Members of Families Need Fathers can view our factsheet on Parental Alienation here.
What is Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation (PA) refers to a situation in which a resident parent (usually but not exclusively) turns their child against the non-resident parent, intentionally or unintentionally, resulting in the child’s supposed desire to reject all contact with that parent. There is still much debate among medical and psychological experts as to whether this behaviour pattern constitutes a syndrome, often referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) which was initially described by Dr Richard Gardner (Gardner, R. A (1989), Recommendations for Dealing with Parents who induce a Parental Alienation Syndrome in their children, Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 28 (3/4): 1-23).
Currently, PA is not officially recognised although there is much activity worldwide to influence its acceptance in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM- V.
You may well find useful information in books and articles about PA and PAS but we advise that you do not use the term PAS in court proceedings as your arguments regarding what has happened to your children may become sidetracked into barren arguments about the use of the word Syndrome. Syndrome is a term used by medical practitioners, and usually implies a diagnosis.
In practice however poisoning against one parent does occur, and is a genuine problem which goes strongly against a child’s best interests. This effect is being increasingly recognised in the Family Courts in the UK, which is encouraging.
The question “why should children who were initially close to both parents suddenly seek to reject one of them” (Journal of Parental Alienation, Vol. 2 No 2- March/April 2006; Dr. L. F Lowenstein) is often raised at the beginning of a Family Court case. The child is ‘programmed’ by the alienating parent against the other, and is used as a tool in the process of exclusion of an ex-partner, thereby emotionally harming the child by depriving them of a good parent.
Judges, CAFCASS staff, social workers, and others often fail to recognise parental alienation as a genuine case of significant emotional abuse, and these children may lose a loved and loving parent for a long time or sometimes permanently. This situation is often referred to in UK courts as ‘implacable hostility’ caused by the ‘controlling’ parent subjecting the child to this form of emotional abuse. This can have devastating life-long effects for the children, excluded parent, grandparents and the child’s other parent.
Where can further information be obtained?
PsyCare Inc (USA): List of PA Symptoms
Dr Craig A Childress (Psy. D. USA): What is PA?
Karen Woodall (UK): Blog
Dr Ludwig Lowenstein
- Parental Alienation Syndrome
- How to Understand and Address Parental Alienation Resulting from Acrimonious Divorce or Separation
- This 2008 article by Dr Ludwig Lowenstein 'Implacable Hostility: Parental Alienation' contains a list of 28 identifiable signs/behaviours in children suffering from parental alienation.
- Another 2008 article by Lowenstein, 'What Can Be Done to Reduce Implacable Hostility Leading to Parental Alienation' suggests ways to combat implacabable hostility.
Dr Amy J. L. Baker
- Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind
- Beyond the High Road - Amy J. L. Baker (E-book providing specific advice for handling 17 of the most common parental alienation strategies)
Dr Deidre Conway
- The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome