Mechanisms of Maternal Alienation

My model showing the mechanisms of maternal alienation


A designer friend of mine funked up my model of the mechanisms of maternal alienation that I developed during my psychology master’s in 2013. I planned on using it in a presentation for the West Midlands Specialist Domestic Abuse conference on coercive control March 14th 2017. However, I have it on good advice that this is not an ideal Powerpoint slide for a conference presentation as the audience might not be able to see it properly. So, I thought I’d file it here for all those interested in my work to see. I’ll use it in the training that I have developed for professionals to learn about the coercive control of women using their children that leads to mother-child separation.

As always, the findings of my study do not in any way apply generally to men but, specifically, to abusive men who use children to control and abuse their partners or ex-partners by targeting the mother-child relationship.

About Dr Laura Monk

My doctoral research investigated how to improve professionals' responses to mothers who become separated from their children. I developed a training workshop for the professionals who mothers come into contact with - largely at the intersection of health and social care, the family courts and domestic abuse services. I am also a counsellor and psychotherapist and I run self-care retreats for practitioners in Spain and the UK
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7 Responses to Mechanisms of Maternal Alienation

  1. Shonagh Mc Aulay says:

    Would it be possible to make this more legible? I’m very interested but find the black white contrast very hard to read.

    Just wondering?



  2. Ranjini Mohan says:

    Do you have any advice on how to counteract this effect? I am the victim of this alienation and struggle to help my son. If you know what works to help me allow my son to develop into a healthy young adult, I would be very grateful.


    • laurammonk says:

      Hi Ranjini, the effects of maternal alienation on women and children are profound and long-lasting. I know of countless children and young people who have developed a range of unhealthy methods of coping and symptoms of psychological/emotional distress following tactics of coercive control that target the mother-child relationship. Commonly, these include self-harm, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse and emotional dysregulation including anger problems. If a child is still in a relationship with an abuser who continues to use alienating tactics it is almost impossible to access help because there is little opportunity to be honest and open to professionals about the causes of symptoms without incurring the wrath of the abuser and further risk to the mother-child relationship. Similarly, professionals often mistake mothers’ reports of men’s abuse as parental alienation, which also risks the mother-child relationship. If mother and child are free of their abuse it is easier to access help, of course. In these cases I would recommend you find a good therapist who understands coercive control for both you and your son.
      Best wishes, Laura


  3. Alison says:

    Hi I am suffering this maternal alienation but my children are nearly 16 & 17 the youngest with processing difficulties and the eldest with slight Asperger’s. I was a victim of DV have done freedom & phoenix. I am going to court to try and see them its my last chance, I have booked a holiday for us because they said in August 16 they wanted to go, but then a few weeks later Dad had told me they want to see me but I not until I pay more maintenance and backdated payments totalling 6K before I can see them or speak to them again. I am beyond words and have cried with relief that I am not imagining what he’s doing to my boys and I’m not mad (which is how he would describe me) but from what I have briefly seen on your research here,I have experienced the majority of what you describe,
    I feel helpless, my eldest gets so angry and thinks of self harm, but I believe this could possibly be a symptom of abuse.Please could I have a version that is easier to read. Too many tears now so I best stop, but thank you.


    • laurammonk says:

      Dear Alison
      I am sorry to hear of your situation and your profound distress at being apart from your boys, especially when you fear for their treatment and wellbeing. These are familiar circumstances to me, unfortunately – a scenario I know well. In the Charity, MATCH Mothers, we often remark that we all seem to have been married to the same man, on hearing one another’s stories. The strategies are very similar when children are turned against us.
      I see that you have also emailed me and attended the DVA conference in Birmingham last week. I will email back with the earlier version of my maternal alienation model. However, as I said in my presentation, I am moving away from the language of alienation and encouraging a reframing of alienating and grooming strategies as coercive control so that these problems can be addressed using the new coercive control law.
      I have had quite a few women contact me in the last week wanting help in dire situations such as yours so I’ll write a blog post that I hope will help you and other women who are separated from their children.
      Best wishes, Laura


  4. Kate Emilie says:

    Reblogged this on Site Title and commented:
    So true

    Liked by 1 person

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