Crisis In The Family Courts

Background on Parental Alienation Syndrome

Posted in Uncategorized by abatteredmother on April 12, 2009

Background on Parental Alienation Syndrome

April 12, 2009 — batteredmomslosecustody

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is not based in empirical evidence and has been widely discredited by legal and mental health experts. Many abusers are invoking PAS and parental alienation to convince family courts to ignore children’s allegations of abuse. This can result in custody being granted to children’s abusers.

HISTORY OF PAS

In 1985, PAS was first described by Richard Gardner, a psychiatrist who wrote that adults having sex with children is not a bad thing.[1]

Gardner described PAS as a “syndrome” whereby vengeful mothers employed child abuse allegations as a powerful weapon to punish ex-husbands and ensure custody to themselves.[2] He further theorized that such protective parents enlisted the children in their “campaign of denigration” and “vilification” of the abuser, that they often “brainwashed” or “programmed” the children into believing untrue claims of abuse by the father, and that the children then fabricated and contributed their own stories.[3]

To distance themselves from the discredited theory and its embarrassing originator, proponents of Parental Alienation Awareness Day sometimes claim that Parental Alienation Syndrome and parental alienation are different. In reality, they are often used synonymously and the consequences can be dire. Children can end up in the custody of their abusers.

Since 1985, abusers have come to convince family courts to ignore children’s allegations of abuse by invoking parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome. They wrongly claim that mothers are to blame because they are brainwashing their children.

PAS WIDELY DISCREDITED

1996 – The Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family discredited the theory. It stated:

Although there are no data to support the phenomenon called parental alienation syndrome, in which protective parents are blamed for interfering with their children’s attachment to their abusers, the term is still used by some evaluators and courts to discount children’s fears in hostile and psychologically abusive situations.[4] Family courts often do not consider the history of violence between the parents in making custody and visitation decisions. . . . Psychological evaluators not trained in domestic violence may contribute to this process by ignoring or minimizing the violence and by giving inappropriate pathological labels to women’s responses to chronic victimization. Terms such as “parental alienation” may be used to blame the women for the children’s reasonable fear of or anger toward their violent abuser.[5]

2003 – The National District Attorneys Association’s Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse discredited the theory. It stated:

Although PAS may be hailed as a “syndrome” . . . in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice. […] PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research. […] PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.”[6]

2006 – The American Bar Association’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal discredited the theory. It stated:

PAS’s twenty-year run in American courts is an embarrassing chapter in the history of evidentiary law. It reflects the wholesale failure of legal professionals entrusted with evidentiary gate-keeping intended to guard legal processes from the taint of pseudo-science…. As a matter of science, law, and policy PAS should remain inadmissible in American courts.[7]


2006 – The
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges also discredited the theory. It stated:

The discredited “diagnosis” of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be “alienated” have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the abusive parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways toward the children themselves, or the children’s other parent.[8]

CONSEQUENCES

One of the most troubling consequences of Gardner’s theory is that, “PAS shifts attention away from the perhaps dangerous behaviour of the parent seeking custody to that of the custodial parent. This person, who may be attempting to protect the child, is instead presumed to be lying and poisoning the child.”[9]

As a result, some children placed in the custody of their abusers have committed suicide; others have run away, and countless others have endured the abuse and are permanently traumatized. In recent years, children placed in custody of their abusers have been coming forward to tell their stories and to warn of the danger surrounding the fictitious syndrome.[10]


[1] www.stopfamilyviolence.org/373

[2] Gardner, 1992a; 1992b

[3] (Gardner, 1992b, p. 162, 193; 2002, pp. 94-95). – Meier, J. (2009, January). Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews. Harrisburg, PA: VAWnet, a project of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence/Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved 3/10/2009, from: http://www.vawnet.org

[4] Pg 40

[5] Pg 100

[6] http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/update_volume_16_number_6_2003.html

[7] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/Hoult_PAS_admissibility.pdf

[8] http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/media/NCFCJ%20guidebook%20final_2006.pdf

[9] Bruch, Carol S., Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: getting It Wrong in Child Custody Case in Child and Family Law Quarterly, Vol 14, No 4, 2002: 384.

[10] http://www.courageouskids.net/

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