Alienation Syndrome - What The Legal Profession Should Know
Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
Southern England Psychological Services
(1999) Vol.66 Part 4, 151-161
I have been involved in and out of the legal system with the process
of PAS, and propose to answer the questions outlined, in the most
simple terms. I will try to explain to those faced with PAS in cases
of marital disharmony, marriage guidance, divorce proceedings,
the legal system and evaluation of children and adults involved
and suggest how to reverse some of the tragic consequences before
they reach a court of law or during the proceedings in a court of
Although I will be responding to the questions posed briefly and
succinctly, I will try not to over simplify this complex subject.
However, there are wider and more comprehensive texts available
which consider the complex phenomena of PAS (see Bibliography).
1. What is the Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
PAS is not a new phenomenon. It has been practised for as long
as marital or relationship conflicts have occurred. It is the conscious
action, although sometimes deemed unconscious by some psychologists
and psychiatrists, of one parent turning against another to oust
the other parent from the affection, love, respect or regard by
children which both parents bore. It is most effectively used against
younger, passive children and is rather less effective with older
and more assertive children.
It is unlikely to occur in a stable harmonious relationship between
parents. The couple who are at ease, even happy, with one another
will tend to engender love for their children. They will encourage
children to regard the other parent favourably They will work together
to bring up their children appropriately with socialised standards
of behaviour. Such children have the advantage of knowing they come
from a secure base, of being loved by both parents and in turn,
feeling the same way towards them. In some cases even where marital
disharmony occurs PAS does not occur and parents continue to foster
good relations with their children and with the other partner and
This is not to say that problems between parents do not arise among
normal couples. Somehow, however, the bond created between them
and the responsibility they feel for one another and their children
makes the union endure and the guidance given to children also has
a positive quality. Even when it does not endure, PAS is not an
inevitable consequence. Many marriages fail. It is the tragedy of
our time. When this occurs, responsible parents consider their role
as good parents to be of the greatest importance. They will actually
encourage their former partner to participate in guiding and caring
for their children. They will display the view that they both love
their offspring, even if they cannot love one another. They will
make certain that the other parent is a good parent in the eyes
of their children. Were this to happen as a general basis, there
would be no PAS. Such parents accept and embrace the important principle
that division between parents does not mean that their love for
their children is any less.
Such unions endure because both members regard their own role and
responsibilities as paramount and also consider their former partner's
role important. In this way, despite the marital split, parenting
patterns persist. Sometimes the parted couples can even establish
a friendly relationship towards one another which is desirable as
a consequence for their children. To achieve this end, some parents
need guidance from an outside professional.
2. Why Does PAS Occur?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that in
very rare instances of poor parenting by one partner, or even criminal
activities such as paedophilia, such parents should be eliminated
from the parenting, role or their role must be curtailed and only
reinstated after such parents have been successfully treated for
With these important exceptions eliminated from the picture we
may now concentrate on why PAS occurs. PAS results from a relationship
in conflict when the alienator feels the need to control totally
the process of rearing children, after an acrimonious separation.
The exhibitor of this trait is usually female but not exclusively
so. Sometimes this results from the need to retaliate against the
targeted former partner who may have been, but not necessarily was,
the rejector of the relationship. Other factors may include the
alienators own early childhood experiences and having suffered from
alienation by their own parents.
Depriving a former partner of positive contact with his/her children
is a powerful weapon. Some alienators go as far as accusing the
former partner, often unfairly, of physically, emotionally and even
sexually abusing the child or children merely to get their own way.
This results in the involvement of social workers, the police and
leads to the humiliation of the alienated parent, often unjustly.
When this happens many alienated partners give up the fight to seek
or maintain contact with their children. The alienating parent will
then use this against him by informing the children: "You see
how little he cares for you" "Wasn't I right about him?"
The child will more often than not fail to understand the lack of
logic of what has taken place and will usually support the mother's
position since she is present most of the time and has usually been
the main caretaker. (The process of alienating a child against the
father or vice versa works will be discussed below in section 5.)
The objective of the alienator is to eliminate partly and sometimes
totally, the alienated parent from the family and from having any
control and care of the child. Sometimes a new partnership has emerged.
It is then the object of the alienator to promote the affection
and closeness of these hapless children with the new partner and
to exclude the alienated parent, usually the father.
