Archive for the ‘DSM-IV’ Category

The Primary Parent Presumption: Primarily Meaningless

In adoption abuse, Alienation of Affection, Autism, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, HIPAA Law, Homeschool, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Orphan Trains, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D, Torts on June 4, 2009 at 11:00 am

By Dr. Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D.
16970 Dallas Parkway, #202, Dallas, TX 75248

Nineteen ninety-three marked the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of The Feminine Mystique, the book that spearheaded the drive to unlace the cultural straitjacket of rigid sex-role prescriptions. As we expanded the conventional image of women to include roles beyond those of wife, housekeeper, and mother, we encouraged men to think of themselves as more than just husbands and bread-winners. We invited them to become active partners in the delivery room . . . and they accepted. We required their participation in Indian Guides . . . and they complied. We extolled the importance of father-child bonding, trumpeted statistics linking a father’s absence to juvenile delinquency. . . and they listened.

The problem, for some divorcing women, is that their husbands listened too well, and took seriously the call to parenthood. They became emotionally attached to their offspring, and, when the marriage ended, they were unwilling to be demoted to the second string; unwilling to sit on the sidelines of their children’s lives. Although lacking in hard data to prove the point, we have at least the perception that more men are seeking and gaining custody of their children after divorce.

Why is this a problem? Because women do not enjoy living apart from their children any more than do men. Also, most women do not want to relinquish the power that goes with custody. This has led to the ironic situation in which some of the same feminists who, in the early 70s, denounced motherhood as “enslavement” now lead a campaign to protect motherhood from divorced fathers who want more involvement with their children. But they face a crucial dilemma: They need to resurrect the belief that women are uniquely suited to rear children and therefore the natural choice for sole custody without appearing to endorse the notions that biology is destiny and that the sexes merit unequal treatment before the law.

The solution to this dilemma is the linguistic sleight of hand known as the “primary parent presumption.” This guideline would give preference to the parent who is designated “primary” in the child’s life, variously defined as the parent who spends the most time with the child, is more responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, or performs more of the daily repetitive maintenance tasks such as chauffeuring, shopping for clothes, preparing meals, and bathing. Although touted as a gender-neutral standard, everyone agrees that the primary parent presumption would give mothers the same advantage that they enjoyed with the tender years presumption. In fact, law professor Mary Becker advocates dropping the pretense of gender-neutrality and renaming the primary parent presumption the “maternal deference standard.”

Briefly, the argument goes that since women are more involved in primary caregiving, they deserve custody.
Fathers’-rights advocates respond that it is unfair to penalize men for reduced involvement with their children, since they are only fulfilling society’s notions of the man’s role as the family’s breadwinner. Neither side’s arguments are compelling. Both are blinded by the pre-19th century premise that children are property to be “awarded” to the rightful owner. Both sides miss the point that a custody decision should be guided by the needs of the child not the parents’ sense of entitlement.

Some of my colleagues offer arguments in support of the primary parent presumption. They point out that a
woman who has been most involved in her children’s daily care already possesses the requisite skills. She has less to learn than the father and, by virtue of her experience, is probably more competent to assume the duties of sole custody. Also, because the primary parent standard appears less ambiguous than the best interests standard, parents would be less likely to litigate over custody — a distinct advantage to the family. But that may be its only advantage. Under critical appraisal, this proposal suffers many serious drawbacks.

Unless we regard custody as a reward for past deeds, the decision about the children’s living arrangements should reflect a judgment about what situation will best meet their needs now and in the future. Differences in past performance are relevant only if they predict future parental competence and child adjustment. But they do not.

The primary parent presumption overlooks the fact that being a single parent is a very different challenge than being one of two parents in the same home. A consensus of research reveals a predictable deterioration in the single mother’s relationship with her children. After divorce, the average mother has less time and energy for her children and more problems managing their behavior, particularly that of her sons. Research has also demonstrated that despite mother’s greater experience in daily child care, fathers who would not be considered primary caretakers during the marriage are as capable as divorced mothers in managing the responsibilities of custody.

And, most important, their children fare as well as children do in mother-custody homes.

A more basic problem with the proposed standard: How do we determine who is the primary parent? Before divorce parents think of themselves as partners in rearing their children. Whether or not they spend equal time with the children, both parents are important, and mountains of psychological research support this.

Before divorce, we do not rank order parents. Only in the heat of a custody battle do Mom and Dad begin vying for the designation “primary parent.”

On what basis do we award this coveted title? We cannot simply measure the amount of time each parent
spends with the child. Research has established that, beyond a certain minimum, the amount of time a parent spends with a child is a poor index of that parent’s importance to the child, of the quality of their
relationship, or of the parent’s competence in childrearing.
In fact, we all know of parents who are too involved with their children, so-called “smothering” parents who squelch any signs of independence.

