Managing Contact Difficulties: A Child-Centred Approach



List of guiding questions for interviews


  • How did you hear about (or where did you learn about) parental alienation or parental alienation syndrome?


  • How do you define alienation?
  • How do you determine alienation is present?
  • What causes alienation? Why do you think it happens?
  • How is alienation related to scheduling issues (i.e. enforcement of time, denial of time)?
  • How does the child's age influence the development or course of alienation?
  • What is the relationship between alienation and parent conflict? To violence or abuse?
  • What is the role of extended family when alienation occurs? What is the role of other interested parties?


  • In your practice, what is the prevalence of alienation?
  • Has the prevalence of alienation changed during the last decade? To what do you attribute this?


  • In your opinion, is parental alienation syndrome a useful concept? Is it a syndrome? On what do you base your opinion?
  • Is it an over-simplification of the issues?
  • Is it simply one type of presentation of high conflict?
  • What legal and clinical interventions were attempted? Were the legal or clinical interventions successful?

Involving and Helping Children

  • If you have had experience with a case in which there was a determination of parental alienation syndrome:
    • Was the voice of the child heard?
    • How does a determination of alienation guide clinical intervention planning? Legal strategy?
    • To what extent should children's wishes influence decisions?


  • What research in this area are you aware of?
  • There is debate in the literature about how alienation is conceptualized. One perspective suggests that parents are alienated from their children. Another perspective frames the issue as alienated children. A third perspective is broader and suggests that alienation occurs when any set of behaviours on the part of the child, parents, or others involved in the conflict leads to the cessation of or significantly impedes visitation with the nonresidential parent. Which conceptualization guides your practice or research?
  • Does the conceptualization of alienation differ among disciplines such as lawyers, social workers, mediators, psychologists, etc.?


  • When there is a determination of alienation:
    • What clinical interventions are you or your close colleagues familiar with? Please describe.
    • What legal strategies are you or your close colleagues familiar with? Please describe.
    • What legal and clinical interventions (or strategies) reflect children's best interests? How do they make a difference to children? What are the variables that seem to contribute to success or lack of success?
    • Some authors advocate enforcing contact between children and parents if the alienation is not justified by the parent's current/past behaviour. What is your perspective?

Future Directions

  • In your opinion, what direction is work in this practice area taking?
  • What preventive interventions should be considered?
  • What policy and practice recommendations would you like to see clinicians, administrators, and policy makers consider?
  • What issues do you identify for future research?
  • What factors should be more thoroughly investigated?
  • What do we need to know in order to have improved policy and practice that reflects children's best interests with respect to alienation?

Other Potential Informants

  • Are there other experts you recommend we speak with regarding alienation?
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