Yes. PA is generally broken down into three symptom levels: mild, moderate, and severe.
How is mild Parental Alienation characterized?
In mild cases of PA, the alienator parent seeks to strengthen his or her position through subtle programming. In some cases, the parent realizes that alienating the child from the other parent is not in the child’s best interest and therefore engages in no programming at all. Nonetheless, anger can be present, perhaps even some desire for vengeance. Unlike parents in the severe category, the parent in this category suffers from no paranoia.
Kids in the mild category are often motivated to strengthen one parent’s position in an attempt to maintain a psychological bond with that parent. On the other hand, children in this category are often receptive to visitation and are the most likely to express affection for the other parent, even in the presence of the mild alienator.
How is moderate Parental Alienation characterized?
Alienators in the moderate category aren’t as fanatical as those in the severe category, but rage is nonetheless an important factor. Consequently, the moderate alienator can wage an intense campaign of deprecation in an attempt to alienate the children from the other spouse. The moderate alienator will often be very creative in obstructing visitation but will usually comply when faced with a fine or possible change in custody. A parent who is a moderate alienator was most likely a good parent prior to divorce, and this differentiates the moderate from the severe alienator. Because of his or her good parenting skills, the moderate alienator often retains primary custody.
Children in a moderate alienation situation aren’t as severe in their criticism of the targeted parent as severely alienated children, and they tend to stop their criticism when alone with the targeted parent. Younger children in the moderate category usually need the lead of an older sibling to maintain their half of an alienation campaign. Therefore, if a younger child develops Parental Alienation, it is usually the result of imitating an older brother or sister. Though alienation in this category is by definition moderate, court-ordered therapy is warranted. Only one therapist should conduct the therapy, and he or she must report directly to the judge. For its part, the court must be willing to respond to obstructionism with all the means it has at its disposal, including fines, jail, or a threat of losing primary custody.
How is a severe case of Parental Alienation characterized?
Severe alienators are fanatics who are obsessed with hate for their former spouses. Severe alienators are often paranoid, and their paranoia involves projection. The severe alienator sees something in her- or himself and sees the same objectionable characteristic in the targeted parent. This projection allows the severe alienator to assume the role of innocent victim. False accusations of sexual abuse often arise in severe alienation scenarios, and the severe alienator will exaggerate and twist almost anything a child says in order to support such allegations. Severe alienators exhibit the hallmark of paranoid thinking in that they don’t respond to reason, logic, or the obvious.
Severely alienated children are similarly fanatical and often share the same paranoid fantasies as the alienator parent. The mere thought of visiting the targeted parent is enough to terrify them. Severely alienated children are often so fearful and hostile that they will try to run away if placed in the targeted parent’s home. Despite this, however, some severely alienated children may settle down somewhat if required to stay with the targeted parent over an extended period.