08.27.2009

Amy L. Baker

Dr. Amy J.L. Baker is director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child protection of the New York Foundling. She earned her doctorate in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College of Columbia University in 1989. She has experience with both quantitative as well as qualitative research methodologies and has taught research methodology at both the undergraduate as well as graduate levels at both Columbia and Fordham University. In addition to Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome published by W. W. Norton, Dr. Baker is the first author of a text book on child welfare research methods published by Columbia University Press. She is also the author or co-author of 50 academic articles. She has published in scientific peer-reviewed journals including Early Childhood Education Quarterly, Child Welfare, Social Work Research, Applied Behavioral Sciences Review, International Journal of Social Work, Child and Adolescent Social Work, The Elementary School Journal, and the Macmillan Psychology Reference Series on Child Development. Areas of research expertise include parent-child attachment, early intervention, parent involvement, mental health of youth, and child welfare. She lives in Teaneck New Jersey and is the mother of 21-year-old and 4-year-old daughters.

“Breaking The Ties That Bind” written by Amy J.L. Baker is available for purchase on Amazon.com. Click the book cover below to be redirected to the book’s page on Amazon.com

book cover


Some children of divorce naturally feel caught between their parents..

as they adjust to two homes, two sets of rules, possibly two neighborhoods,
and two families. But what children really want and need is to stay out of
their parents’ conflicts and to maintain healthy and strong relationships
with both parents (unless, of course, one parent is abusive to the child).

Unfortunately, some parents take advantage of children’s difficulty
navigating between two families and dealing with the complexity of parental
divorce by creating in their children an expectation that they choose
sides. These parents employ a range of strategies, known as parental
alienation, in order to foster the child’s rejection of the other parent.
Parental alienation can take many forms but usually includes badmouthing
the other parent, limiting contact between the child and that parent, and
interfering with communication between the child and the parent.

Some children exposed to parental alienation succumb to the pressure and
choose one parent and reject the other. When this happens, both the “lost”
parent and the child can suffer immeasurably.

A recent study was conducted in order to document exactly what those lifelong
effects are, from the perspective of adults who had this experience as
children. To that end, a study was conducted of 40 adults who experienced
parental alienation as a child. That is, they believed that when they were
children, one parent emotionally manipulated them to reject their other
parent.

Results revealed six major areas of functioning were affected by the
experience of parental alienation: low self-esteem, depression,
drug/alcohol abuse, lack of trust, alienation from own children, and
divorce. These findings are not surprising in light of the multiple traumas
associated with parental alienation. Not only did the participants
experience the loss of a parent but they were also forbidden to mourn that
loss or share their thoughts and feelings with their primary caretaker.
They were essentially encouraged to deny and/or bury whatever positive
regard they had for the targeted parent, cutting off and denying a piece of
themselves in the process. The ensuing negative self regard as well as the
other outcomes can be viewed in that light. At the time of the research,
all of the participants were aware that they had been manipulated to turn
against the targeted parent. Although that was a painful realization, it
was the beginning of reclaiming the parent they lost and the part of
themselves that loved and cherished that parent and that part of
themselves. One participant claimed that the moment he met his father for
the first time in 40 years he could feel the hole in his soul closing.

If you would like to read more articles by Amy L. Baker visit her website: amyjlbaker.com