Maternal Alienation, Ann Morris

“The research project, conducted in 1999 (Morris 1999), discovered that in these cases of alienation, male perpetrators of violence against the women and/or children use an arsenal of strategies to deliberately undermine mother-child relationships. Most often the mother’s intimate partner and the child’s father or step-father, they employ these tactics in a number of different abusive contexts, including domestic violence and child sexual abuse. They use verbal messages and actions to position the mother in a place where children can hate and despise her, can insult and even abuse her themselves, where any action she makes becomes further proof of the statements made about her. These messages do not have to be based on any truth  – their power is built on the commanding way in which they are conveyed, the rhetorical devices they use and the emotional responses they elicit. The messages are propaganda, and work powerfully on children, becoming more authoritative than children’s own experiences of their mother and of their abuse. As they conflict with children’s experiences, these assaults on children’s sense of reality have implications for their later mental health and healing.  

In this campaign against the mother, the alienator manipulates and inscribes upon his victims demeaning stereotypes of women and mothers. Children, coached to copy the abusive behaviour of their father, are likely to form future relationships based on these gendered stereotypes, whereby men are encouraged to use power and violence for their own ends, and women are debased and held responsible for all ills. Whilst painting the mother as unloving, stupid, mad, lying, malicious and monstrous, the father portrays himself as good, rational, victimised, but heroic. As stereotypes have cultural currency, family members, community members and professionals readily adopt these images without much awareness or criticism.  He becomes the ‘poor man’ that we easily sympathise with; the mother becomes ‘the bitch’ we love to demonise.” http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/maternal-alienation.html

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