If more extensive contact does not make a primary parent, what does? Most definitions provide a list of responsibilities: The primary parent shops for food and clothes, prepares meals, changes diapers, bathes and dresses the child, takes the child to the doctor, and drives the child to school and recreational activities. Such criteria, though, ignore the overriding importance of the quality of parent-child relationships.

Furthermore, critics have argued that this list reflects gender bias. Shopping for food and clothes is included, but not earning the money which funds the shopping trips. Also conspicuously absent are responsibilities typically shared by fathers and in which fathers often predominate, activities such as playing, discipline, moral guidance, encouragement and assistance with school work, gender socialization, coaching team sports, and — something whose significance to children is often overlooked — providing a sense of physical protection and security.

Is the primary caretaker the one who does the most to foster the child’s sense of emotional security, the person to whom the child turns in times of stress — the role we most often associate with mothers? Or is it the parent who does the most to promote the child’s ability to meet the demands of the world outside the family — the role we most often associate with fathers? We really have no basis for preferring one contribution over the other. Both are necessary for healthy psychological functioning.

We can say that both parents contribute distinctively to their child’s welfare. And during different
developmental stages a child may relate better to one parent than the other, or rely on one parent more than
the other. But most children form strong attachments to both parents in the first year of life and maintain important ties to both parents throughout their lives. By rank ordering the importance of parents, we dismiss children’s own experiences of their parents’ value, reinforce gender stereotypes, and perhaps discourage fathers from assuming more parenting responsibilities.

In sum, the primary parent presumption is misinformed, misguided, misleading, and primarily meaningless.

Copyright © 1996 by Richard A. Warshak, Ph.D.
16970 Dallas Parkway, #202, Dallas, TX 75248 Dr. Richard A. Warshak is a clinical, research, and
consulting psychologist, clinical professor of psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center at Dallas, and author of The Custody Revolution and Divorce Poison: Protecting the
Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex. He has published extensively in the area of divorce and
custody and consults with attorneys, mental health professionals, and families. Additional custody
resources, including material on relocation, overnight access, and parental alienation syndrome,
can be found at

[A version of this essay was published as Chapter 28 (pages 101-103) in 101+ Practical Solutions for the
Family Lawyer, Gregg M. Herman, Editor, American Bar Association (1996).]

The original article can be found here.

Parental Rights – Analysis by Article of the UNCRC – Part 9 of 9

In adoption abuse, Alienation of Affection, Autism, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Christian, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, HIPAA Law, Homeschool, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Obama, Orphan Trains, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D, Torts on June 4, 2009 at 12:30 am

Last year the Parental group analyzed article by article the impact of ratification of the
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) would have on Parental Rights and Children’s Rights in the United States.

Here is that continuing analysis:

Giving the State a Grasp on Your Kids

Part II of an in-depth look at Article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

When Kevin and Peggy Lewis volunteered their child for special education services, they never dreamed they would need a lawyer if they wanted to change their minds. After their son developed several learning issues, including an inability to focus in class and difficulty processing and understanding oral and written communication, the Lewis’s turned to the Cohasset Middle School in Massachusetts for help.1 But after a year in the school’s special education program, their son was not improving academically, and felt harassed by school officials who were closely monitoring and reporting on his behavior – everything from chewing gum in class to forgetting his pencil.2

Initially, the Lewis’s requested that the school pay for private tutoring, but as their relationship with the administration continued to decline, the exasperated parents finally decided to withdraw their son from the school’s program and to pay for private tutoring out of their own pockets.3

Apparently, that option wasn’t good enough for the school.

In December 2007, Cohasset hauled Kevin and Peggy into court, claiming that the parents were interfering with their son’s “constitutional right to a free and appropriate education.”4

After a day-and-a-half of argument, the judge sided with the school in an unwritten opinion.5

“This is truly devastating to all parents who have children on an IEP,” Peggy said, referring to the individual education plans for special education students. “What it means in fact when you sign an IEP for your child, you sign away your parental rights. . . . Now Cohasset has their grasp on my kid.”6

“Help” for Parents

At first glance, it seems odd that a school would take parents to court to compel them to accept state services. After all, as observers of the case commented, schools usually objects when parents demand more aid for their children, not when the parents try to withdraw their child from the program.7

But according to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, once parents have asked the state for assistance in raising their children, the state has both the responsibility and the authority to see the job through – even if the parents no longer support the state’s solution.

