Adrian was in the midst of a very difficult and contentious custody battle following his recent divorce. As the situation became more and more stressful with his ex-wife, he discovered that his children didn't seem as connected to him as before. They complained about visitation weekends, whereas they had really enjoyed them before. When he called to talk with them during the week, conversations were shut down quickly.
Adrian had a feeling that the kids' mom was working hard to turn them against him, and he began to suspect that it was a ploy for her to get an upper hand in the family law process.
There are many ways and methods angry or bitter parents use to create a division between a child or children and their other parent. Hostile Aggressive Parenting is exhibited in such a situation where one parent hopes to alienate children from the other parent for a variety of reasons. This article is written to help explain Hostile Aggressive Parenting and what fathers can do to avoid it in their own parenting and to address it if they are the victim.
What is Hostile Aggressive Parenting?
Hostile Aggressive Parenting is defined as a pattern of behaviors or actions on the part of one parent or guardian that interferes with or creates difficulties in the relationship between a child or children and their other parent or guardian or another person involved in the raising of the child.
Hostile Aggressive Parenting also can include behavior patterns that create or maintain an unfair advantage in child custody or parenting arrangements.
Situations Where Hostile Aggressive Parenting Can Happen
It is most common when parents are divorced or separated, but it can also occur in situations where the family is intact, but where there are major differences between parents in child-raising philosophy or style.
It can also be directed at others who may be involved in a child's life - such as grandparents, school teachers, child care providers and others - when a parent wants to drive an unwarranted wedge between the child and these other persons.
Victims of Hostile Aggressive Parenting
Fathers are usually the parents targeted by Hostile Aggressive Parenting. Here are some statistics:
- Children living with dads tend to feel more positively about their moms, while those living with mom tend to feel more negatively about their father
- 42% of children said that their mothers tried to prevent them from seeing their fathers after a divorce, but only 16% of them said their fathers tried to keep them from seeing their mothers
- Children are more than twice as likely to have no contact with their other parent when they lived with their mother
The Likelihood of Hostile Aggressive Parenting
Those with Hostile Aggressive Parenting tendencies:
- Are likely to be controlled by negative emotions and are controlling of the relationships of others
- Will have high degrees of conflict in other circumstances, particularly in divorce or custody proceedings when these are involved
- Often maximize their own fears and insecurities and minimize those of the children; not being able to see the value of the roles of others in their children's lives
Manifestations of Hostile Aggressive Parenting
Parents who are hostile aggressive parents will:
- Consistently undermine the credibility of the target parent
- Interfere with the legally allowed rights of the target parent
- Lie or exaggerate claims to secure advantages in divorce, custody or protective order processes
- Exhibit inordinately controlling behaviors toward children, former spouses and others involved
- Engage others such as friends, coworkers and family members in their attempts to drive a wedge between the child and the other parent
Impact of Hostile Aggressive Parenting on Children
Children who are impacted by hostile aggressive parenting tend to:
- Perform poorly in school
- Fail to develop acceptable social skills
- Learn to imitate the aggressive and confrontational styles of the hostile aggressive parent
- Increase a child's propensity to violent behavior later in life
- Turn away from positive relationships with other siblings who maintain a relationship with the target parent
Hostile Aggressive Parenting or Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Social scientists draw a distinction between the two. Hostile Aggressive Parenting is the pattern of behavior that leads to a psychological or social condition known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Children who are victims of PAS develop a deep-seated hatred for the parent that is targeted by Hostile Aggressive Parenting, even extending to extended family members or friends of the targeted parent.
How a Father Can Avoid His Own Hostile Aggressive Parenting Behavior
Fathers can avoid this dangerous behavior on their own part by:
- Not speaking ill but speaking respectfully of the child's mother in their presence
- Keeping quiet about the details of the divorce or custody battles that may be ensuing
- Allowing the child to be involved with the mother's extended family, unless the child is at risk for abuse
- Venting frustration in other ways such as in therapy, in a support group, talking with friends, or journaling
- Taking care of the father's own physical and emotional needs
- Meeting all legal requirements and requirements of the parenting plan, if there is one.
What Can a Father Do If He Is the Target of Hostile Aggressive Parenting?
There is perhaps nothing more discouraging to a divorced father than having an emotional wedge driven between him and his children. Many fathers in this circumstance retaliate in kind, resulting in a greater likelihood of the negative consequences of Hostile Aggressive Parenting or Parental Alienation Syndrome. Fathers finding themselves in this pattern should consider:
- Seeking voluntary mediation, where both parents discuss the behavior with a mediator who assesses the concerns, takes into account the needs of the parents and children, and draws some boundaries around the behavior of the parents. These boundaries can be submitted for family court approval and defined sanctions if the rules are not followed.
- Get into family counseling himself and/or with the children and/or the other parent, because Hostile Aggressive Parenting can often be a symptom of deeper psychological problems or pain.
- Develop the best relationship possible with the children, so they can see that you are not the monster you are portrayed to be. Do all the things great fathers do like listening, communicating, showing love, treating them with respect, going to their events, and engaging in constructive play. The more quality time you can spend, positively engaged, will help overcome the many negatives being cast your way.
- Keep the long view, recognizing that as children grow up and mature, they often will gravitate to the parent who has been a real parent and who has always treated them well, showing love and concern and making time for them.