Home > Parents > Parent Alienation Syndrome: Its Time has come by Dr. Andre

Parent Alienation Syndrome: Its Time has come by Dr. Andre

Parent Alienation Syndrome: Its Time has come by Dr. Andre

Posted by Monika Logan, LBSW

Published in The California Psychologist ‐ included with permission from The California Psychologist and was first printed in the Sept/Oct issue 2005.  

Most psychologists agree the least understood ‐‐ and often most destructive ‐‐ type of child abuse is emotional. Considered the most difficult abuse to diagnose and prevent, its scars are not physical but invisible, with profound, far‐reaching consequences. There is growing interest in a less‐well‐known type of emotional child abuse known as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). “PAS is a serious form of child abuse” (Cartwright, 1998) with a general consensus regarding the most prominent behavioral symptoms (Gardner, 1989; Rand, 1997; Darnall, 2001; Kelly and Johnston, 2001; Warshak, 2001; Major, 2004; Andre, 2004) defining the mental illness. This article seeks to increase awareness of PAS as a mental illness form resulting from emotional abuse, and to suggest PAS’ inclusion in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders‐V (DSM‐V).



PAS has been referenced by concept in the literature for at least twenty‐five years. Wallerstein and Kelley (1980) first noted a pathological alignment between an angry divorcing parent and his/her child. Gardner (1985) further delineated this problematic alignment as occurring between a brainwashing parent with a contributing child, naming the alignment Parental Alienation Syndrome and articulating its symptoms.

Symptoms and psychological dimensions

In its mildest form, PAS may be observed as a child’s reluctance to visit a parent. In its severest form, PAS children “use extreme oppositional behaviors to reject and denigrate the previously loved parent. … The children’s perceptions are black and white. The targeted parent …is hated for seemingly small or ridiculous reasons” (Andre, 2004). PAS alienators lie about their brainwashing while empowering their children to behave irresponsibly toward the other parent. Alienators attempt to mislead evaluators, using deceitful accusation tactics to deflect intervention. Discerning an alienator’s true intent requires a trained professional. Just as child sexual predators “groom” their child victims, so alienators groom children by testing for compliance. Common themes are the other parent is crazy, bad, or to be feared (Clawar and Rivlin, 1991). The child endures scenarios in which “correct” responses are rewarded and “incorrect” responses punished. Children aligned with alienators are taught to tell half‐truths and lies. Bone and Walsh (1999) state PAS childrens’ lies are “survival strategies that they are forced to learn to …avoid emotional attacks from the alienating parent.” Clawar and Rivlin’s (1991) research indicates alienators use persuasive techniques and brainwashing tools to isolate children from other family members. Alienators promote denial of the child’s other parent by deliberately refusing to acknowledge the other parent at social events or in the child’s presence. Alienators also rewrite history, causing the child to doubt his/her perception of reality, making the child more vulnerable to the alienator’s distortions.

PAS is emotional abuse

Cartwright (1998) stated, “PAS is a serious form of child abuse.” When an alienator isolates a child from another parent through programming techniques and control, harm and symptoms of mental illness result. Emotional abuse results when an alienator controls a child’s beliefs through rejection and fear. Bone and Walsh (1999) state “healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally of their own accord. They must be attacked.” It is emotional abuse when an alienating parent attacks the other parent‐child bond intending to destroy it.

Emotional abuse’s consequences

Childhood abuse’s emotional effects are well documented. Consequences include perpetuating abuse into the next generation for those who remain unaware, low self‐esteem, self‐destructive behaviors, anger, aggression, cruelty, depression, anxiety, and post‐traumatic stress. Emotionally abused children affect society’s structure. They risk becoming mentally ill adults who hate, fear, lie, and engage in antisocial behavior. Kraizer (2004) writes, “Evidence is mounting that child mistreatment is the precursor to many of the major social problems in this culture.” The U.S. Advisory Board (1990) suggests our society’s survival depends on protecting children from harm. Clawar and Rivlin’s (1991) research indicates even mild PAS cases need intervention and “have significant effects.” Traditional talk psychotherapies are ineffective in severe cases, which require deprogramming therapies for successful intervention.


