Parental Alienation- The silent form of child abuse destroying our children
Parental Alienation- The silent form of child abuse that is destroying our families and children. Every year, millions of children are affected by this silent, yet devastating form of child abuse called Parental Alienation also know as “PAS.” I say a form of child abuse because that is what it is. It affects our children greatly. Leaving a trail of emotional issues, scars, and can take years to treat and heal from. It steals and kills a child’s memories and affection of one parent. And far too often, it even leads to men and women going as far as committing suicide because of it. Many mental health professionals and even some legal professionals are reluctant to acknowledge this form of child abuse. However, with more and better information, advocacy by mental health professionals, child advocates, and parents calling on more legislation for the diagnosis of “parental alienation” to be included in the DSM-5, also referred to as the Bible for mental health professionals. We may be at a turning point. In this post, we’re going to provide a number of facts and evidence that it occurs far too often and the damage it does to our children can have lifelong effects. Many think I’m a “father’s rights activist” when in all reality, I’m a children’s rights activist.
“Parental Alienation is a child PROTECTION issue, not a child custody issue.”
-Dr. Craig Childress Psy. D.
It’s in the Pattern- Limiting Contact
The pattern, like many forms of abuse, start gradually, and over time escalate and escalate until the point it’s so obvious something isn’t right someone has to step in and take action to stop it. The first of many patterns of parental alienation occurs when a couple has a child together then separates. Things tend to go OK in the beginning as the couple just has a brand new baby and both parties typically want to try and work things out. After a while, one of the parents, typically the custodial parent, will start to get and have rejection and anger issues towards the other parent, and will limit contact with the other parent as “an act of punishment”. The custodial parent refuses to allow the child to see the other parent. ( Yes, even with a court order) Often, this is why families often have to continually go to court time and time again, also known as excessive litigation. In hopes of providing a court order, the courts expect the parents to abide by it or face penalties. However, this is not always the case. Then, once the custodial parent has decided or determined the relationship with the other party is over, they know the courts are so lenient on the custodial parent (more mothers than not) they will only further their agenda of seeking revenge and taking out their own personal anger issues with the other parent. What they fail to realize is how devastating this is on the child. Emotionally, psychologically, and functionally. I know of one case where the mother missed more than 100 court-ordered visits, phone calls, and even instilled into the child that the stepdad was the child’s “real dad”, even after the child had called and verbalized the biological dad as “dad.”
Please sign the petition at the end of the post!!! Thank you on behalf of children everywhere!
It’s in the Pattern- Moving Away
The second part of the pattern generally consists of the primary custodian moving a great ways away from the other parent to once again, limit contact and interfere with the parent-child relationship. Not too many parents are in a position to just up and move 4 to 5+ hours away to be with or closer to their child. The courts often do make the parent who moved away to be responsible for transportation to and from drop-offs or any visitation. In addition, this creates a great distance between the parent-child relationship and only further alienates a parent to participate in regular activities like attending school events, extracurricular activities, and seeing the child on a regular basis. Under normal circumstances, most dads already only see their child every other weekend. When you add that time up, over the course of 18 years, it equates to less than 3 years of total parenting time. Then you throw on top of intentionally missing visitation ( or parenting time), it’s rather quite east for the custodial parent to manipulate the child and attempt to wear down the other parent by not allowing them to see their child(ren). Then they’ll try to use missed phone calls to discourage and wear down the parent emotionally as well until they just want to give up, walk away or sign away their rights or at it’s worst, commit suicide. It’s one thing to lose a child to a tragedy in some sort of accident. It’s another to see your child slowly, methodically, and intentionally taken away from you from the other parent. with practically nothing, they can do about it.
Withholding Information & Child Support
Another sign parental alienation is occurring, is that one parent withholds or limits access to important information about the child such as school records, Dr. visits, and extracurricular activities. Continuing to seek child support payments and practically demanding that part of the court order to be enforced, but heaven forbid, missing days, weeks, or even years of time, something a parent can’t get back with their child is far more important. Attempting to yet again, get the upper hand in a custody dispute. From personal experience, child support far outweighs actually abiding by the court ordered visitation. For example, if say a dad would miss child support payments, in most states they can be jailed. But if mom, misses multiple visitation dates or doesn’t follow the court order, they hardly get a slap on the wrist. What type of example are they setting for their kids? That it’s “ok” to not respect authority or the law. An example, that they are not responsible for their actions. An example, I don’t think any child needs to learn.
then…allegations of abuse
Finally, after a parent has attempted every other weapon at their disposal, moving away from the other parent, missing court-ordered visits, phone calls, etc and not cultivating a healthy or positive relationship with the other parent. They go for all-out annihilation of the other parent by making or reporting false allegations of abuse or domestic violence. This is the most heinous act, in my opinion, any parent can do to another. Don’t get me wrong, I know first hand what it is like to actually be a victim of child abuse, so in no way shape or form do I condone it. Quite the opposite actually. So, when people make false allegations, as I mentioned in High Conflict Custody: False Allegations and Parental Alienation it takes away precious resources from child protection agencies, police, Dr.’s, and can have devastating effects on someone who is innocent. ( mentally, emotionally, socially and financially.) Not to mention the impact it has on the child.
What the Experts are Saying Now
Parental alienation has come a long way and is now starting to get some of the publicity and attention it so desperately needs. Just recently as in May 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) is considering adding Parental Alienation to be published and coded in their next ICD version (ICD-11) in 2021 or 2022. A leading expert on the topic, Dr. Craig Childress, Psy.D., is advocating and petitioning the American Psychological Association for it to be added to the DSM-5.
You can buy and read the petition here for just a few dollars.
