COMMENTARY ON “FAMILY BRIDGES: USING INSIGHTS FROM SOCIAL SCIENCE TO RECONNECT PARENTS AND ALIENATED CHILDREN” (WARSHAK, 2010)

Authors


jbkellyphd@mindspring.com

Abstract

This commentary reviews the goals, structure, and content of the intensive educational intervention described by Warshak (2010); raises concerns; considers the meaning of “success” in child alienation cases; and makes suggestions for future research. Titled Family Bridges: A Workshop for Troubled and Alienated Parent-Child Relationships, the program is a rigorous and disciplined approach designed to help participants repair severely derailed parent–child relationships. Family Bridges uses evidence-based instruction principles to maximize learning and create a safe atmosphere enabling the alienated child(ren) and rejected parent to be, and work, together. The multimedia materials selected for the 4-day program draw from social science research and focus on multiple and universal processes by which distortions of perception, memory, and thinking occur; negative stereotype formation; the impact of high conflict on children and parent–child relationships; effective communication and dispute resolution; and parenting skills training. Based on a small and diverse sample of families, Family Bridges demonstrates considerable promise as one type of intervention designed for these severely troubled relationships. Concerns include the cost of the intensive intervention, the absence of a parallel program for the favored parent, and whether the program can be replicated effectively. The family psychology and law fields would benefit significantly from research that evaluates Family Bridges and other educational and therapeutic interventions designed to help alienated children repair and strengthen balanced relationships with both parents.

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