Conservatively, there are potentially 50,000 new PAS cases annually with half a million new children under age 18 experiencing or being at risk for PAS (Andre, 2004). Interventions lacking Despite the large number of divorce program interventions available in the literature, few are PASspecific. The number of intervention programs tripled between 1994 and 1999 (Arbuthnot, 2002), suggesting rapidly growing interest in PAS.


One reason for few PAS intervention programs may be its lack of inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM‐IV), an important diagnostic tool for naming disorders, determining differential diagnosis and diagnostic validity, and providing research uniformity. Because PAS is not in the DSM‐IV, there is no uniform diagnostic criteria or even an agreed‐upon name. Rand (1997) pointed out there is a “body of divorce research and clinical writings which, without a name, describe” PAS.

DSM exclusion leads to misunderstanding

PAS’ exclusion is sometimes considered evidence of its nonexistence by those lacking understanding of the DSM’s evolution. Since its first publication in 1952, the DSM has undergone four major revisions, each attempting to reflect the time’s accepted thinking. However, PAS’ exclusion from the DSM does not mean it doesn’t exist (Warshak, 2003).

Its time has come

Cartwright (2002) stated there were “133 peer reviewed articles, and 66 legal citations from courts of law” recognizing PAS. Articles continue to be added to the professional literature; there may already be a comprehensive database from which to answer a DSM‐V workgroup’s questions.


PAS is a form of child abuse with potentially severe consequences. A substantial body of peerreviewed literature indicates PAS is a valid and distinct disorder. Inclusion in the DSM‐V would provide the legitimacy PAS warrants, and clarify the conceptual framework, as well as the psychological and behavioral dimensions for diagnosis, research and treatment. The American Psychiatric Association DSM‐V Prelude Project committee has a website, http://www.dsm5.org/Pages/Default.aspx, for the user community to submit suggestions for the next DSM. We must ensure our nomenclature systems reflect current understanding of mental illness by asking a workgroup review PAS for inclusion in the DSM‐V.


Arbuthnot, J. (2002). A call unheeded: Courts’ perceived obstacles to establishing divorce educationprograms. Family Court Review, 40,371‐382.

Andre, K. (2004). Parental alienation syndrome. Annals of The American Psychotherapy Association, 7, 7‐11.

Bone, J.M. and Walsh, M.R. (1999). Parental alienation syndrome: How to detect it and what to do about it. The Florida Bar Journal. 73.44‐48 [Retrieved electronically;


Cartwright, C. (1998). Brief to the special joint committee on child custody and access. [Retrieved from] http://www.education.mcgill/ ca/profs/cartwright/papers/pasbrf01.htm.

Cartwright (2002). The changing face of parental alienation. Paper presented at the symposium: the parliamentary report for the sake of the children. Ottawa.

Clawar, S. and Rivlin, B. (1991). Children Held Hostage. Chicago: American Bar Association.

Darnall, D. (1998). Divorce Casualties.Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing.

Duryee, M. (2003). Expected Controversies: Legacies of Divorce. Journal for the Center for Families,Children and the Courts. 149‐160.

Gardner, R. (1985). Recent trends in divorce and custody litigation. Academy Forum. 29, 3‐7.

Gardner, R. (1989). Family evaluation in child custody, medication, arbitration, and litigation.

Cresskill, N.J.: Creative Therapeutics.

Gardner (2001). The empowerment of children in the development of parental alienation syndrome. [Retrieved electronically; http://rgardner.com/refs/arl4.lml%5D.

Kelly, J. and Johnston, J. (2001). The alienated child: A reformulation of parental alienation syndrome. Family Court Review. 39, 249‐266.

Kraizer, Sherryll (2004). Online; http://www.safechild.org/abuse.htm.

Major, J.A. (2003). Parents who have successfully fought parent alienation. [Retrieved electronically; http://www.breakthroughparenting.com/PAS.htm.1‐15%5D.

Rand, D. (1997). The spectrum of parental alienation syndrome (part I). American Journal of Forensic Psychology. 20,5‐29.

Wallerstein, J. and Kelly, J. (1980). Surviving the break‐up: How children and parents cope with divorce. NY: Basic Books.

Warshak, R. (2001). Divorce Poison. NY: Regan Books.

Warshak, R. (2003).Bringing sense to parental alienation. Family Law Quarterly, 37, 273‐301.

