Attachment disorders arising from upholding a child’s decision to reject a parent after separation
The Family Courts are often presented with the phenomenon of a child who no longer wishes to see a parent after separation. This phenomenon, which arises after family separation is one which presents serious challenges for the courts. Use of instruments such as ‘wishes and feelings’ reports by CAFCASS and Social Workers, can lead to an over reliance upon what a child says they would like to happen after separation. It is this focus upon the child’s voice, that can lead some practitioners to feel that only by upholding the child’s stated wishes are they acting in the child’s best interests.
This article explores the way in which an over reliance upon the stated wishes and feelings of a child can act, not to uphold their best interests, but to force a terrible burden upon that child; the decision to remove a once loved parent from their lives forever. Children who are given this responsibility, through reliance upon their stated wishes and feelings, are also frequently burdened with an attachment disorder, which has arisen because of the family separation and through the actions of the parent with whom they are aligned. This attachment disorder arises from the fear of the child that to go against the wishes of the parent with whom they live with, may render them vulnerable to further loss. This creates a dynamic within the child in which they begin to split their feelings for their now separated parents into all good and all bad. This enables a child to state, without guilt or remorse, that they no longer wish to see the parent that they now consider to be their ‘bad’ parent. In effect it is a coping mechanism that is brought about by the separation of two loved and internalised figures, in which one figure is now seen to be hurting and suffering and the other is seen as being the cause of this. This causes the child to fuse their own views of the more distant parent with that of their aligned parent as a way of ensuring their own safety and security with the parent with whom they are now left.