I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Parental Alienation Syndrome: Diagnostic and Triadic Perspectives

A study available on a pay per view basis or subscription. Abstract below.MJM

Daniel J. Weigel

Kimberly A. Donovan

Southeastern Oklahoma State University

This article provides a review of recent research concerning parental alienation syndrome (PAS). This article is written to familiarize the couple and family counselor with this subtle-but-extreme form of child abuse. An overview of proposed diagnostic criteria for PAS is provided in this review. Differential diagnostic issues are also examined to familiarize the reader with other closely related syndromes and disorders. Common personality characteristics and tactics of the alienation-inducing parent are presented. Short- and long-term experiences of the targeted parent and child subjected to this unfortunate experience are also explored. Last, multicultural and gender issues are discussed, and implications for couple and family counselors are provided.

Key Words: parental alienation syndrome • child abuse • child custody disputes • diagnosis

The Family Journal, Vol. 14, No. 3, 274-282 (2006) DOI: 10.1177/1066480706287893 http://tfj.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/14/3/274

Group of 50 Mental Health Experts Pushing to Add Parental Alienation to DSM

The lunatic fringe were certainly evident on the board at US News and World Report in the article quoted below. They have no notion of the perception others have regarding the absurdity of their comments. Many of them have lost custody based on their "wing-nut" behaviour but still haven't understood why?MJM

November 2nd, 2009 by Glenn Sacks, MA, Executive Director

Now 23, divorced, and a parent herself, Anne has recognized only recently that she was manipulated, that her long-held view of her father isn’t accurate. They live 2,000 miles apart but now try to speak daily. “I’ve missed out on a great friendship with my dad,” she says. “It hurts.”

A group of 50 mental health experts from 10 countries are part of an effort to add Parental Alienation to the 2012 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of diagnoses. According to psychiatrist William Bernet, this “would spur insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to a charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment.”

Few family law cases are as heartbreaking as those involving Parental Alienation Syndrome. In PAS cases one parent has turned his or her children against the other parent, destroying the loving bonds the children and the target parent once enjoyed.

Numerous misguided feminist groups oppose recognition of Parental Alienation in court or in DSM. Some of these opponents raise legitimate concerns. For example, Janet Johnston, a feminist-oriented clinical sociologist and justice studies professor at San Jose State University who has studied parental alienation, fears that “PAS” could be invoked by an abusive parent to gain rights to a child.

She is correct. One example is the Joyce Murphy case in San Diego–to learn more, see my post Feminist Opponents of Shared Parenting Get It Right in Parental Alienation/Abuse Accusation Case. The solution to Johnston’s concern is to have courts make thorough, unbiased investigations into abuse claims.

It also true, as some opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation assert, that there are fathers (or mothers) who have alienated their own children through their personality defects or lack of parenting skills, and who attempt to shift the blame to their children’s mothers (or fathers) by falsely claiming PAS.

However, opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation are on the lunatic fringe, denying that Parental Alienation exists at all, and spinning fantasies of masses of mothers losing custody to molesting fathers. In most of the cases put forth in the media by these extremists, no abuse occurred and the mothers only lost custody of their children after going way out of their way to destroy the relationship between the children and their fathers. Some examples of these frauds include the Genia Shockome, Sadia Loeliger, and Holly Collins cases

Even if many claims of Parental Alienation were false–and there’s no evidence to suggest this–it still would not mean that opponents’ assertions that PA doesn’t exist are credible. In family law cases, false accusations of any and all types of maltreatment, including PA, are used to gain advantage. Since false accusations of domestic violence and child sexual abuse are common, should we then conclude that battering and molestation don’t exist?

Another issue opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation have latched on to is the debate over whether Parental Alienation should by considered a syndrome. They then argue that if it’s not a syndrome, it can’t be real. I believe the assertion that Parental Alienation is a “syndrome” is defensible, but regardless, the key fact is that alienating behavior and Parental Alienation campaigns exist and are a major problem in divorce.

Johnston also asserts that in teens, a level of parental rejection appearing similar to Parental Alienation might be a developmentally normal response. This assertion is questionable. Johnston is correct that many teens reject their parents to various degrees. However, there’s a difference between this and active alienation.

Several of my wife’s male friends have been alienated from their teenage children, and many of them try to mask their pain by shrugging and saying, “You know how teenagers are.” Well, I do, and I don’t buy it. For example, my 17-year-old son is convinced that I’m a hopelessly out of touch old loser, and I certainly don’t disagree with him. Still, he clearly loves me, and will sometimes (grudgingly) acknowledge it. That’s not Parental Alienation, which is far more visceral.

