) that transform the child’s authentic sadness into an experience of anger and resentment toward the targeted parent who (supposedly) caused the divorce and who (supposedly) is causing the child’s continuing emotional pain (i.e., the child’s misunderstood and misinterpreted feelings of grief and sadness).

          Through a process of distorted parental communications by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, the child is led into adopting the “victimized child” role within the trauma reenactment narrative.  Once the child adopts the “victimized child” role within the trauma reenactment narrative, this “victimized child” role automatically imposes upon the targeted parent the role as the “abusive parent,” and then the combined role definitions of the “abusive parent” and “victimized child” that are created the moment the child adopts the “victimized child” role allows the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to adopt the coveted trauma reenactment role as the all-wonderful nurturing and “protective parent,” which will then be so conspicuously displayed to the “bystanders” for their validation and “narcissistic supply.”

          The description of an attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” will uncover the layers of pathology, beginning with the surface level of the family systems dynamics involving the family’s difficulty in making the transition from an intact family structure to a separated family structure.  The description will then move into the personality disorder level to describe how the pathological characteristics of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality structures become expressed in the family relationship dynamics, particularly surrounding the formation of the role-reversal relationship of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent with the child in which the child is used (exploited) as a “regulatory other” for the psychopathology and anxiety regulation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  Finally, the origins of the “parental alienation” process in the attachment trauma networks of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent will be examined, with a particular focus on the induced suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations and the formation and expression of the trauma reenactment narrative.

          Following this discussion of the theoretical foundations for an attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” a broad overview of the diagnostic considerations emanating from an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” will be discussed, and three definitive diagnostic indicators for identifying attachment-based “parental alienation” will be described.  A descriptive framework for a model of “reunification therapy” will also be presented which will be based on the theoretical underpinnings for an attachment-based model of the “parental alienation.”  Finally, a discussion of the domains of knowledge necessary for professional competence in diagnosing and treating this special population of children and families will be identified.

From: “An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations” C.A. Childress, 2015, pages 17-22.


Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

References: 

Childress, C.A. (2015). An atttachment-based model of parental alienation: Foundations. Claremont, CA: Oaksong Press.

3 thoughts on “Foundations: Recovering your Children”

  1. Thank you for your vast and accurate, right on the mark!, process of psychpathalogical parenting information!
    I don’t like hearing this but it HAPPENS and ITS REAL!
    The parents and family members can now KNOW they are not CRAZY!!
    Everybody get on board! We need to assist in getting this information out to RESCUE these kids!!!
    We are going to end up with a population of sick adults if we don’t give these kids our full undivided attention and knowledge to our mental health “experts” and actually, all that have ears, let them hear!
    Don’t stay silent!

  2. This book should also be translated in German language as soon as possible!
    We need it for the battle against the Deutsches Jugendamt and its criminal networks (Judges, state dependent psychological and psychiatric expert evaluators) at the Parliament of Europe at Brussels and the International Law Court at Den Haag.
    An insight about the problems provide the videos at Youtube e.g. from ArcheViva 2015 and 2014 and the GAG Giessener Akademische Gesellschaft “Die Richter und ihre Denker” 2014, which show the destructive war against children and parents in Germany and not only against german citizens, but also against foreign children and their parents and in particular foreign single mothers, and not only in Germany, but spreading even to their home country and destructing the whole family system over various generations.

  3. Your theory a relief in one sense, a tragedy in another. I am an alienated parent who already has had the ‘experience’ of attempting to seek help, and then being further alienated by the ‘professionals’ presently supporting/perpetuating the effects of the cycle of abuse with my child. It is complex, and my strife is in ‘living’ with the standard of ideals that to most, will never be acknowledged. (Yes, I seek the ‘poisoned’ validation of the mother-child bond that ‘truly’ once was) My hope is that my own adaptations to the initial dependencies will have led to a higher quality of mindset for my child.

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