About the author

Dr. Katherine C. Andre is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Lakeport. She chairs the Lake County Mental Health Advisory Board, is a Diplomat in The American Psychotherapy Association and in Division 12 of The American Psychological Association. For 10 years she worked as a Lake County Superior Court family mediator, where she encountered PAS firsthand.

Categories: Parents
  1. Anon
    December 6, 2010 at 4:44 AM

    I hurt so badly from this. I didn’t know it was possible to be in this much pain for so many years. I am crushed. I have not seen my adult child for 8 years now, or been to their wedding, first car, birth of grandchild, whilst my irresponsible ex-husband, who demonised me to my child, has photos of my grandchild (whose name I don’t even know) on his facebook page. While I gave up my life for 18 years dedicated only to single-handedly raising my child, and I did make mistakes and was mildly abusive myself, but no amount of sorries or making amends seems to matter. My adult child is gone, married to an foreigner – whose parents have most probably heard lies about me, as I am the demonised parent. I can’t sleep and my health is deteriorating. My child has never got to know my new husband who is an angel. And this grief overtakes our marriage, though we have a strong marriage, this child is slowly killing me and nothing could please the child more than to hear of my death, I am sure. The child would like to hear that I have died, yet I hope to have many healthy and (happy?) years with my new husband, but I am in SO MUCH PAIN. The sane part of me says to the logical part of my brain that if this child were any other adult on the street and was treating me this way, I wouldn’t want to know them (that is if they were a stranger treating me this way – they would be history). But of course we don’t go through this life as merely logical creatures, we are also emotional, and the emotional side of me is in constant pain and agony over missing my child. The child I loved and that I still miss, is really dead – that is, that person no longer exists, now we have a brainwashed, hate filled young adult, who may reap alot more than they’ve sown. I really don’t know how to cope with this. “Let go and let God’ is really a very trite answer to how I feel, so please don’t say that to me.

    • December 6, 2010 at 6:40 AM

      I am sorry for your pain. However, no words will not get back lost years, but please know that you are not alone. One article by By Amy J.L. Baker, PhD, and Katherine Andre, PhD noted that, A chief culprit of this pain from the parent’s point of view—apart from the loss of the child—is that of being blamed for the rejection of the child. You did not deserve this and for what it is worth, parental alienation is considered emotional abuse; things will soon change. It is now illegal in Brazil. Yes, it is easier said than done, “to let go and let God.” I find people say this when they have never experienced parental alienation and just out right do not understand the phenomenon. Personally, I still place my faith in God and I will continue to believe, to hope and pray that this soon will be considered a hate crime. The only other option left is complete hopelessness. We have to have hope. There are support groups forming around the country; you may find one helpful. Regards, Monika

      • Anon
        December 6, 2010 at 12:55 PM

        Yes – hate crime is the perfect description, and exactly what it is, perpetuating hate from the father, who hated his mother and transferred that to me upon marriage, and now commissurates in his misery with the child by passing that hate for mother to the child. Hate Crime is the perfect description.

        Yes, it is worse than death, and at times I do feel completely hopeless, and I think if I embrace the complete hopelessness of any reconciliation at least it makes it more like a death, which can be grieved like a parent who lost their child.

        But I find myself lying about the child’s whereabouts as church is a hard place because self righteous believers like to quote “bring up a child in the way he should go and he will never depart from it.” further blaming me that the child turned out this way. It has become politically correct in Christian circles to say that if you raise your children right they will be successful Christians and if they are not, you were a bad mother. But my new husband keeps reminding me because he’s an angel, that I am not a bad mother, but was married to a hateful so and so, seething and demonic.

        I would love to find out about support groups. Please tell me about how to do that.

      • December 6, 2010 at 3:44 PM

        Here is a list of support groups, borrowed from A Family’s Heartbreak:A Parent’s Introduction to Parental Alienation by Mike Jeffries. I also list some resources under my “resources” page.

        Support Groups
        Child-Centered Divorce is a support network for parents that provides a free weekly newsletter, articles, coaching, advice and valuable resources designed to promote positive co-parenting before, during and after divorce.

        Colorado Parental Alienation Support provides support and advocacy opportunities for alienated parents.
        http://www.coloradopasupport.org (website pending).

        The Joshua Rose Foundation is a faith-based support network for non-custodial parents, alienated family members and survivors of parental alienation.

        Mothers Apart From Their Children (MATCH) supports mothers after their children have been abducted abroad or alienated from them after high conflict divorce.