The new U.S. News & World Report article Parental Alienation: A Mental Diagnosis? (11/2/09) covers the efforts of Parental Alienation experts to get PA accepted by DSM. I suggest that readers comment on the piece by sending Letters to the Editor at letters@usnews.com.

In it, author Lindsay Lyon writes:

From an early age, Anne was taught by her mother to fear her father. Behind his back, her mom warned that he was unpredictable and dangerous; any time he’d invite her to do anything—a walk in the woods, a trip to the art store—she would craft an excuse not to go. “I was under the impression that he was crazy, that at any moment he could just pop and do something violent to hurt me,” says Anne, who prefers that only her middle name be used to guard her family’s privacy.

Typical of a phenomenon some mental-health experts now label “parental alienation,” her view of him became so negative, she says, that her mother persuaded her to lie during a custody hearing when the couple divorced. Then 14, she told the judge that her dad was physically abusive. Was he? “No,” she says. “But I was convinced that he would [be].” After her mother won custody, Anne all but severed contact with her father for years.

If a growing faction of the mental-health community has its way, Anne’s experience will one day soon be an actual diagnosis. The concept of parental alienation, which is highly controversial, is being described as one in which children strongly attach to one parent and reject the other in the false belief that he or she is bad or dangerous.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says William Bernet, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, “to have your 10-year-old suddenly, in a matter of weeks, go from loving you and hiking with you…to saying you’re a horrible, ugly person.” These aren’t kids who simply prefer one parent over the other, he says. That’s normal. These kids doggedly resist contact with a parent, sometimes permanently, out of an irrational hate or fear.

Bernet is leading an effort to add “parental alienation” to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of diagnoses, scheduled for 2012. He and some 50 contributing authors from 10 countries will make their case in the American Journal of Family Therapy early next year. Inclusion, says Bernet, would spur insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to a charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment.

But many experts balk at labeling the phenomenon an official disorder. “I really get concerned about spreading the definition of mental illness too wide,” says Elissa Benedek, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a past president of the APA. There’s no question in her mind that kids become alienated from a loving parent in many divorces with little or no justification, and she’s seen plenty of kids kick and scream all the way to the car when visitation is enforced. But, she says, “this is not a mentally ill child”…

In any case, divorcing parents should be aware that hostilities may seriously harm the kids. Sometimes manipulation is blatant, as with parents who conceal phone calls, gifts, or letters, then use the “lack of contact” as proof that the other parent doesn’t love the child. Sometimes the influence is more subtle (”I’m sure nothing bad will happen to you at Mommy’s house”) or even unintentional (”I’ve put a cellphone in your suitcase. Call when everyone’s asleep to tell me you’re OK”)…

“The long-term implications [of alienation] are pretty severe,” says Amy Baker, director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection in New York and a contributing author of Bernet’s proposal. In a study culminating in a 2007 book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome, she interviewed 40 “survivors” and found that many were depressed, guilt ridden, and filled with self-loathing. Kids develop identity through relationships with both their parents, she says. When they are told one is no good, they believe, “I’m half no good.”

Now 23, divorced, and a parent herself, Anne has recognized only recently that she was manipulated, that her long-held view of her father isn’t accurate. They live 2,000 miles apart but now try to speak daily. “I’ve missed out on a great friendship with my dad,” she says. “It hurts.”

Lyon did a pretty good job with the article but her assertions about Parental Alienation and the American Psychological Association are incomplete. She wrote “The American Psychological Association has issued a statement that ‘there is no evidence within the psychological literature of a diagnosable parental alienation syndrome.’” In reality, the APA has given mixed messages on PAS–to learn more, click here.

The controversy over Parental Alienation is largely political. Children are vulnerable and impressionable, and parents in emotionally-charged divorces are quite capable of using them as tools of their anger. It is true that family courts must weed out false claims of PA made by abusive or manipulative parents. It is also true that courts must act decisively to protect children from the emotional abuse inflicted by alienating ones.


Fathers Gain Respect From Experts (and Mothers)

The title is condescending but there is good information flowing from the article. its worth a read.MJM November 3, 2009

Fathers Gain Respect From Experts (and Mothers)

It used to irk Melissa Calapini when her 3-year-old daughter, Haley, hung around her father while he fixed his cars. Ms. Calapini thought there were more enriching things the little girl could be doing with her time.

