Monday, August 5, 2013

Parental Alienation

This is not the type of post I usually put on this blog,  but this is something we are dealing with right now. I've done hours of research on this topic and didn't want to let it go to waste. Its a long read but hopefully it will help someone in a similar situation as ours. (By the way I got an "A" on this paper in my Advanced Comp class) Woot woot! I'll have another post coming soon that will tell our story.

The Effects of Parental Alienation on Children of Divorce

     What is Parental Alienation? Probably not a term most people have heard unless they have

dealt with a nasty custody battle. After a divorce, when one parent seeks to keep his or her child

or children from the other parent by any means necessary, it is called parental alienation.

Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS can also be described as brainwashing a child into

thinking one parent is good and one is bad. This behaviour is detrimental to a child and some

consider it abuse. It must be recognized by all as abuse, punished and stopped before any more

children are hurt. Despite opposition, PA cannot be allowed to continue for the sake of children


     Michael Bone and Michael Walsh, in an article written for the Florida Bar Journal, give four

main criteria to use in detecting PAS. One or all of these criteria may be present. Criteria one

involves blocking the child from access to the absent parent. This may involve restricting phone

time, intercepting mail, taking away gifts sent to the child or more. In court the guilty party may

argue that they are a better parent, have better parental judgement and visiting the absent parent

upsets the children or they have a hard time adjusting when they come home. Criteria two involves
false allegations. These are most commonly allegations of abuse, especially sexual abuse. An
alienating parent may also accuse the other parent of emotional abuse, this is usually over a simple
parenting disagreement. For example, one parent may let the child stay up late once or twice and the
alienating parent says this is detrimental to the child’s health. Criteria three involves a decline in
relationship between child and alienated parent after the divorce. If there was a good relationship
prior to separation, and it suddenly declines this is a sure sign. A healthy parent/child relationship
does not just change on its own unless it is attacked. Criteria four involves a fear reaction by the
child. The alienating parent may “punish” the child for talking favourably about the absent parent or
expressing excitement about visitation with the absent parent. The parent may also shut the child up if
they want to talk about fun things they did at absent parent’s house. Contrarily, the alienating parent
will be all ears if the child has something negative to say about the other parent. Over a fairly short
amount of time the child may start to show fear of visiting the absent parent and/or say only negative
things about them (Bone and Walsh 44).

     If a child is subject to PA, the alienating parent should immediately be punished. It isn’t always
that easy though. There are only a few cases where PA is punished. This is because there is
some major opposition. While many experts have proven the existence of PA, the American

Psychology Association refuses to classify it as a mental disorder or even acknowledge it in their
manual of mental illnesses. They believe it is a relationship issue and not a “Syndrome” or

 illness. A major argument against recognizing PAS in courts is the fact that an abusive parent
will sometimes accuse the other parent of PA to take the attention off his or her abusive

 behaviour. David Cary, in an article in the Boston Globe, includes a quote from the National
Organization of Women, ‘‘The truth is that parental alienation really is a dangerous and cleverly

marketed legal strategy that has caused much harm to victims of abuse.’’ Not all women feel this
way, but since most of the perpetrators of PA are women, many of them do. Another argument is

 that proving PA in court is not financially worth it since attorneys can charge more billable
hours, and an expert witness has to be paid as well. If PA is recognized as a crime it opens the

 door for false allegations and/or punishing the innocent, as with any crime.

    We must realize, however, that PA is extremely detrimental to a child and some consider it

 abuse. “Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct

and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood.” (Bones and Wash 44) Anna

Lavadera, Stefano Ferrcuti and Marisa Togliatti, professors at the University of Rome, in Italy,

 did a study on how PAS affected children. They studied 12 psychological reports where PAS had
been diagnosed. They also studied 12 reports where there was no PAS diagnosis. Their results

 found that the alienating parent was always the one who had the most custody. They also found
that the children diagnosed with PAS had identity problems and showed manipulative tendencies

 (Lavadara, Ferracuti and Togliatti 1) Amy Baker and Naomi Ben-Ami did a study on 118 adults
who had been children of divorce. Those who had been subjected to alienation strategies were

 found to have lower self-esteem, higher rates of depression, insecure attachments and in some a
higher rate of alcohol abuse (Baker and Ben-Ami 1). They also found that parents who

 constantly made negative remarks to the child about the targeted parent lowered the child’s self-
esteem dramatically. The child translated these negative remarks into the idea that if one parent

 is bad, he or she must be half bad because they were half of their parent (Baker and Ben-Ami 3).
Many alienating parents or even divorced parents make nasty remarks about the other parent

 thinking they may turn the child against the other parent. In reality, all they are doing is tearing
that child down.

     One would think after hearing the effects of PA, people would take it more seriously The
problem of PAS is a hard one to solve since some professionals deny it even exists. The first step

in helping the victims of PA would be to have it recognized as a clear form of child abuse. Once
it has been established as a real problem by both psychologists and legal professionals alike, it

 will be easier to diagnose and then prove in court. Brainwashing happens over time, so early
diagnosis of PA is important. Immediate judicial action can then stop it in its tracks. Some may

 think 50/50 custody is the only solution needed. While equal custody is the right idea and should
be implemented, alone, it is not likely to stop the alienating parent from their actions. There

 needs to be consequences enforced as well. “It is our feeling that when attempted PA has been
identified, successful or not, it will contaminate and quietly control all other parenting issues and

 then lead only to unhappiness, frustration and, lastly, parental estrangement.” (Bones and Walsh
44) PA and bona fide abuse must also be differentiated from each other. A good indicator of Pa

 versus abuse is to take a look at how the parents respond to bringing in a neutral examiner. A
parent who is guilty of PA will usually be unwilling to cooperate; the same with  a truly abusive

 parent. One difference between the two, however, is that an Alienator will be willing to bring in
their own examiner who has only had a chance to speak with them and not the other parent. An

 abusive parent will be unwilling for any examiner to be brought in for fear their abusive
behaviour may be found out. (Gardner 100)

      It must be concluded that first of all, Parental Alienation is a serious matter; it needs to be
recognized as a genuine syndrome, and the perpetrator swiftly punished for his or her crime. PA

 causes devastating effects on children and their alienated parent, and while there is a margin for

error in diagnosing or convicting, the harmful effects simply outweigh everything else.

Works Cited

Ben-Ami, Naomi, and L. "The Long-Term Correlates Of Childhood Exposure To Parental        Alienation On Adult Self-Sufficiency And Well-Being." American Journal Of Family Therapy 40.2 (2012): 169-183. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 21 July 2013.

Bone, Michael J., and Walsh, Michael R. “Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect It and What to Do About It.” The Florida Bar Journal Vol. 73 (1999): pg. 44-48. Web. 20 July 2013

Crary, David. “Psychiatric Group: Parental Alienation no disorder”, 21 September 2012. Web. 31 July 2013

Gardner, Richard A. "Differentiating Between Parental Alienation Syndrome And Bona Fide Abuse-Neglect." American Journal Of Family Therapy 27.2 (1999): 97. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 3 Aug. 2013.

 Lavadera Lubrano, Anna, and Ferracuti, Stefano, and Malagoli Togliatti, Marisa, Parental Alienation Syndrome in Italian legal judgments: An exploratory study, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Volume 35, Issue 4, July–August 2012, Pages 334-342, ISSN 0160-2527

Lowenstein, Ludwig F. "Attachment Theory And Parental Alienation." Journal Of Divorce & Remarriage 51.3 (2010): 157-168. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 20 July 2013.

Morrison, SL et al. "Parental Alienation, DSM-V, And ICD-11." American Journal Of Family     Therapy 38.2 (2010): 76-187. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 21 July 2013.

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