In addition to imposing legally-enforceable “responsibilities” on parents, Article 18 of the Convention also requires states to “render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities,” and to establish “institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.”8

At first glance, the offer of “assistance” to parents may appear harmless, and even generous, but appearances are often deceiving. While the government may claim to offer services to parents on a purely “voluntary” basis, parents soon discover that government “assistance” isn’t always free.

When “voluntary” doesn’t mean “voluntary”

For examples of this dangerous trend, one need look no further than the nation of Sweden, the first western nation to ratify the Convention.

In addition to mandatory sex-education, free child care for working parents, and a national ban on corporal punishment, Sweden’s local municipalities are also required by law to offer parents a broad array of “voluntary” services that promote “the favourable development of children and young persons.”9 Unfortunately, according to Swedish attorney and activist Ruby Harrold-Claesson, voluntary care “in no way is voluntary since the social workers threaten the parents to either give up their child voluntarily or the child will be taken into compulsory care.”10

If the state determines at a later date that the “voluntary” services are not helping, the municipality has both the responsibility and the authority to physically “take a child into care and place him in a foster home, a children’s home or another suitable institution.”11 According to Harrold-Claesson, since the emergence of such programs, “children are being taken from their parents on a more routine basis.”12

Unfortunately, these disturbing trends are not confined to Sweden. Even here in the United States, “voluntary” services for parents are often the first step toward state control of families.

Holding Children Hostage

As a young mother of three, “Katianne H.” faced tremendous difficulties in making ends meet.13 Although she was never unemployed, Katianne had difficulty putting her job ahead of the needs of her young family. So when her three-month-old son Xavier developed severe allergies to milk and soy protein, her pediatrician recommended that she relieve some of the pressure placed upon her by requesting that her son be placed in “temporary out-of-home care.”14 Thinking such a placement was truly “voluntary,” Katianne agreed.

Within a few months, Xavier was weaned from the feeding tube to a bottle, but when Katianne sought to bring him home, the state refused. It would take more than two-and-a-half years – and a decision from the Nebraska Supreme Court – before Katianne would win her baby boy back. 15

In a unanimous ruling, the court said the child should have been returned to his mother as soon as his medical condition was resolved. Instead, state authorities drew up a detailed plan requiring the mother to maintain steady employment, attend therapy and parenting classes, pay her bills on time, keep her house clean, improve her time management, and be cooperative with social workers. When she failed to fully comply with all these obligations within fifteen months, her parental rights were terminated.16

The Court condemned the state for keeping Xavier “out of the home once the reasons for his removal had been resolved,” and warned that a child should never be “held hostage to compel a parent’s compliance with a case plan” when the child could safely be returned home.17

A familiar pattern

According to studies, scholars, lawyers, and advocates, voluntary placement in the United States – like “voluntary” placement in Sweden – is often the first step toward the state getting a grasp on children. Here are just a few examples from within our own borders:

· A 1994 study in New Jersey found that “parents often report signing placement agreements under the threat that court action against them will be taken if they do not sign,” particularly parents who have “language or other barriers making it difficult or impossible for them to read and understand the agreement they were signing.”18 There are also no “clear legal standards to protect a family once it has entered the system,” even if it enters voluntarily: “existing legislation grants judges and caseworkers virtually unrestricted dispositional authority.”19

· In 1998, Melville D. Miller, President and General Counsel of Legal Services of New Jersey, warned that when parents sign voluntary placement agreements, parents give the state “custody of their children without any decision by the court that they have abused or neglected them.”20 In addition, voluntary placement often waives a family’s opportunity for free legal representation in court, leaving families – particularly poor families – with “no assistance in advocating for what they need” when disputes with the state arise.21

· In 1999, Dr. Frank J. Dyer, author and member of the American Board of Professional Psychology, warned that parents can be “intimidated into “voluntarily” signing placement agreements out of a fear that they will lose their children,” and that in his professional counseling experience, birth parents frequently complain that “if they had known from the outset that the document that they were signing for temporary placement of their children into foster care gave the state such enormous power over them, they would have refused to sign and would have sought to resist the placement legally.”22

· The Child Welfare League of America, in its 2004 Family’s Guide to the Child Welfare System, reassures parents that the state “do[es] not have to pursue termination of parental rights,” as long as the state feels that “there is a compelling reason why terminating parental rights would not be in the best interest of the child.”23 If parents and social workers disagree about the fate of a child in “voluntary placement,” the CWLA simply states that “if you decide to bring your child home, and the agency believes that this would interfere with your child’s safety, it has the right to ask the court to intervene. You also have the right to explain to the court why your child’s safety would not be in jeopardy if he came home.”24

· The National Crittenton Foundation, in a web booklet published for young, expectant mothers who are currently in the foster care system, warns in large, bold print that by signing a voluntary placement agreement, “you will most likely lose all custody of your baby, even if you want to regain custody of your baby after you turn 18.”25

Never Too Late

If one can learn anything from the stories of the Lewises, Katianne, and the plight of Swedish parents, it is that the government wields incredible power over parents who have “voluntarily” accepted its aid when caring for their children. These parents are often poor, struggling, and searching for the means to keep their families together, but instead of helping them, the open hand of the state can easily become a clenched fist, either bullying parents into submission or forcibly taking their children from them.