But since the couple attended a parenting course — to save their relationship, which had become overwhelmed by arguments about rearing their children — Ms. Calapini has had a change of heart. Now she encourages the father-daughter car talk.

“Daddy’s bonding time with his girls is working on cars,” said Ms. Calapini, of Olivehurst, Calif. “He has his own way of communicating with them, and that’s O.K.”

As much as mothers want their partners to be involved with their children, experts say they often unintentionally discourage men from doing so. Because mothering is their realm, some women micromanage fathers and expect them to do things their way, said Marsha Kline Pruett, a professor at the Smith College School for Social Work at Smith College and a co-author of the new book “Partnership Parenting,” with her husband, the child psychiatrist Dr. Kyle Pruett (Da Capo Press).

Yet a mother’s support of the father turns out to be a critical factor in his involvement with their children, experts say — even when a couple is divorced.

“In the last 20 years, everyone’s been talking about how important it is for fathers to be involved,” said Sara S. McLanahan, a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton. “But now the idea is that the better the couple gets along, the better it is for the child.”

Her research, part of a project based at Princeton and called the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, found that when couples scored high on positive relationship traits like willingness to compromise, expressing affection or love for their partner, encouraging or helping partners to do things that were important to them, and having an absence of insults and criticism, the father was significantly more likely to be engaged with his children.

Uninvolved fathers have long been accused of lacking motivation. But research shows that many societal obstacles conspire against them. Even as more fathers are changing diapers, dropping the children off at school and coaching soccer, they are often pushed aside in ways large and small.

“The walls in family resource centers are pink, there are women’s magazines in the waiting room, the mother’s name is on the files, and the home visitor asks for the mother if the father answers the door,” said Philip A. Cowan, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, who along with his wife, Carolyn Pape Cowan, has conducted decades of research on families. “It’s like fathers are not there.”

In recent years, several fathers’ rights organizations have offered father-only parenting programs and groups, and studies have shown that these help men become more responsive and engaged with their children.

But a new randomized, controlled study conducted by the Pruetts and the Cowans found that the families did even better if mothers were brought into the picture.

In the study, low-income couples were randomly placed into a father-mother group, a father-only group and a control group of couples. The controls were given one information session; the other two groups met for 16 weeks at family resource centers in California, discussing various parental issues.

In both of those groups, the researchers found, the fathers not only spent more time with their children than the controls did but were also more active in the daily tasks of child-rearing. They became more emotionally involved with their children, and the children were much less aggressive, hyperactive, depressed or socially withdrawn than children of fathers in the control group.

But notably, the families in the couples group did best. They had less parental stress and more marital happiness than the other parents studied, suggesting that the critical difference was not greater involvement by the fathers in child-rearing but greater emotional support between couples.

“The study emphasizes the importance of couples’ figuring parenting out together and accepting the different ways of parenting,” Dr. Kline Pruett said.

Fathers tend to do things differently, Dr. Kyle Pruett said, but not in ways that are worse for the children. Fathers do not mother, they father.

Dr. Kyle Pruett added: “Dads tend to discipline differently, use humor more and use play differently. Fathers want to show kids what’s going on outside their mother’s arms, to get their kids ready for the outside world.” To that end, he said, they tend to encourage risk-taking and problem-solving.

The study was financed by the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention, which is looking for ways to involve fathers more at the state’s many family resource centers. Experts say improving the way fathers are treated in many settings, public and private, is an important public health goal.

For example, they say, pictures of families on the walls of clinics and public agencies should have fathers in them. All correspondence should be addressed to both mother and father. Staff members should be welcoming to men. Steps like these promote early and lasting involvement by fathers.

“We want people to think about how positive father engagement in this co-parenting model would work in their foster care agency, local health clinic, pediatric office, adoption agency or school,” Dr. Kyle Pruett said. “That’s where an awful lot of the barriers are.”

At home, the experts recommend that couples keep talking about parenting issues and do their best to appreciate each other’s strengths. A recurring argument among couples is that each partner thinks he or she knows what is right; a mother may accuse the father of allowing too much television, while a father may tell a mother she isn’t strict enough with discipline.

“Instead, they should be saying, ‘How can each of us be the kind of parent that we are?’ ” Dr. Philip Cowan said. “I don’t think it’s abuse for a dad to sit with that little kid watching TV.”

These experts agree that parents should not focus solely on the children.

“Parents work all day, and feel as if they need to give every other minute to the kids,” Dr. Cowan said, “but if they don’t take care of the relationship between them, they’re not taking care of the whole story.”