Home > Peer Review > Parental Alienation: A Sample of Pertinent Findings

Parental Alienation: A Sample of Pertinent Findings

Regarding Target Parents



 “We consider Parental Alienation Syndrome as a childhood disorder caused by an alienating parent sharing primitive defenses with a vulnerable child against a target parent. The sharing of primitive defenses helps the child maintain a pathological symbiosis with the idealized alienating parent who is seen as all good while the target parent is seen as all bad. Projective identification is used to blame and provoke the target parent. We found little support for the idea that the target parent is similar in dynamics to the alienating parent. When the target parent significantly contributes to the alienation of the child, according to our findings, then Kelly and Johnston’s definition of the estranged child seems more appropriate than PAS.” (Gordon, Stoffey, & Botinelli, 2008)


Regarding Misuse




“In some instances, the concept of parental alienation has been misused by abusive parents to hide their behavior. However, just because the concept of parental alienation has been misused does not mean the concept of parental alienation should be denied its place as a recognized diagnosis for mainstream psychology and psychiatry. In fact, the psychiatric diagnosis that is most misused in legal settings is posttraumatic stress disorder. In personal injury lawsuits, the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder in an alleged victim may be inappropriately used to prove that the individual actually sustained a severe trauma. Also, military veterans and workers’ compensation claimants sometimes malinger posttraumatic stress disorder in order to receive disability benefits. However, posttraumatic stress disorder should not be deleted from the DSM simply because it is sometimes misused.” (Bernet, 2008)


Regarding Common Sense




“If a child begins to develop racial hatred, many reasonable people would consider this a problem worthy of attention. When children suffer from irrational anxieties that interfere with functioning, we do not ignore the suffering with the hope that eventually the fears will be overcome. We try to alleviate the fears in order to improve the child’s current quality of life. Pathologically alienated children cannot experience or share affectionate feelings toward a parent. It would seem that this disturbance warrants at least as much concern as other irrational aversions.” (Warshak, 2006)


You Are Not Alone



“Reading other’s accounts—many true—can help alleviate the feelings of rage and helplessness that accompany being the victim of an injustice such as PAS. Knowing that others have traveled the same path may lesson the sense of being personally singled out for such suffering. In most of the stories about PAS, the victimization of the targeted parent is unmistakably portrayed (although the targeted parent’s human imperfections are also apparent). There can be no doubt in reading these stories that the targeted parent did not deserve or ask for the rejection and hostility of their children. These stories, thus, can serve as an antidote to the blame and shame targeted parents may feel. Understanding that the targeted parent did not deserve the alienation and that this is part of a larger systemic problem (the adversarial legal system, personality disorder of the alienating parent, vulnerabilities within the child) can be an empowering process.” (Baker, 2006)


Target Parents May Be Average Parents Similar to the Rest of the Population




“Contrary to what might easily be assumed by professionals, this study suggests that PAS does not necessarily signify dysfunction in either the alienated parent or in the relationship between that parent and child. PAS appears to be primarily a Function of the pathology of the alienating parent and that parent’s relationship with the children. Children are apt to be susceptible to alienation when they perceive that the alienating parent’s emotional survival or the survival of their relationship with the alienating parent is dependent upon the child’s rejection of the other parent. This is consistent with the finding of Johnston et al. (1987) in which they noted a tendency for children to be protective toward a fragile parent when the parents were entrenched in disputes over custody and access.” ( Hedrick & Dunne, 1994).

Categories: Peer Review
  1. Robert Gartner
    March 5, 2010 at 2:47 PM

    Enough cannot be said for the final remark by Amy J L Baker being that PA in part is part of a ‘larger systemic problem’. There are even ‘advocacy’ groups, Justice for Children (JFC) being among them, that vociferously reject the very existence of PA and even go to lengths of making such wild claims that the use of the PA allegation is nothing but than an act of retaliation by a child sexually abusing man (father)toward a “protective” woman (mother). I have seen this in quotes in the Houston Chronicle where one of JFC’s solier lawyers was interviewed.

    Another part of the larger picture is addiction. Anne Wilson Schaef taught me very much when I read her “When Society Becomes An Addict”, Harper and Row ,1986. She says our largest systems function as addicted systems. Hence here is one of the reasons PA is not seen or recognized, I say because it is but a symptom of the addtion processes and addicted systems do not want themselves revealed, recognized, and returned to truth and health.

    Thanks for this blog. It is critical that we support those who are forced to live a diminished life in any form.

  2. March 5, 2010 at 7:27 PM

    All excellent quotes. I especially like Dr. Warshak’s analogy to racial hatred. No parent, legal or mental health professional would find this position acceptable. No special interest group would consider the child’s feeling justified. And finally, when a member of the race objected to the child’s position, no one would attack the individual and the entire race with false generalizations, demeaning language and accusations that the individual and race are omehow deserving of the child’s misguided perspective.

    For what it’s worth, here is what I often tell/quote to targeted parents —

    “Learn all you can about parental alienation. The knowledge will provide an emotional anchor and help you make good decisions for yourself and your children. And while understanding alienation doesn’t take away the pain of being a targeted parent, it does dull the sensation a little bit.”


    mike jeffries
    Author, A Family’s Heartbreak: A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation

  3. sherri
    February 16, 2012 at 9:07 AM

    Robert gartner your reply can’t say the truth any more clearer. The pain a parent endures living with being alienated from there child whom only knew first two years my sons life. This pain time will never heal nor ALLOW ME TO BREATHE OR SLEEP THE SAME. If helps it takes time to build a case but knowing ur doing for ur child stay strong by gather evidence n info all u can n study all statues pertain to custody n placement/child abuse n do all u can legally to prove the truth n. It takes time but u will win

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