What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a course of conduct in which one parent uses deprecation, denigration, and various degrees of criticism to alienate a child from the other parent. Parental alienation, however, goes far beyond simple brainwashing or indoctrination. If left unchecked, an alienator’s often obsessive, never-ending message of hate can wreak psychological havoc on a child, creating problems that last well into adulthood and possibly alienating the child from the targeted parent forever

Who first identified Parental Alienation?

The term Parental Alienation Syndrome was originally coined by child psychiatrist Dr. Richard Gardner in mid-80’s. Gardner noticed that changes in legal policy that had started about a decade earlier were having a profound effect on how divorcing parents were dealing with each other. The tender-years doctrine that assumed the mother was always the better choice for custody of younger children was being replaced by the idea of joint custody. Custody therefore became a battleground on which divorcing couples could wage war against each other.

What’s the relationship between parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome?

Okay, let’s get technical – Though the terms are often used interchangeably, Parental Alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome refer to two related yet distinct phenomena. Parental alienation refers to conduct designed to destroy a child’s affection for the targeted parent, whereas Parental Alienation Syndrome for Richard Gardner, referred to the effect that such conduct has on a child.  Today, in order to sidestep the controversy surrounding the term “syndrome” and to fit the DSM-5 diagnostic orientation to CAPRD (Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress – V61.29 – DSM-5 page 716), researchers, experts and therapists simply use the term Parental Alienation to refer to both of these phenomena.

Doesn’t Parental Alienation remain controversial in psychological circles?

The American Psychological Association (APA) has yet to take an official position on PAS. The courts, however, have embraced the concept of PA in varying degrees, and PA has become an integral concept in custody litigation not only in the United States, but also in courts throughout the world. The concept and differential diagnosis for parental alienation has passed the Frye test, the Daubert test in the United States and the Mohan test in Canada. The new text Parental Alienation – The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals brings together researchers from around the world and includes over a thousand bibliographic entries and discussion of five hundred parental alienation cases.