A look at the by-product of negative stereotypes in cases of parental alienation.
Over the years that I've been campaigning against parental alienation and helping those of you who have been alienated, the most common stereotype I've came across is the "deadbeat dad".
Now, "deadbeat dads" do definitely exist but in my experience they've been far outnumbered by great dads who've fallen victim to a system that's for so long been stacked against them. I've even fought against the "deadbeat dad" rhetoric on the basis that even in situations where the father is less than stellar, there is often an argument that the mother would behave in the exact same way had they been dealt the same hand.
In the UK, we still have a system that only offers to support one parent, which typically is the mother in over 90% of cases, so this further perpetuates the stereotype. A father with no money, no support and seemingly no options may take the "deadbeat" route because they feel it's their only choice.
I don't agree with this choice that some fathers make and I don't agree that anyone should give up on their responsibilities however I think it's worth considering that mothers are very rarely put into this situation.
I've come across a lot of mothers who show little to no care for their children and seem to only "want" children for the "perks" that come with having a child such as housing and benefit payments. It's quite possible that should these "perks" be offered to the father instead then the roles would be reversed and the mother would likely become the "deadbeat". Or even if both parents were entitled to equal share of the benefits, it's likely we'd see more "deadbeat dads" stepping up to the plate.
It's because of this that I don't fully accept the "deadbeat dad" rhetoric, I feel there are poor examples of both mothers and fathers in equal measure. The current system is not equal, which is why we are seeing an unequal representation of "deadbeats".
So I've addressed how stereotypes can affect fathers in cases of parental alienation but what about mothers?
The "deadbeat dad" stereotype has always negatively affected men when trying to regain custody of their children but now we are starting to see it affect women and it is in fact a growing problem.
Thanks to the work of PAPA and other organisations we are starting to see more positive results in cases of PA and in cases of fathers regaining custody, as fathers are still the most impacted by parental alienation.
However, there's also been a negative consequence to fathers beginning to have better results in cases of parental alienation and to the implementation of equal rights.
I'm talking about when a mother is alienated from their child(ren).
Whenever I post on social media or in PAPA or even speak on this subject in the media there tends to be a lot of debate on mothers being alienated and there can be some pushback from fathers on the matter.
There seems to be some reluctancy to acknowledge that mothers can and do become alienated from their children and it is a growing problem.
Of PAPA's 22,000+ members and 31,000+ followers; roughly 75% are men and the remaining 25% are women, compared to an 80:20 split two years ago. Then there's the MOJ data on family court outcomes, over the past 3 years it's gone from 96% of mothers "winning" their custody cases to now around 93%.
There will be cases where a father winning custody is justified but what this does illustrate is more and more mothers are being affected by parental alienation and more and more mothers are being kept from their children.
It's important to represent and support anyone who has been unfairly kept away from their children.
For some fathers reading this, you may find it hard to show sympathy when you've had it hard for so long, which is why I've brought up the negative impact of outdated stereotypes such as the "deadbeat dad".
A stereotype like this arguably makes it much harder for mothers who become estranged from their children and I'll explain why.
Because of stereotypes like this it is often assumed that a mother who is alienated has brought it on themselves however this is seldom the case. It then creates a situation that can be twice as difficult. It's often harder for women to regain custody in cases of alienation due to the systems we have in place.
Alienated mothers are still very much a minority but they are growing in numbers due to the "biased" systems we have in place along with outdated stereotypes that do nothing to help good mothers and fathers see their children.
It's good to see more fathers regaining custody but we don't want to see mothers suffering as a result.
It's important that we keep working towards equal opportunities for both parents however it's imperative that we stay mindful of alienated mothers becoming a by-product of fathers getting more rights and we need to do all we can to prevent any parent from being alienated.
Mothers and fathers are equally important and it's up to us to fight for a society that reflects that and we can start by not further perpetuating outdated stereotypes.
If you're a mother or father who is going through parental alienation then please feel free to join our online forum here or our PAPA facebook support group for free advice and support.