‘Parental alienation’ is now a thing: the ‘parental brain’
Parental alienation is the psychological phenomenon whereby a person experiences problems relating to the relationship between their own child and a caregiver or other adult.
It can occur in a number of ways, from not being able to relate to the child or a caregipper, to feeling like a burden on the child and the caregiver.
Mental health specialists say the ‘Parenting Brain’ can also lead to mental health issues.
The research, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, is the first to look at the impact of parental alienation on children and their parents.
This study involved a large sample of parents of children aged between 12 and 15 years old and was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of York, the University College London, and the University Medical Centre, London.
The researchers interviewed more than 1,200 parents, parents of older children and adults, and their children about their experience of parental distancing and parental alienation.
They found that parents of young children were more likely to experience distancing from their child and caregivers and felt they were less connected to their child’s emotional needs.
“The research shows that parents who experience parental distance in their child are more likely than others to experience the same symptoms as adults, such as distress, anxiety and depression,” the researchers wrote in the study.
However, there were also positive findings.
“We know that children who feel their parents are ‘not there’ in their lives are less likely to feel their own mental health problems, particularly anxiety and mood disorders,” the authors said.
Parents of children who experienced parental distances were also less likely than their peers to experience a ‘parent brain’.
“This could indicate that there is a lack of parental support in the family, and this could be a key factor in how these children cope with their symptoms,” the study authors said in the journal.
The authors of the study also found that children of parents who were more divorced were more than twice as likely to suffer from mental health disorders as children of married parents.
The study found that when a parent felt their child was not there in their life, the likelihood of experiencing mental health symptoms rose dramatically.
“Parents who felt they did not ‘have a close relationship’ with their child were at greater risk of developing mental health difficulties compared to those who did have a close, loving relationship with their children,” the scientists said.
“However, this association was not significant for those who were divorced or separated.”
The researchers said it was unclear if the effect of parental isolation was because of parental behaviour or the fact that children had different experiences of separation, and said more research was needed to explore this.
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