Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome was first defined and described by Psychiatrist M.D. in his work with divorcing families with minor children in 1985. He began to notice a growing phenomenon where one parent would try to alienate the children from the other parent so that the children would ultimately reject that parent. When this alienation was successful, Dr. Gardner identified a cluster of symptoms that these children would begin to exhibit, which he described as the “Parental Alienation Syndrome”. Since his original work in this area, there has been much further work and research done by Dr. Gardner as well as many other mental health professionals.

Since this phenomenon would occur in the context of divorce only, it is perhaps not surprising that it would generate a great deal of controversy. That is, it was essentially discovered, described and battled over in the acrimonious environment of the court.

The existence of Parental Alienation Syndrome has been debated in court in the context of litigation. It had until recently been argued that PAS had not been tested within the courts as being admissible as evidence. As noted earlier, this challenge has always been in the context of it being a litigation strategy. It is therefore of some significance that PAS was tested and did pass this important legal test in November of 2000, in Canada.M.D. The court ruled that PAS was accepted in the professional scientific community and did meet the Frye standard. Click here for more detailed information regarding this legal event.

Parental Alienation Syndrome Passes the Frye Test

While most mental health professionals who work in the area of divorce would describe some familiarity with Parental Alienation Syndrome, it is important to understand that this is a very specialized field that requires different evaluative techniques and tools than if Alienation is not present. If the evaluator is not intimately familiar with the nuances of this phenomenon, it is likely that this condition will be misdescribed and mistreated.

First, Parental Alienation must be distinguished from Parental Alienation Syndrome. Parental Alienation refers to the behaviors hooked in by the parent, with the possible result being the improvement of Parental Alienation Syndrome in the child. Parental Alienation assign to the actions of one parent onto the kid. Specifically, this refers to one parent denigrating, criticizing and attacking the other parent in front of and ultimately with the children. It represents the one parent’s attempt to remove what is referred to as the “Target Parent” from their children’s lives, and making it appear that it is the child who feels this way. How this is accomplished ranges from the most subtle to the most obvious of strategies. But they all carry the common goal of attempting to eliminate the Target Parent from the child’s life and world. Parental Alienation assign to specific actions by the Alienating Parent. These behaviors are predictable and form an identifiable pattern. The pattern of these behaviors form four Criteria which are listed below

How to Detect It and What to Do about It

  1. Visitation or access blocking by one parent
  2. False allegations of abuse or unfit parenting against the Target Parent
  3. Deterioration in the relationship with the child and the Target Parent since marital separation
  4. Exaggerated fear reaction on the part of the child at displeasing the Alienating Parent

When these four criteria are present, the stage is set for the development of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the psychological condition that exists within the child who has been a victim of these Parental Alienating behaviors. These behaviors have the effect of causing the child to internally reformulate how they view and feel about the now absent Parent. Parental Alienation Syndrome is the development of manipulating the kid to internally transform their view of the other parent from being an object of love into being an object of hate. This is a profound and very damaging psychological illness can and often will create lifelong harm to the child, well into adulthood.

Parental Alienation Syndrome is the result of the child living in the presence of the four criteria listed above for some significant period of time. Parental Alienation Syndrome can be identified by the presence of following manifestations or symptoms in the child. They are:

  • Campaign of Denigration
  • Weak or Frivolous Rationalizations for the Deprecation
  • Lack of Ambivalence
  • “Independent Thinker” Phenomenon
  • Reflexive support of Alienating Parent
  • Absence of guilt over cruelty and exploitation of Alienated Parent
  • Presence of Borrowed Scenarios
  • Spread of Animosity to Extended Family of Alienated Parent

Steven B. Stock

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