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What Is 'Malicious Parent Syndrome?'

A psychologist by the name of Ira Turkat first coined the term "Malicious Parent Syndrome" in describing patterns of abnormal parental behavior that occurs during divorces.

While Malicious Parent Syndrome has never been formally recognized as a form of mental disorder, the term is noted in some custody cases. It is done by one parent to punish his or her former spouse to make the parent appear deficient and can involve harming the children in the worst cases.

One of the most extreme examples of a possible case is currently trending in the news. A mother of two is facing the death penalty for smothering her young son and attempting to do the same to her toddler daughter to get back at their father, whom she accused of cheating on her.

While not every case will end so tragically, the desire for vengeance towards and punishment of the child's other parent leaves its indelible scars just the same.

Turkat considers the syndrome to be present when these four criteria are present:

-- One parent seeks to alienate their child(ren) from the other parent as punishment for the break-up of the relationship. This parent will manipulate the courts, authorities and others to achieve these ends.

-- The parent tells the child(ren) lies about the other parent. They may also lie to others about their former spouse or partner and break the law to further their cause.

-- They may attempt to block the other parent from exercising visitation or communicating with their child(ren), including being aware of and involved with the kids' scholastic or extra-curricular activities.

-- The person has no mental diagnoses to otherwise explain their actions.

Some examples of the syndrome include misinforming the non-custodial parent of dates or times of school or other activities so that they were not there to participate, claiming they had no food because a parent didn't pay his or her child support and even burning down their ex's house.

Because young children's minds are malleable, especially by their primary caregivers, they can easily be manipulated by a parent and grow to dislike their other parent.

If you suspect this syndrome may be affecting your relationship with your child(ren), address this immediately with your family law attorney. He or she may recommend filing reports with law enforcement or the Department of Children's Services.

Source: Findlaw, "What Is 'Malicious Mother Syndrome'?," accessed Dec. 30, 2016

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