Thankfully, it is not too late to protect children and their families by protecting the fundamental right of parents to raise their children, and to reject government programs that are unneeded or unwanted. The state should only interfere with the family for the most compelling reasons – not because loving parents were misled about the true nature of “voluntary” care.

Please consider sending this message to your friends and urging them to sign the Petition to Protect Parental Rights.

This article was written for by Peter Kamakawiwoole, Jan. 29, 2009.


1. James Vazniz, “Cohasset schools win case v. parents,” The Boston Herald (December 15, 2007) (accessed January 28, 2009).
2. James Vazniz, “Parents want son out of special ed,” The Boston Herald (December 13, 2007) (accessed January 28, 2009).

3. Vazniz, “Cohasset schools win case v. parents.”

4. Vazniz, “Parents want son out of special ed.”

5. Vazniz, “Cohasset schools win case v. parents.”

6. Vazniz, “Cohasset schools win case v. parents.”

7. Vazniz, “Cohasset schools win case v. parents.”

8. UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 18.2.

9. Ruby Harrold-Claesson, “Confiscating Children: When Parents Become Victims,” The Nordic Committee on Human Rights (2005) (accessed January 17, 2009)

10. Harrold-Claesson, “Confiscating Children: When Parents Become Victims”

11. Harrold-Claesson, “Confiscating Children: When Parents Become Victims”

12. Harrold-Claesson, “Confiscating Children: When Parents Become Victims”

13. “Katianne” is the name given to the mother by the Nebraska Supreme Court, which decided her case in In Re Xavier H., 740 N.W.2d 13 (Neb. 2007).

14. In re Xavier H., 740 N.W.2d at 21.

15. “Nebraska Supreme Court returns boy to mother,” Omaha World Herald (October 19, 2007) (accessed January 29, 2009).

16. “Nebraska Supreme Court returns boy to mother.”

17. In re Xavier H., 740 N.W.2d at 26.

18. Emerich Thoma, “If you lived here, you’d be home now: The business of foster care,” Issues in Child Abuse Accusations, Vol. 10 (1998) (accessed January 27, 2009).

19. Thoma, “If you lived here, you’d be home now.”

20. Melville D. Miller, “You and the Law in New Jersey ” (Rutgers University Press, 1998): 200.

21. Miller, You and the Law in New Jersey,” 200.

22. Frank J. Dyer, “Psychological Consultation in Parental Rights Cases” (The Guilford Press, 1999): 26.

23. Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), “Placements to Obtain Treatment and Services for Children,” A Family’s Guide to the Child Welfare System (2004): 5 (accessed January 27, 2009).

24. CWLA, “Placements to Obtain Treatment and Services for Children,” p. 5.

25. The National Crittenton Foundation, “Crittenton Booklet for Web,” pp. 11-12. (accessed January 28, 2009)

Parental Rights – Analysis by Article of the UNCRC – Part 6 of 9

In adoption abuse, Autism, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Homeschool, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D on May 30, 2009 at 5:00 am

Last year the Parental group analyzed article by article the impact of ratification of the
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) would have on Parental Rights and Children’s Rights in the United States.

Here is that continuing analysis:

Article 14: Religion Is Child Abuse?

This week, we continue our series on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with Article 14, which says that the government shall “respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” and shall also “respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.”

Proponents of the CRC, such as law professor Jonathan Todres, has commented that Article 14 “provides for the role of parents in teaching religion to their children, while ensuring that the government does not impose restrictions on any child’s right to freedom of religion.” Nevertheless, a deeper understanding of this provision reveals that the purportedly “pro-parent” language is really another avenue for government power, not a shield to protect parental rights.

How much “direction” is too much direction?

On its face, this article may seem to support the role of parents, but such a position is merely wishful thinking. The Convention merely recognizes the parents’ primary role to “provide direction” to the child, and there is considerable disagreement on what this “direction” should entail. For example, according to Faulkner University law professor John Garman, Article 14 is one of the few clauses in the CRC that “actually brings the parents into play to ‘provide direction to the child.’”

