A significant concept that explains Parental Alienation in behavioral science is called triangulation. Triangulation describes when a child becomes part of the conflict between parents as a third party. This triangulation occurs in order to stabilize one of the parents in a co-parenting relationship either before or after divorce. There are several types of triangulation, and the one that applies to Parental Alienation is a cross-generational coalition between the alienating parent and the child. The definition of a coalition is an alliance for combined action. In the case of parental alienation triangulation the coalition is formed by the child and the parent and they are from different generations. When the coalition is formed by peers of a different generation child and parent it is considered pathological. Cross-generational parent child coalitions and triangulation often occur after a divorce because one of the parents is now feeling powerless to control the other parent. The marital bond and their normal paths to influence the other parent as they had been able to do during the marriage are no longer available. The alienating parent overcomes this feeling of powerlessness to control the other parent by creating a triangulation bridge. In other words the alienating parent can increase their power relative to the other parent after the divorce by triangulating the child into a cross-generational coalition. Therefore with this cross-generational coalition, they can create a bridge after divorce to still have power over the other parent. This triangulation bridge enables the alienating parent to express their anger towards the targeted parent and control them after divorce. This triangulation bridge becomes a useful tool to control the targeted parent and make them do what they want by using the child’s relationship with the targeted parent as a manipulative tool. The triangulation would be easily noticed to a trained therapist because it causes a distinct imbalance in the child’s relationship with each of their parents. As a result of the cross-generational coalition with the alienating parent and the triangulation bridge that it causes the child to be placed above the targeted parenting in the family structure. The child’s inappropriate elevation in the family structure allows the child to become empowered in their relationship with the targeted parent. The primary outcome the child will openly judge and defy the authority of the targeted parent, which will appear to the untrained eye as conflict. This conflict between the alienated and the targeted parent is, in reality, inauthentic and just an expression of the alienating parent’s anger towards the targeted parent.
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