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PARENTAL ALIENATION AND THE DYNAMICS OF THE ENMESHED PARENT–CHILD DYAD: ADULTIFICATION, PARENTIFICATION, AND INFANTILIZATION

Authors


papaben@HealthyParent.com

Abstract

When caregivers conflict, systemic alliances shift and healthy parent-child roles can be corrupted. The present paper describes three forms of role corruption which can occur within the enmeshed dyad and as the common complement of alienation and estrangement. These include the child who is prematurely promoted to serve as a parent's ally and partner, the child who is inducted into service as the parent's caregiver, and the child whose development is inhibited by a parent who needs to be needed. These dynamics—adultification, parentification and infantilization, respectively—are each illustrated with brief case material. Family law professionals and clinicians alike are encouraged to conceptualize these dynamics as they occur within an imbalanced family system and thereby to craft interventions which intend to re-establish healthy roles. Some such interventions are reviewed and presented as one part of the constellation of services necessary for the triangulated child.

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