        Parental Alienation Support and Resource Group is a Rochester, New York-based support group that meets monthly in various locations around Rochester.
        http://www.rochesterpas.com (website pending). Contact tiana.may18@yahoo.com.

        Parents Against Parental Alienation (PAPA) is an online Yahoo support group where alienated parents share support, suggestions and advocacy opportunities.

        PASParents is the Rachel Foundation’s free, online support group providing empathy and support for alienated parents.

        Southern California Parents of Alienated Children (PAC) is a support group of targeted parents who meet monthly in person, through Skype and by phone. Members share experiences, resources, information, support and hope. The group’s mission to to prepare members for healthy reunifications with their children.

  2. Anon
    December 6, 2010 at 4:00 PM

    thank you

  3. December 6, 2010 at 11:08 PM

    Dear Anon:

    I am so sorry for what you’ve been through.

    For what it’s worth, parental alienation is not a referendum of what kind of parent or person you were. Parental alienation is all about the unhealthy emotional needs of the alienating parent and making the child responsible for those needs.

    I realize that understanding parental alienation doesn’t take away the pain of being a targeted parent. Accepting my position as the targeted parent with no relationship with my child was one of the hardest things I ever did. However, I had another child who loved and needed me, a wife who deserved an emotionally healthy and present husband, extended family members who wanted to spend time with the person they used to know, and people at work who deserved to work with the professional they hired. For all these reasons I had to compartmentalize my emotions as an alienated parent and only allow myself to experience these emotions once in a while.

    I gave a speech in D.C. this past summer about learning to live with parental alienation. You can find the link on the Resources page of our website — http://www.afamilysheartbreak.com. Please visit the site and check it out. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful.


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

  4. Anon
    December 7, 2010 at 6:33 AM

    Dear Mike – thank you also, for the kind words which are also apt. I am in nearly the exact same position as a medical professional, re: others who need me and have found that expressing how I feel periodically is all that I can do – too bad I don’t have an off switch though, as I think it is hard to control when the feelings come out at times, especially at the holidays. It especially doesn’t help when it is my only child and when the pair of them are so genetically similar that they identify with each other so much (like two peas in a pod). I think the hardest part is the pointed fingers from the church, that, somehow if I had raised the child properly, they would be a first rate Christian success. The child WAS involved in Christian ministry as a young adult, when they left me – though I never pushed reading the bible or forced fed Christianity to them (it was caught rather than taught) – but this child has now dropped out of Christianity and is a self professing Buddhist with the ethnic spouse to match. Shocking and upsetting to say the least. I will look at your link also, wish there was a support group in the Southwest of England.

  5. r
    January 10, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    My sons father is alienating me against him.they made him lie in court to the law gaurdian I need help. its just way to much info to type.

    • January 10, 2012 at 4:06 AM

      Greetings: Above is a resource list. Here are some contacts that you may want to check out. Dr. Richard Warshak, http://www.warshak.com. It would be helpful to obtain his video titled, Pluto. Dr. Kathleen Reay, http://www.parentalalienationhelp.org; Dr. Michael Bone, http://www.jmichaelbone.com; Dr. Amy Baker, http://www.amyjlbaker.com –just to name a few. Also, many parents have provided those helping in their case information about parental alienation. The parental alienation awareness organization offers free downloads to print as hand-outs. It is too bad that some (clearly not all) helping professionals do not understand that a child’s brain is not fully developed. As they are placed in the middle, they are scared. When they are scared, due to the pressure of one parent, they will “side” with the weaker parent (the alienating parent). Lastly, the link on this page has free articles about parental alienation. The articles may help those that are trying to help you: http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/info_pas.htm. One for starters is by Dr. Deirdre Conway Rand (part I and II). Sincerely Wishing you the best outcome. Lastly, you may want to find a support group. If one is not available, many parents form their own.

  6. May 19, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    I don’t know if it’s just me or if everybody else encountering
    issues with your blog. It appears as if some of
    the text on your content are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening
    to them as well? This might be a problem with my internet browser because I’ve
    had this happen previously. Thanks

  7. Anonymous
    May 22, 2016 at 3:19 AM

    Is there someone available for counseling or support in Rochester NY area that can help families through this? Contact info? Links I found on Web don’t work… suggestions?

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