Parental alienation: what should be the role of the social worker in these cases?

The role of the social worker in cases of parental alienation is surrounded by doubts. At the same time, few materials are produced to assist the work of technicians when faced with this type of situation.

This is an important issue, however, little debated due to its controversial content. If, on the one hand, some defend their criminalization, others tend to naturalize it, stating that parental alienation, due to the complexity of family structures, is normal.

Regardless of the opinions that permeate the theme, it is essential that technicians know their role, as well as their limits in these cases. Therefore, we decided to address this issue through this text.

However, first, it is important that you know the types of parental alienation, their causes, reflexes and laws that they have on the topic.

In general, parental alienation is a systematic practice promoted, generally, by one of the parents against the child or by caregivers against the elderly. Thus, the alienator has the objective of removing the victim from the alienated person or of denigrating his image before society.

Parental alienation against children and adolescents

Parental alienation against children and adolescents is, in general, committed by the mother or father with the intention of removing the child from the other parent. Most of the time, this occurs when there is a separation process.

The result of this practice is the development of the parental alienation syndrome, in which children acquire psychological effects that are difficult to repair.

With the rejection of the alienated parent and, consequently, their removal, false memories, feelings of abandonment and guilt are generated in the child or adolescent, in addition to the loss of the double parental reference, so important for the development of multiple skills.

Parental alienation against the elderly

In the case of parental alienation against the elderly, the caregiver (regardless of whether he is a child or a professional) takes complete control of the victim’s life, keeping him from living with other family members. Often, this caregiver has the help of third parties to intensify the distance.

Likewise, when the elderly person is forgotten in an asylum, for example, it is configured as parental alienation, since he is kept away from family life.

Laws on the topic

Due to constant social changes, such as new family arrangements and the transience of marriages, there was an intensification of the practice of parental alienation and, with that, there was a need to regulate the issue through some laws.

The Law 12,318 / 2010 , also known as Parental Alienation Act, among other provisions, calls parental alienation and moral abuse. It mainly supports complaints against parents or guardians of children or adolescents. However,

it has been used in conjunction with the Elderly Statute to also deal with alienations against the elderly.

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The Law 13,431 / 2017 amending the Statute of Children and Adolescents (ECA), went on to qualify parental alienation as psychological violence.

It is worth highlighting the importance of the Shared Guard Law to inhibit the occurrence of the problem and ensure that every child or adolescent lives with both parents.

What should the social worker do in cases of parental alienation?

In the case of complaints involving parental alienation, the social worker is one of the professionals brought to justice by giving his opinion on the occurrence. In addition, it is up to the technician to identify these cases during consultations, as well as the appropriate referrals.

The responsibilities of the social worker, faced with this situation, can be summarized as follows:

  • Monitor social changes and, through them, understand changes in family relationships;
  • To seek a view of the whole situation, looking for:
    • treat the parties equally;
    • understand the life history of those involved;
    • verify the coexistence of both parents with the child or the caregiver with the elderly, as well as with the other family members;
    • finally, check if there is in fact parental alienation;
  • Do not confuse neutrality with impartiality. No technician is neutral in his opinions, however, all versions of the fact should be heard before giving opinions;
  • Use their theoretical-methodological, ethical-political and technical-operational knowledge to develop a well-founded Social Study, based on evidence and based on the values ​​of truth and justice;
  • Assist the judicial authority to decide, above all, based on the interests of children, adolescents and the elderly ;
  • Understand the impact of the expansion of the penal state to the detriment of the social state, as well as what this causes in the lives of users;
  • Studying deeply:
    • social politics;
    • rights;
    • judicialization process that often end up categorizing individuals and standardizing solutions, making them simplistic.


Given the above, can you see the extent of the technician’s responsibility in cases of parental alienation? If failures in the Social Study occur, for example, the social worker will contribute to the removal of children from one of the parents, which may impact the development of the personality of these children.

By accepting reports of violence without checking whether it actually existed, you are legitimizing a parental alienation. It is worth mentioning that, when there is a dispute over child custody, 50% to 80% of sexual abuse reports are false.

However, when the case is carefully investigated and the alienation is verified, the position of the social worker, in addition to helping justice, should be to work on inhibiting and preventing the problem.

The technician must understand parental alienation much more as a manifestation arising from social issues than as a situation in which he needs to act punitively. This type of attitude can generate even more suffering for the children, teenagers or elderly involved.


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