Emotional Cutoff in Context of Parental Separation

…the process of separation, isolation, withdrawal, running away or denying the importance of the parental family.

Dr Murray Bowen (1978)

Children rarely reject (emotionally cutoff) their mother or father. It only occurs as a result of some form of abuse, even then, children rarely reject an abusive parent, they are more likely to try harder to bond with the parent to get the abuse to stop or avoid being abandoned.

When a relationship between parents ends, sometimes coercive and controlling behaviours are employed by an adult to ensure they have full control over the child with no competition for the child’s affection. It is likely that controlling behaviours were present before family separation but were not recognised for what they were at the time.

Children may have different reactions to the manipulative behaviour as some are more resilient than others. It may start with mild symptoms which can be seen in the child’s behaviour. If it is not tackled early enough it can move to more moderate symptoms and then, in severest cases, lead to an emotional cutoff where the child rejects a parent. Going from mild symptoms to severe can happen within weeks. It can start with one child, usually the eldest, and then spread to younger children.

By the time cases reach Family Court significant harm may already have been inflicted on a child. The longer it is allowed to go on, significantly more support will be required by the family. In severest cases it is considered to be child psychological abuse.

The American Psychological Association (APA) found that childhood psychological abuse is as harmful to victims as sexual or physical abuse. It can be harder to treat than other forms of abuse and it impacts heavily on a child’s prospects.

Those working in the field to support families where children have had an emotional cutoff are reporting their clients are almost evenly split between men and women. This is not a “father” only issue, this is an issue of coercive control.

In these cases assessment is required, whenever an emotional cutoff occurs it is an indicator of significant pathology in the family. Most often it is one parent who is pathogenic and the other is merely reacting to their behaviour. It is less commons for a child to be unfortunate enough to have two pathogenic parents but it does happen.

Don’t believe a child could be manipulated to reject you? Think it only happens to men? Don’t believe it happens to good parents? If it happened do you think that Family Courts would help you?

Think again.

  • Any child can be manipulated to reject a “good enough” parent who poses no safeguarding risk to them.
  • No law gives parents the right to see their child if a relationship ends. The right belongs to the child.
  • Family courts do sever a child’s relationship with “good enough” parents.
  • It happens to mother’s and father’s.
  • It impacts on the emotional wellbeing of all family members and the wider community.
  • It causes emotional harm to children and seriously damages their prospects.
  • It is a form of domestic abuse, using the child as a weapon to hurt an ex and extended family.