The children of high conflict divorces: the children of Armageddon

During the last decade increasing numbers of children are being trapped in their parents' high conflict divorces and consequent disputes over custody, visitation etc. These children, known as the children of Armageddon, must be distinguished from children of divorce in general, as they are at high risk of developing problematic relationships with their parent (s) and experiencing emotional/behavioural problems and maladjustment. Two syndromes which are observed with higher frequency in high conflict divorces are briefly described here: 1) the Sexual Abuse Allegation in Divorce (SAID) Syndrome and 2) the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). The need for thorough assessment and management of these cases by child psychiatrists and psychologists with special training and experience in this field is highlighted. In addition, other professionals working with children, such as judges and attorneys, should be informed and educated in the management of these situations. Mental health and legal professionals should collaborate closely in order to understand better these children and their problems, and to reach settlements more protective of the children's best interests. Some of these children and their parents will require therapy in order to minimize the consequences of the divorce-related conflict. Encephalos 2009, 46(4):159-163.

Key words: Divorce, high conflict, children.