Petition to the American Psychological Association
Seeking Professional Competence in the Assessment, Diagnosis, and Treatment of
Attachment-Related Pathology Surrounding Divorce
Prelude: The lives of children and families are being irrevocably destroyed by the failed
the response of the mental health system to attachment-related family pathology surrounding
Children are routinely losing a loving bond to a normal-range and affectionately available
parent following divorce, due to the psychologically manipulative and controlling
psychopathology of an allied parent who systematically distorts and destroys the child’s loving
bond to the normal-range parent; and because of the collusive professional incompetence of
the mental health system in aiding the enactment of the pathology.
The current response of professional psychology to attachment-related pathology following
divorce is to allow the pathological destruction of the child’s loving bond to a normal-range and
affectionally available parent, and often to collude in enacting the pathology through
professional ignorance and sometimes through the active bias born of both ignorance and
counter-transference motivations. The current response of professional psychology is rampant
with unchecked professional ignorance, incompetence, and the inertia of arrogance that
subjects normal-range and loving parents to the most unimaginable trauma possible, the loss of
their beloved children.
The professional assessment of attachment-related pathology surrounding divorce is variable,
idiosyncratic, and entirely subjective. The diagnosis of attachment-related pathology
surrounding divorce is often nonexistent or uses subjectively made up diagnostic constructs
without established professional definitions. The treatment of attachment-related pathology
surrounding divorce is almost universally ineffective in restoring the child’s healthy normal range relationship with the normal-range and affectionally available targeted-rejected parent,
and therapy typically lacks any grounding in established forms of psychotherapy. Consistent
with the idiosyncratic and entirely subjective diagnostic formulations is often the complete
absence of any form or semblance of a treatment plan, with therapists simply making things up
as they go, to the great harm and detriment of families.
Children are being routinely and almost universally abandoned to the psychopathology and
psychologically abusive parenting of the narcissistic or borderline personality parent who is
using the child to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent. The lives of
children are being destroyed – irrevocably destroyed. The psychological development of
children is being destroyed. Childhood occurs only once. Once lost, the times of childhood and
their relationships cannot be recovered.
And professional psychology is in collusion with the pathology through profound, rampant, and
unchecked professional ignorance and incompetence in the assessment, diagnosis, and
treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce.
More excerpts from the petition.
Dr. Childress goes on to address the issues of the APA in affirming its professional code of ethics requiring professional competence from all psychologists, based in the standard and established constructs of professional psychology. Professional competence is a right granted to all parents for their children and their families, yet it is a right that is currently being denied. The Pathology and narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent in the family, conditions of self-esteem threat, rejection and abandonment vulnerabilities of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent. The inherent rejection and abandonment by the attachment figure surrounding divorce, Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescents, published by the American
The central elements of psychological control are an intrusion into the child’s psychological world and self-definition and parental attempts to manipulate the child’s
thoughts and feelings through invoking guilt, shame, and anxiety. Psychological control is distinguished from behavioral control in that the parent attempts to control, through the use of criticism, dominance, and anxiety or guilt induction, the youth’s thoughts and feelings rather than the youth’s behavior.
Psychological control can be expressed through a variety of parental tactics, including
(a) guilt-induction, which refers to the use of guilt-inducing strategies to pressure
children to comply with a parental request; (b) contingent love or love withdrawal,
where parents make their attention, interest, care, and love contingent upon the
children’s attainment of parental standards; (c) instilling anxiety, which refers to the
induction of anxiety to make children comply with parental requests; and (d)
invalidation of the child’s perspective, which pertains to parental constraining of the
child’s spontaneous expression of thoughts and feelings.
“The concept of triangles “describes the way any three people relate to each other and
involve others in emotional issues between them
The psychological control of the child occurs in a pathological parent-child context of an
“invalidating environment,” described by Linehan and Koerner, that interferes with the child’s
mentalization of self-experience.
From Linehan and Koerner:
“A defining characteristic of the invalidating environment is the tendency of the family
to respond erratically or inappropriately to private experience and, in particular, to be
insensitive (i.e., nonresponsive) to private experience… Invalidating environments
contribute to emotional dysregulation by: (1) failing to teach the child to label and
modulate arousal, (2) failing to teach the child to tolerate stress, (3) failing to teach the
child to trust his or her own emotional responses as valid interpretations of events, and
(4) actively teaching the child to invalidate his or her own experiences by making it
necessary for the child to scan the environment for cues about how to act and feel.”
(Linehan & Koerner, 1993, p. 111-112)
The narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent’s inability to mentalize and thereby
psychologically process the experience of sadness created by the divorce results in their
“pathological mourning” of the divorce that is then transferred to the child’s experience
through manipulative techniques of psychologically controlling the child within a relational
environment that invalidates the child’s authenticity to create a cross-generational coalition of
the narcissistic/(borderline) parent with the child against the targeted parent, in which the child
is manipulated and induced to terminate the child’s relationship with the targeted parent.
A structural family diagram of this cross-generational
coalition and the cutoff in the child’s relationship with a
parent created by the cross-generational coalition is
provided on page 42 of Salvador Minuchin’s book Family
Healing (1993) with co-author Michael Nichols.
These are just a few examples outlined on how Parental Alienation is the silent form of child abuse destroying our children
Dr. Childress Psy.D. has also authored several books on parental alienation and divorce.
He also provides his own practice with additional articles, resources, and training materials.
Parental Alienation- The silent form of child abuse destroying our children.
Help Put an End to Parental Alienation and sign the PETITION NOW!
If you have been a victim of parental alienation and need or wish to speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, or support group near you