Resistance and Refusal of a Child to have Contact with a Parent
It is recognized that often after parents separate, children may resist or refuse contact with one parent. The reasons for this can be very complex. The term “parental alienation” was first introduced to explain a child’s refusal to see a parent as being caused by the other parent’s poisoning the child’s mind against the parent.
Research and investigation into a child’s rejection of a parent has shown that using the term “parental alienation” oversimplifies the complexities involved in understanding the child’s resistance and refusal to have contact with a parent. The more accurate, and more generally accepted terminology to explain a child’s behavior is “resist/refuse dynamics”.
Studies have shown that multi-factored models help to better understand and explain the child’s behaviors. Concepts such as “protective gatekeeping”, “alignment”, “enmeshment” and “justified rejection” can explain why a child resists/refuses to see a parent.
We know that early intervention by mental health professionals and the courts helps address these issues before the parties and the child become entrenched in their respective positions. The specific intervention varies with the understanding of the exact nature of the resistance or refusal.