3. Who is most likely to practise it?
What follows will portray the mother as the chief alienator. Of
those who practise PAS, 75% are mothers as against 25% of men who
alienate. I will concentrate therefore on the woman's role as alienator
but what is said about them can equally be said about men. Despite
the changes in social and cultural norms, this is due to the view
that the mother is the centre of family life. Hence alienating mothers
feel they have the greatest input and responsibility in caring for
the child compared with the male.
Mothers who are on their own feel it is only right t and fair for
them to make decisions concerning their children. They will fear
losing the child to the father once he allegedly influences them
that she may be thought of as being paranoid. Women will often claim
it was after all they who carried and gave birth to the infant.
They will use any weapon fair or foul to make certain that they
have the ultimate power and control over their children. Among the
weapons used are accusations that the father is unfit to care or
even to spend any time with the child. This may be due to allegations
of sexual misconduct, alcohol or drug misuse or immorality or a
poor mental state, or lifestyle or possibly criminal involvement.
Due to the closeness of mothers and children, the children will
often believe what the alienator states, namely that the other parent
is evil or worse than useless.
Such mothers divorce themselves from the real needs of the child
in order to maintain their total control and to eliminate the contact
and relationship with the other parent. When litigation is threatened,
the alienating parent becomes even harder in her determination
to have complete control. She will say to the child:"See what
your father is doing now? He is trying to have me imprisoned'.'
This turns the child even more against the father as he sees the
mother as the victim. Hence she has involved and continues to involve
the child in her battle with the father and the process of programming
and brainwashing the child until the child sees matters as she
does and so she turns the child against the father. The child's
behaviour therefore becomes increasingly more difficult when the
father is present and the child may even refuse to go with him.
Sometimes inlaws allied to one or the other may influence matters
Hence the hostility of the mother against the' father will be accepted
by the child who responds accordingly. The response of the mother
to this is deep gratification; she has achieved her objective.
She may even deny that she is doing anything to influence the child
and may aver that she is actively encouraging the child to cooperate.
The result is that the child will behave in an inimical, unfriendly
and hostile way towards the alienated person. In this situation
the mother may well believe her own lies and perceptions. Some mothers
overindulge their children in order to persuade their children
that their mother offers them most. This overindulgence is combined
with persistent denigration of the other parent.
Parents who seek to programme their children against a parent have
often come from families where this was done to them, by one of
their parents. They are therefore very familiar with the techniques
that can be used effectively and are perpetuating a vicious and
destructive pattern to the next generation.
4. What are the likely consequences to the alienated person and
Children hate to see their parents in acrimony It reduces their
sense of security and they feel in jeopardy. The successful indoctrination,
programming and brainwashing of a child leads to bitterness, sadness
and anger in the unjustly accused parent and prevents the parent
from exercising his rights, obligations and love for the child.
He or she will either give up the fight, considering it best all
round or there will be an acrimonious conflict. When this happens
the child suffers confusion and ultimately alienation from one of
the parents. This may go on for months or for many years.
Fear is sometimes induced in the child towards the alienated parent.
Fear is ultimately often translated into attacking and humiliating
the alienated parent. Fear induction is especially likely to be
successful with younger children. Eventually such children consider
the alienated parent as "bad", "inadequate"
and of little value to them. Such parents eventually are forced
to play a peripheral role or no role at all, save as financial
providers and sometimes not even that. When mother's economic position
is stronger than father's for instance, there is a desire to eliminate
father even from the role of being a provider. Some fathers become
desperate and contemplate suicide or seek to escape through alcohol
or drugs. This merely verifies the picture which mothers frequently
inculcate in their children - that their father is an alcoholic
or drug addict. Others, as already stated, give up the struggle
for any kind of contact with their once cherished children. Some
children seeing the once stable parents embroiled in this kind of
warfare turn against both parents and become depressed, underachieve
at school or turn to delinquency.
Only much later in life, do children sometimes become aware of
the wrong which has been done and the way they have been used as
pawns and programmed against all the opposing "reality'.'
Then the antagonism of the future adult turns against the alienating
parent. When they mature and learn to think for themselves they
realise that the alienated parent has suffered a great injustice
at the hands of the alienator and through themselves by having allowed
one parent to turn them against the other. They may feel a sense
of desperate guilt. A helpless kind of regret occurs which cannot
be assuaged and often follows when the alienated parent has died
or vanished. It is this sense of guilt that such youngsters who
grow into adults must live with.
Such children as teenagers and adults may well remember the techniques
used, including false statements made about the alienated parent
and realise they ere totally unjustified.
