Should Parental Alienation be a Diagnosis?
Should Parental Alienation be a Diagnosis?
I believe that some children are alienated against one of their parents for no specific appropriate reason. As a social worker, I believe that alienation can be a form of emotional abuse. As a lawyer, I have won changes of custody related to alienation. However, I do not believe that an alienated child should be diagnosed as having a mental disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association is currently considering revisions to its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The next edition is due to come out sometime in 2012 – the DSM-V (the fifth edition). The APA has decided to consider including Parental Alienation Disorder in the DSM-V. On the surface, this could be a good thing, as it would bring legitimacy to an issue which has been highly controversial and misunderstood. But under the surface, I believe that it would create more problems, for the following five reasons:
1. It will feed the Culture of Blame in Family Courts: If it is a psychiatric diagnosis, then family courts will become further bogged down in fights over the diagnosis and who is the “all-bad” parent causing the parental alienation. Such high-conflict court battles are a significant factor in causing alienation, not solving it. A diagnosis will become a new weapon in the Family Court Culture of Blame – and create more alienation, not less, in high-conflict divorces.
2. It will build resistance to behavior change: I believe that child alienation is the result of high-conflict behavior by at least one person (usually with a personality disorder), but often by several people in a child’s environment – much of it inadvertent. I developed the New Ways for Families program of High Conflict Institute to take out the blaming and put in short-term skills training at the beginning of family court cases before anyone has been judged to be an “all-bad” parent. Once a parent has been identified as the all-bad parent, it is next to impossible to get him or her to change anything in their own behavior. Whereas, before such findings have been made, both parents can learn and use skills for dealing with each other and with their children through programs such as New Ways for Families. It’s much easier to get a parent to try flexible thinking, managed emotions and moderate behaviors, if they don’t have to be defensive about their past behavior.
3. It will further isolate children: Thirty years ago I started working with children as a therapist. They often loved the counseling, but hated having a psychiatric diagnosis. Their families and friends often teased them and they felt awkward, alone and different. If you give a child a diagnosis of parental alienation disorder, what will it mean to the child’s sense of identity growing up? Children of high conflict families often blame themselves already for the family’s problems. It seems to me that it will add more weight to the wrong person. It would be more appropriate to diagnose a parent with a personality disorder, because that is more often the driving force behind child alienation anyway.
4. It will distract from looking for other problems, such as abuse: I’m a social worker and I also believe that child abuse and domestic violence are real. Sometimes these problems are present when a child becomes alienated, and often they are not present. But there will be the temptation to see alienation as the one and only problem and identify one parent as the one and only cause. In many cases, this will cause those trying to help the family to miss other problems that also need attention.
5. It will distract from focusing on solutions: Child alienation (I prefer to call it child alienation rather than parental alienation, to avoid any presumptions that its one parent’s fault) is a result of the child’s exposure to excessive amounts of all-or-nothing thinking, unmanaged emotions and extreme behaviors, by one or more people in the child’s environment. The child needs to learn that these three problems are not the way to live, rather than reinforcing them by eliminating one parent and then the other. The favored parent needs to change these behaviors as much as possible, regardless of who has physical custody. Often the rejected parent reinforces these problems by inadvertently getting angry at the child or prematurely giving up on the child (at the child’s insistence). Professionals need to show empathy for both parents and the children, rather than getting emotionally hooked into reinforcing that one parent is “all-good” (their client) and that the other parent is “all-bad.”
For more about my point of view as a therapist and attorney, see my book Don’t Alienate the Kids! Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High Conflict Divorce.
What do you think on this controversial subject? Remember to be respectful of each other’s opinions.
To read more of Eddy’s work visit the High Conflict Institute
Re-Posted by Monika Logan, LBSW
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Parental Alienation Support
This page is to provide support by offering resources and references in regard to parental alienation. It is provided with the understanding that the blog is not providing any legal, mental health, or other professional service. The information is not designed to replace the services of a qualified mental health professional, attorney, or expert in parental alienation. This page does not represent the opinion of any professional organization. Nothing on this site should be construed as offering professional or therapeutic recommendations. This blog does however attempt to dispel the myth that parental alienation is nothing more than junk science or a misused theory. Hopefully, others will review the references and resources. Most of the articles cite parental alienation experts that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Parental alienation is emotional abuse. To eradicate this form of abuse requires education, advocacy, awareness, and empirical advancement.
Parental Alienation is not a theory
- NOW’s Opposition to PAS Inclusion in DSM-V Anti-Science, Anti-Dad, Anti-Mom, Anti-Child
- Parental Alienation and the Judiciary
- Abuse Under the Radar: Pressure, Power, and Perceptions
- Parental Alienation Contact List
- Basia Kowalik DDS suffered from Parental Alienation 12/28 by SyndicatedNews | Blog Talk Radio
- The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PART II) by Dr. Deirdre Rand
According to Dr. Deirdre Rand
Gardner’s observations recognized
An Obvious Point
- Bench Book for Assessing Parental Gatekeeping in Parenting Disputes: Understanding the Dynamics of Gate Closing and Opening for the Best Interests of ChildrenJournal of Child Custody, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 1-16, January-March 2013.
- The Child Custody Evaluation Report: Toward an Integrated Model of PracticeJournal of Child Custody, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 17-53, January-March 2013.
- Child Custody and Homosexual/Bisexual Parents: A Survey of JudgesJournal of Child Custody, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 54-67, January-March 2013.
- The Impact of Internet Pornography Use and Cybersexual Behavior on Child Custody and VisitationJournal of Child Custody, Volume 10, Issue 1, Page 68-98, January-March 2013.
Alienation a normal reaction? Maybe, after 1 year. What about 15 years?
As noted by Dr. Bernet, a Vanderbilt University psychiatrist, "We don't want to label kids unnecessarily, but these kids are not reacting in a normal way." "We're talking about kids who have a false belief, a little like a delusion, that the other parent is an evil, dangerous person. To me that looks and sounds like a mental disorder." Obviously, the alienating parent needs help. But, as pointed out by Jaffe et al. (2010) “a minority of parents who suffer from personality and mental disorders may ignore the court and spend their waking hours finding ways to exhaust the other parent emotionally and financially." I do not imagine the parents noted by Jaffe et al. would voluntarily seek help nor do they care about stopping the denigration.
Even When You Win You Lose
- The Australian Family Relationship Centres and the Future of Services for Separating and Divorcing Families
- The Role of the State in Family LawJurisdictions around the world have been grappling with the appropriate boundaries for the State's role in family law, particularly during this time of fiscal restraint. This article draws on some of the history and research from New Zealand, Canada and the United States to outline the fundamental elements of a just family law system. The authors sugges […]
- Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Guidelines for Child Protection MediationThe Child Protection Mediation Guidelines Workgroup came together under the auspices of the Child Welfare Collaborative Decision Making Network to examine program development and the practice of Child Protection Mediation (CPM). The Workgroup convened and began its work in 2010. The resultant “Guidelines for Child Protection Mediation” was approved by the AF […]
- The Idea of Family Relationship Centres in AustraliaFamily Relationship Centres formed the centrepiece of major reforms to the family law system in Australia which were introduced from 2006 onwards. They were established all over the country between 2006 and 2008, providing information and advice and offering free or heavily subsidised mediation of parenting disputes. They are an early intervention strategy t […]
- From Helping Court to Community-Based Services: The 30-Year Evolution of Australia's Family Relationship CentresAs a centrepiece of Australia's 2006 family law reforms, the community-based Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) represented a major development in the Government's commitment to incorporate family relationship services into its family law system. This paper sees FRCs as a logical development of the original conceptualising the Family Court of Austr […]
- Investigators: Parent alienation - FOX 9 News May 16, 2013Investigators: Parent alienationFOX 9 News"He's certainly not neutral on the issue of parental alienation," MacDonald said. Reitman calls parental alienation emotional abuse, and he said that in general, it can cause higher rates of depression, chemical dependency, anxiety and personality ...
- Parental Alienation: Does it Really Exist? - DigitalJournal.com (press release) April 22, 2013Parental Alienation: Does it Really Exist?DigitalJournal.com (press release)Depending on the expert, parental alienation syndrome, or PAS, is either made-up psychobabble or behavior by one parent that causes significant harm to children during child costody disputes. The reality, of course, is that it's a little of both ...
- Support groups are ready to help those with various needs - TriCities.com May 17, 2013Support groups are ready to help those with various needsTriCities.comNETN AGAINST PARENTAL ALIENATION GROUP: Accepting participants for a support group in Tri-Cities. If you are going through a divorce or custody battle, we want to help. 423-342-7877 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. N-FUZE: Jonesville, Va., Lee ...
- LETTER: Visitation rights should be enforced - Morning Star May 8, 2013LETTER: Visitation rights should be enforcedMorning StarPAS stands for “Parental Alienation Syndrome” and the definition is: "An aggressive form of psychological abuse whereby one parent degrades and destroys the relationship between the children and the other parent." With divorce so commonplace, it is ...and more »
- Support Groups - GoErie.com May 13, 2013Support GroupsGoErie.comParental Alienation Syndrome Support Group; write to email@example.com and provide a phone number or e-mail address. - Nar-Anon for families and friends of people dealing with addictions. Meets Mondays, 7:30 p.m., First United Methodist Church, ...and more »
- An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.
- DSM-5: Where Do We Go From Here?
- The British Psychological Society Enters the Silly Season
- NIMH vs DSM 5: No One Wins, Patients Lose
- Hippocratic Humility in the Face of 'Unexplained' Medical Problems
- Is it Time for a Treatment Manual to Complement DSM-5?
- The International Reaction to DSM-5
- The Obama Plan—Spending Mental Health Money in All the Wrong Places
- What's Normal? What's Not?
- God’s Psychiatrist: An April Fool’s Tale in 3 Chapters
- Diagnosis and its Discontents: The DSM Debate Continues