5. How is PAS carried out?
Parents who use PAS often view themselves as "victims";
they like their children to see them as "victims". They
tend to seek revenge and encourage their children to believe that
the other parent is at fault, by claiming that he/she (the victim)
and programmer has been cruelly and unjustly treated by their father/mother
who suffers from a number of moral and personal problems. Alienating
parents will overstate or even create vices such as: "He's
an alcoholic, drug taker, womanizer, has no sense of responsibility,
drives dangerously etc." See Table 1, below, dealing with research
into PAS in the UK.
Table 1 - Severity of alienation by sex
Accusations range from failure to provide financially to accusations
of sexual and/or physical abuse, even when there are no justifiable
reasons for such allegations (Table 2). A parent is at risk of being
judged guilty by allegations alone. Needless to say when physical
or sexual abuse has actually occurred and been substantiated by
a court, then the convicted parent will have and should have only
limited or no access to the child in question.
Table 2 - Specific reasons given to children by alienating parent,
|Failure to provide financially
|Lacking in love or aggressiveand lack of care
|Disloyal and unfaithful
|Drug or alcohol abuser
|Immoral or mentally unstable
|Accusations of physical abuse incest or sexual
Interviews and intervention in the form of therapy are usually
necessary in order to counteract such allegations. Such help will
be met with a mixture of hope by the alienated parent as well as
resentment and sometimes a lack of cooperation by the alienated
parent and often by the "brainwashed" child. This is
because those who carry out the programming against the alienated
parent use or promote anything which will achieve their objective
of hurting, denigrating and if possible eliminating the alienated
parent from having any control or contact with the child. We have
already mentioned the most damaging procedure of all, allegations
of sexual abuse. Here, the victim, namely the alienated parent,
has to prove his/her innocence rather than the alienator having
to prove his/ her allegation.
Other methods of alienation by programming and brainwashing children
can be seen by the following:
- By observing the behaviour and listening to the statements of
children towards the alienated party. (An illustration of this
will be found in Section 6.)
- By noting the control the alienating parent seeks and obtains
in order to eliminate the alienated paent.
- By noting, the marital disharmony as well as the acrimony when
the parents separated and beyond that time.
- By noting the contradictory statements and behaviour demonstrated
by the programmed child when interviewed.
- By taking note of the character assaults which the alienating
parent makes which is often not verifiable i.e. that the former
partner is immoral, lacks parenting skills, drinks heavily, uses
drugs, is emotionally unstable or unreliable or is dishonest etc.
- By noting the unchildlike statements made which have been programmed
by the alienating parent.
Other ways of demonstrating PAS is to show the child to be totally
under the influence of the alienating parent. Children will accept
and repeat what their mothers or fathers have said in attacking
and humiliating and alienating the other parent and of course refusing
to have contact or very limited contact with that alienated person.
The child believes what is said about the alienated parent and behaves
There are many other direct as well as more subtle methods of programming
and brainwashing to gain the loyalty and control of the child while
at the same diminishing, destroying, humiliating and sidelining
the alienated parent partly or totally. Here are a few more devices
to add to the list:
- Encouraging the child to disobey and show a lack of respect
for the alienated parent.
- Promoting an alliance between the child and alienator against
the other parent.
- Opposing the other parent's child rearing methods and communicating
this to the child.
- Bribing and overindulging children to create comparative poverty
of enjoyment with the other parents when they are with that parent.
- Suggesting and actually changing the surname of the child to
reduce the influence and memory of the other parent.
- Programmer playing the part of a "martyr" claiming
how badly he/she was treated by the alienated parent.
- Making children afraid of the alienated parent.
- Encouraging children to hate being with the other parent.
- Showing the other parent to be bad.
- Instilling in the child the view that the other parent plans
or wants to take the child away from the programmer and even to
kidnap the child.
- Making the child feel anxious, rejected and insecure if the
child does not comply with the programmer.
- Programmer encouraging the child to keep secrets while spying
and reporting on the alienated parent.
- Moving away or living some distance from the alienated parent.
- Sowing the seeds of disobeying the alienated parent.
- Negative non verbal communication such as turning body away
when speaking of the alienated parent or making derogatory faces
about the alienated parent.
- Programmer creating ambi valence regarding the alienated parent
i.e. "be nice to parent although he is a bad man who wants
to take you away from me".
- Treating child as "best friend" instead of child/parent
- Threatening child with physical punishment and actually carrying
it out if child appears to be favourable towards alienated parent.
6. What can be done to reverse the unjust and destructive effects
and long term consequences of PAS?
It is vital that a professional such as a clinical psychologist
or psychiatrist be involved as soon as possible to deal with PAS
to limit the damage and prevent it from becoming impervious to improvement.
The professional must be aware of PAS and of its origins. Sometimes
unannounced home visits are indicated.
Both parents and the child or children must be evaluated individually,
rather than together, with the professional being aware of the presence
and effect of PAS on all concerned. Once it is established that
neither of the parents is a danger to a child, efforts must be
made to develop a voluntary modus vivendi on who should have the
children and when and of the need to avoid PAS by either parent:
the "two step plan" (see article by Lowenstein in Paedophilia
book - Chapter 20). If the initial process of voluntary help being
provided with both parents and the child is ineffective, a firmer
approach must be adopted which will involve the legal system. However,
it is always preferable in the first instance to see if one can
get the parents together for the benefit of the child, on a voluntary
Interviews with all members of the warring factions should be insisted
upon by the court. Frequently there is much opposition to this by
one party or the other. Various excuses or arguments are offered
such as "the witness does not wish to be assessed... children
have been through so much already and it would be detrimental to
his/her psychological state to be re-interviewed etc.". Only
the court can insist on all being done as the Expert Witness requests.
Failure to cooperate with the Expert Witness should indicate to
the court what needs to be done next. It is preferable for the court
to appoint one Expert Witness rather than for two Expert Witnesses
to be facing one another, siding with their particular position
rather than considering the overall complexity of the problems
and the welfare of the child. This of course is not always possible
in an "adversarial" atmosphere.
Interviews and tests used must be carried out sensitively and impartially
Videotaping should be used when allowed by the participants. When
this is not allowed, the court should note who does not allow it
and why Videotapes can be studied by all involved in seeking to
make the best possible decisions for the child.
A shortened version of a hypothetical session with the child is
set out below (P = Psychologist; C = Child):
P: Now tell me how you feel about your father?
C: I never want to see him again.
P: Why is that?
C: I don't want anything to do with him. . .
he stinks and he's nasty to my mother.
P: Why, what did he do?
C: He makes our mother's life unhappy and now
we don't have to do what he says.
C: Making us come here to see you and having
to go to the court.
P: Your father wants to spend time with you and
C: Well I don't love him. We are better off without
him. He's trying to make trouble for Mum. . . trying to get her
put in prison maybe.
P: Why do you say that?
C: Mum told us and we believe her. She is the
only one who really cares about us.
P: How do you know your father doesn't care about
C: Why, after all he's done?
P: What has he done?
C: The way he's treated us, especially Mum.
P: Didn't you ever feel close to him or love
him at all?
C: No... well yes, but that was a long time ago
before he and Mum quarrelled and split up.
Where PAS continues by one or both parties, legal sanctions must
be imposed and enforced with the alienating parent undergoing psychological
treatment. If this fails the parent should be forced to stop such
behaviour. In an extreme case, parents who continue PAS should lose
custody of the child, and the child placed with the cooperating
inlaws or relatives who permit full contact by the child with the
previously alienated parent. An alienating parent could alternatively
be fined or imprisoned and the alienated parent given regular contact
with and even custody of the child.
This would need to be done with the greatest of care, since the
children have often been programmed so fully against the alienated
parent that it will not be perceived as in their best interests.
I believe that what is required is a period of reprogramming, with
the help of a clinical psychologist. In this way the child may be
allowed to understand the following:
- Why the programming occurred.
- What can be done to gradually improve and cement the child's
relationship with the alienated parent.
Therapists involved in helping such children should seek to develop
a greater insight into children exposed to PAS. Older children especially
would understand the need for explanations into what needs to be
done to counteract it.
Interviews between the alienated parent and children are especially
important and often indicate the extent of the programming which
has taken place by
the alienator against the alienated party. Again the dialogue which
follows has been abbreviated to present merely the highlights of
PAS and its effects (C = Child; F = Father):
F: You know I have always loved you. Remember
the good times we had when I used to read to you and play games
C: I don't remember any of that, I only remember
you used to shout at mum and how you always criticised her (note
the selective memory).
F: I'm sorry about that but I've always loved
you despite that.
C: It's too late just to be sorry We're better
off without you (note sign of brainwashing having taken place).
F: Don't you miss me at all?
C: No! You're a horrible man. My sister hates
F: Do you really mean that? What can I do now?
C: Just leave us alone. If you give us money,
mum told me we can manage without you altogether (note the request
for money comes from the programmer)
F: But I'm your father and love you and want
to spend time with you.
C: Mum says you have a funny way of showing it
and we don't have to obey you any more (note again the influence
of the programmer).
F: And you believe I don't love you when I always
have loved you.
C: I believe mum.
F: And you don't believe me?
C: How can I believe both of you. Mum says she
will never lie to me (again we have selective believing based
an the mother's brainwashing).
It is important to know what is happening on the basis of such
interviews and avoid taking one side or the other in the parental
alienation struggle. Hence the children will lean best how to resist
being programmed by becoming more independent in their thinking.
They also need to learn not to feel guilty about what has happened,
and understand they have not produced it themselves. Some children
even blame themselves for the parental battle. They should be encouraged
to develop their own confidence in a future life wherein they are
in control, such as in their studies, peer relationships etc. Such
increased independent thinking might well reduce the efforts of
one or both parents to programme against the other parent. Therapists
may be able to provide all encompassing, or at least helpful, responses
which the child can use when efforts of brainwashing are in progress
"I will not hear about anything bad about either
you or.. ." "I intend to make up my own mind as to how
I see things. If you want to fight with.. . don't use me as a weapon
against... I love and need you both and I don't want to become involved
in your arguments etc."
This undoubtedly is a hard thing to achieve. These would naturally
be ideal responses for the child to make towards a programming adult.
Here, the child is aware of the brainwashing efforts being made
and stands up to it in a critical manner against the programmer.
If the child is very young and/or not sufficiently insightful or
assertive, such responses will be unlikely. The child may be too
influenced by the programmer due to age and pacificity and will
fail to evaluate the motives and techniques employed. A psychologist,
once involved, should encourage understanding as to why and how
the programming occurs, and communicating it to the child.
Often PAS occurs in the absence of contact or very much reduced
contact with the alienated parent. The child is therefore overwhelmed
by "one side of the story". Re-education by the therapist
sometimes helps and of course the increasing of contact with the
other party is vital. Sadly, sometimes the brainwashing has been
so overwhelmingly effective, that nothing further can be achieved
to reduce the impact of the brainwasher. The child has been so
thoroughly turned against the other parent that only legal action
by the embittered alienated parent has any chance at all. Unfortunately
at this time, the children are often older and having failed to
receive support from the other parent, becomes totally and habitually
inflexible as a product of the indoctrination process from the
If it has not gone this far, the evaluator or psychologist when
speaking to the child must do so in a very sensitive manner, to
establish and maintain a good rapport with the questions such as
the following being asked:
- "Tell me something about both of your parents and their
- "Tell me how you heard about. . ."
- "Tell me how you know about this..."
- "What makes you think.. .?"
- "Could there be any other explanation for. . .?"
- "Is there anything you and I could do to make you feel
different about the parent you now dislike?"
- "What would you like to see happen now and why?"
When interviewing the brainwasher, efforts must be made to show
them up, despite the fact that they may already know the following:
- "Are you feeling vengeful against...?"
- "Do you think that what you do is the best way of handling
- "How will your child benefit from what you are doing now
and in the future?"
- "Do you want your child to come through this process without
suffering. . .?"
- "What could be cone to improve the situation?"
- "Do you think your accusations against... are totally correct?"
- "Please tell me why you feel as you do. . . what are your
- "Do you want me to help you and your child in this manner?"
- "Would you do what you can for the benefit of your child
now and in the future?"
If the answer is yes, the programmer may be open to suggestions
of a more rational nature and this could be beneficial to reverse
the process of negative programming. Great care must be taken by
the deprogrammer to appear to be as "neutral" as possible,
while at the same time reducing the effects of the unhealthy and
destructive effects of brain washing which has been carried out.
7. What is the judicial recourse?
The alienated parent will turn to the legal profession and the
courts if all other methods have failed. They feel justice must
surely prevail when an independent judge is made aware of PAS. This
is now a common scenario in the United States, but less so in the
UK. Judges are naturally influenced by a number of traditions and
are unaware in many cases, of the effects of PAS.
- Mothers, on the whole, are regarded as preferable to fathers
having custody of children, all things being equal.
- The older child should have a final say with whom to be with.
This does not, however, take account of the programming which
the alienating parent has carried out beforehand.
- In the case of a younger child, many judges will favour the
mother as main or sole custodian, all things being equal. When
they don't favour the mother, or alienating parent, they will
be viewed as unfair and siding with the other parent.
- Sometimes judges will recommend family therapy and the involvement
of psychiatrists, paediatricians or clinical psychologists to
assess and treat the conflict between opposing parents. These
professionals also often fail to be aware of the PAS which has
eliminated or reduced the role of the alienated parent.
It is vital that decisions are made which are fair and just for
all concerned. PAS cannot be allowed to deprive a stable and capable
parent of their parenting role. Any parent who practises PAS should
be dealt with severely by the courts. This should be done initially
with the "voluntary cooperation" of all concerned as previously
mentioned. If this does fail with the help of a professional involved,
then more stringent pressure must be expected by the courts. PAS
is a type of brainwashing which leads to suffering for all concerned,
either in the short or long term. Both parents must be viewed as
having the right and the obligation to play a vital role in the
care, guidance and love provided for their children.
The judiciary must be educated to realise that many potential parents
who have been the victims of adverse brainwashing of their children
give up the fight. They do this for a variety of practical reasons
- The feeling that they are doing more harm to their children
than good by fighting over them.
- Lack of financial resources.
- The view that they simply do not think they can win against
a determined alienating former partner.
- It takes much determination and is extremely time consuming,
when one is already fully stretched in earning a living in order
to provide for the children.
It is unfortunate that many children view the fact that a parent
does not fight for them in the courts, as rejection by that parent
8. What does research say about PAS in the UK?
There is a considerable amount of research in the United States
as published by Gardner and by Clawar & Rivlin Child Held Hostage,
a book recently mentioned. There has however been very limited
research in the UK. As already mentioned about 75 per cent of cases
of PAS indicate the mother to be the alienator with about a quarter
being the father.
Table 1 shows both the sex and the severity of the alienation derived
from a study of 60 consecutive referrals involving alienation of
some kind by one of the partners.
In the case of mild, one refers to negative comments made by one
partner or another. Moderate refers to disparaging remarks made
at least 2-3 times per week. In the case of severe, we refer to
daily or more negative comments about the alienated parent to children.
Table 2 refers to the kind of negative or disparaging statements
made. In most cases there is a reference to more than one descriptive
phrase (1-6) as to why the alienated partner is disparaged to the
children. Hence, for example, 9 women stated that the male failed
to provide financially. The males only state 3.
Table 3 indicates the variety of reactions of children to the alienating
process being waged by a parent. It will be noted from Table 3 that
virtually all the children suffered one way or another including
gender identity problems from the alienating process. Some became
psychologically disturbed by withdrawing into themselves. Others
showed behavioural symptoms such as aggression, lowered school attendance
and performance. There are also the long term effects of failure
to realise educational-vocational potential. Finally, although the
data is incomplete, there is evidence that some youngsters eventually
turned against the instigator of the alienation process. This could
well be a warning to those who alienate by programming or brainwashing
children against another parent!
Table 3 - Types and frequency of reaction of child to alienation
|Confusion: this includes frustration and not knowing
what to believe
|Becoming alienated towards one parent
|Later failing to develop educationally, vocationally their
Becoming withdrawn and depressed, having sleep
disorders, regressing, developing suicidal ideation, obsessive
compulsive behaviour, enuresis, anxiety, daydreaming, psychosomatic
|Turning elsewhere for stability to grandparents peers etc
|Problems with sexual identity
|Becoming a behaviour problem with lack of impulse control
with siblings and in school
|Lack of school attendance and deterioration in school performance
|Later turning against alienator and the process of alienation
|Partly ignoring alienation process i.e. becoming
Conclusions and Recommendations
- The legal profession and most importantly the courts must be
aware of the insidious influence of PAS, how it functions and
what should be done to counteract it.
- Having understood that PAS is unfair, unjust and detrimental
to the present and future of brainwashed children, appropriate
action should be taken by the courts.
- The court, in conjunction with an experienced Expert Witness
in PAS who ideally should be appointed by the court rather than
by one of the solicitors, on one side or the other, should be
empowered to take steps to reduce the impact of PAS.
- All evidence indicates that children who have contact with
both stable parents, even if they are seprated, are better adjusted
now and in the future than those who are alienated from one of
their parents due to the effects of PAS.
- It is the role of the Expert Witness to help the child to understand
the way PAS works and to encourage the child not to be influenced
by it or to become embroiled in it. Loyalty and love to both parents
is the order of the day. This will benefit the child in the short
term and even more in the longer term.
- There are both short and long term affects of PAS. This includes
poorer adjustment in future years to a partner in another relationship
due to identification and identity problems including one's own
sexuality. Children who have been subjected to programming are
more likely themselves to practise this kind of behaviour when
they become adults and embroiled in marital difficulties. The
process of alienation becomes perpetuated.
Recent Research into Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
Until the 1980's there was minimal research on the subject of PAS.
One of the earliest to consider it was Palmer (1988) who addressed
the legal remedies to the parental alienation syndrome in the context
of divorce proceedings.
Plumb & Lindley (1990) suggest that PAS occurs when parents
cannot settle or will not settle the matter of their children's
wellbeing on their own. It becomes of paramount importance that
they are given the opportunity, with the aid of appropriately ethical
and impartial professionals, to settle the matter of their childrens'
welfare. In this way such professionals can dramatically reduce
the psychological and psychophysiological damage typically resultant
of adversarial litigation. Once, under current law, the parents
have experienced the painstaking Family's Team evaluation process
recommended in this book, they need not remain passive in deciding
custody for themselves. The Family's Team approach has the advantage
of providing substantial data and recommendations to the court in
its decision making. The book by Plumb & Lindley, Humanizing
Child Custody Disputes: The Family's Team, is written for parents
who wish to become more informed as to the criteria and method for
objective child custody and visitation recommendations. However,
this book is useful for legislators who, after considering the ideas,
methods, and rationale contained therein, should recognise that
custody matters are not best dealt with in adversarial courts where
the participants are often mis- and uninformed victims of not only
their own pain and vindictiveness, but also victims of the court's
unpremeditated insistence that there be winners and loser. The book
offers a more humane and efficient process for future dispositions
of custody/visitation litigation.
Guidelines for using mediation with abusive couples were constructed
by Geffner (1992) who focused on techniques and issues concerning
mediation of abusive couples during and after separation or divorce.
A questionnaire was presented to identify abusive relationships.
It was important that the wife and children ware safe during mediation,
since research showed that more batterers murdered their wives during
the period when divorce was imminent. Since the balance of power
was unequal in the relationship mediation had to be modified so
that the situation became neutral. Issues facing mediators in these
cases also involved living arrangements, conversion changes in
children, financial support, joint custody and parent alienation
Efforts were made to expand the parameters of PAS by Cartwright
(1993). He suggested, through new evidence, that PAS was provoked
by other than custodial matters, that cases of alleged sexual abuse
were often hinted at and the slow judgement by courts exacerbated
the problem of prolonged alienation of the child. This could trigger
a number of mental illnesses. The author also suggested that too
little is as yet known of the long term consequences to alienated
children and their families.
A number of reviews were carried out in assessing current assessment
methods used in child custody litigation and mediation. Hysjulien
et al (1994) used psychological tests, semi-structured interviews,
behavioural observations of parents and children. The related
issues of child abuse, sexual abuses domestic violence, and PAS
were discussed. There was little empirical evidence to support the
efficacy of methods typically used by professionals in making recommendations
to the court.
Of foremost interest is the work of Richard Gardner (1992; 1998)
in his book Parental Alienation Syndrome. In addition to the book,
there have been Addendums (in November 1996 and September 1997)
providing recommendations for dealing with PAS. Gardner divides
PAS into three categories depending on the severity: mild, moderate
and severe. He has provided legal approaches as well as psychotherapeutic
approaches to deal with each in turn. He considers the primary symptomatic
manifestations to be:
- A campaign of denigration.
- Weak, frivolous or observed rationalisation for the deprivation.
- Lack of ambivalence.
- The independent thinker phenomenon.
- Reflective support of the loved parent on the parent control.
- Absence of guilt.
- Borrowed scenarios.
- Spread of animosity to the extended family of the hated parent.
Detail on interviewing techniques as well as treatment approaches
was suggested by Gardner. Some of these may seem severe and yet
no one has provided a more comprehensive and realistic approach.
The work of Clawar & Rivlin (1991) in their book, Children
Held Hostage, provides considerable information an the symptoms
of PAS and what needs to be done to correct these problems. The
book is outstanding in providing meaningful and useful techniques
and is part of the section of 'Family Law' by the American Bar
Turkat (1994) described the problem of child visitation interference;
acute interference PAS, and divorce related malicious mother syndrome.
He considered the associated difficulties in handling this problem
in the legal system.
An experience with conducting child custody evaluation was explored
by Stahl (1994). He explored the professional issues and techniques
involved in child custody evaluations. Domestic violence, drug and
alcohol abuse, supervised contacts mental illness, parental alienation
syndrome, relocation of one or both parents, and the need for ongoing
updated evaluations were considered. The book was intended for evaluators
and other mental health professionals, solicitors and judges.
Sixteen selected cases formed the basis of an article by Dunne
& Hedrick (1994). Their analysis of 16 divorcing families in
which one or more of the children aged 0-24 years had rejected one
of the parents was termed parent alienation syndrome. The cases
were taken from the caseloads of clinicians working with the families.
The cases met the majority of Gardner's criteria, including an obsessive
hatred of the alienated parent on the basis of trivial and unsubstantiated
accusations and complete support for the alienating parent. Although
the cases showed a wide diversity of characteristics, Gardner's
criteria were useful in differentiating these cases from other post
divorce difficulties. PAS appeared to be primarily a function of
the pathology of the alienating parent and that parent's relationship
with the children. PAS did not signify dysfunction in the alienated
parent or in the relationship between that parent and child.
Mapes (1995) studied child eye witness testimony in sexual abuse
investigations. This book was written for psychologists, social
workers, guidance counsellors, child welfare workers, physicians
law enforcement personnel and solicitors to whom a child may have
disclosed allegations of sexual abuse or who may be responsible
for the investigation of children's allegations. Current research
and thinking on such topics as symptomatology, psychotherapy, repressed
memories, Dissociative Identity Disorders, hypnosis, cults, the
Parent Alienation Syndrome, and the non-leading-leading continuum
of investigative techniques was presented. The reader was introduced
to the sexual abuse investigative process and discussions of practical
issues such as the use of anatomically detailed dolls, where interviews
should be conducted, the use of medical evaluations and psychological
testing. A step by step process for assessing credibility and validity
was explained following a four step decision making process.
A therapist's view of PAS was carried out by Lund (1995). She explored
the different reasons why a child might reject one parent in a divorced
family and the ways of helping such families. Cases in which a child
resisted contact with a parent were not always, but quite often,
linked to PAS. The reasons for parental rejection ware mainly due
to the following:
- Developmentally normal separation problems.
- Deficits in the non custodial parent's skills.
- Appositional behaviour.
- High conflict divorced families.
- Serious problems, not necessarily abuse.
- Child abuse.
Lund considered Gardner's recommendations of legal and therapeutic
interventions based on whether the case was assessed to be one of
mild, moderate or extreme parental alienation. Success in the treatment
of PAS cases had to be defined as the maintenance or removal of
some contact between parent and child.
Rand (1997) considered the spectrum of PAS in two articles published
in 1997. He reviewed Gardner's work and concluded that PAS was a
distinctive family response to divorce in which the child becomes
aligned with one parent and preoccupied with unjustified and/ or
exaggerated denigration of the other target parent. In severe cases,
the child's once love bonded relationship with the rejected/target
parent was destroyed. Testimony on PAS in legal proceedings sparked
debate. Closely associated were high conflict divorce and the involvement
of the legal system.
Finally, Johnston & Roseby (1997) concentrated on a developmental
approach to understanding and helping children of violent, disputed
divorce. They examined the immediate and long term effects of high
conflict divorce on children and especially traced the development
of problems affecting very young children, through adolescence,
with special attention to the impact of family violence and the
dynamics of PAS. They described the clinical interventions that
had proven to be most effect in their work with individual families
and groups along with principles for custody decisions making and
service programmes in the courts and communities that helped manage
- Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition published in 1992,
1998 by Creative Therapeutics
- Addendum No. 3. November, 1996 Recommendations for dealing with
parents who induce a Parental Alienation . Syndrome in their children.
Published as an adjunct to the Parental Alienation Syndrome -
A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals.
- Addendum No. 5. September, 1997 Recommendations for dealing
with parents who induce a Parental Alienation Syndrome in their
children. An adjunct to the Parental Alienation Syndrome - A Guide
for Mental Health and legal Professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey
- Paedophilia - The Sexual Abuse of Children, its occurrence,
diagnosis and treatment. Chapter 20. Parental Alienation Syndrome
- A two step approach towards a solution. Published 1998 Able
Publications, Knebworth, Hertfordshire
- 1998 Children Held Hostage dealing with programmed and brainwashed
children by Stanley S Clawar & Brynne Rivlin - Section of
Family Law (American Bar Ass).