But another CRC proponent, law professor Cynthia Price Cohen, disagrees. According to Cohen, one of the earliest drafts of Article 14 included “two paragraphs that protected the right of parents to guide the exercise of this right and to ‘respect the liberty of the child and his parents’ with regard to the child’s religious education.” When the final text was adopted, however, all language protecting the rights of parents to “ensure the religious and moral education of the child” was omitted. This omission makes no sense if the purpose of Article 14 was to protect the rights of parents to instruct their children.

Religious “indoctrination” as abuse?

The danger to parents is compounded by a growing movement among American and international academics to prevent parents from “indoctrinating” their children with religious beliefs. For example, British scientist and bestselling author Richard Dawkins recently described religious “indoctrination” of young children as a form of child abuse. “Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is,” Dawkins writes, “I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.”

Dawkins is not alone in his analysis. In 1998, bestselling author and professor of psychology Nicholas Humphrey, teaching at New York University at the time, argued for “censorship” of parents, who have “no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.”

Both authors advocate an outside solution to “protect” children from indoctrination: intervention by the government. In The God Delusion, Dawkins quotes from Humphrey, who writes that “children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it.” Humphrey bluntly adds that “parents’ rights have no status in ethics and should have none in law” – parenting is a “privilege” that operates within parameters set by society to protect the child’s “fundamental rights to self determination.” If parents step beyond these boundaries by indoctrinating their children, “the contract lapses – and it is then the duty of those who granted the privilege to intervene.” (emphasis added)

Some have called for international talks on whether children should be involved in religion. Innaiah Narisetti of the Center for Inquiry (a U.N. NGO) said, “The time has come to debate the participation of children in religious institutions,” continues Narisetti. “While some might see it as a matter better left to parents, the negative influence of religion and its subsequent contribution to child abuse from religious beliefs and practices requires us to ask whether organized religion is an institution that needs limits set on how early it should have access to children.” Narisetti also said that “The UN must then take a clear stand on the issue of the forced involvement of children in religious practices; it must speak up for the rights of children and not the automatic right of parents and societies to pass on religious beliefs, and it must reexamine whether an organization like the Vatican should belong to the UN”

The “fundamental interest of parents”

This aggressive censorship of parents captures the true spirit of Article 14. According to law professor Bruce Hafen, the language of Article 14 views “parents as trustees of the state who have only such authority and discretion as the state may grant in order to protect the child’s independent rights,” and is consistent with what the state deems as the child’s “evolving capacities.” Such a calloused view of parents stands in stark contrast to our own legal tradition, which has long upheld “the fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the State, to guide the religious future and education of their children.”

America’s legal heritage has consistently held that parents have a fundamental right to teach their children about religion, shielded from well-intentioned but intrusive interference from the state. The danger of Article 14 is that it disrupts this crucial balance, tipping the scales in favor of the government and those who claim to “know better” in our society. If we wish to secure these freedoms, we must act now to place parental rights into the text of our Constitution.

Please forward this message onto your friends and urge them to sign the Petition to Protect Parental Rights.

Article written by Peter Kamakawiwoole, May 5, 2008.


Jonathan Todres, “Analyzing the Opposition to the U.S. Ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child,” in The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child (2006): 24.

Cynthia Price Cohen, “Role of the United States in Drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Loyola Poverty Law Journal (1998): 30-31.

Bruce Hafen, “Abandoning Children to their Autonomy,” Harvard International Law Journal (1996): 470.

Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 232 (1972).


In Best Interest of the Child, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D, Torts on May 29, 2009 at 6:00 pm

© 1996 National Legal Research Group, Inc.

NEW JERSEY: Brennan v. Orban, 145 N.J. 282, 678 A.2d 667 (1996).

Family courts have discretion to decide whether or not the victim of a marital tort will receive a jury trial on her tort claim that is joined with a divorce action.

In New Jersey, a spouse who files for divorce must bring a tort action arising out of the marital relationship as part of the divorce complaint. Tevis v. Tevis, 79 N.J. 422, 400 A.2d 1189 (1979). In Brennan v. Orban, the state’s high court addressed the question whether the tort claimant in a divorce action is entitled to a jury trial. The court did not answer with a definitive “yes” or “no” for all cases, but instead declared that “when vindication of the public policy against domestic violence outweighs in its significance to the family the other matters awaiting disposition, the tort claim should, at the request of a victim, be tried by a civil jury.” 678 A.2d at 669. The dissent criticized the majority for leaving the question up to the family courts and not adopting a straightforward rule requiring jury trials for domestic violence victims who are seeking a divorce.

After reviewing the scope of the domestic violence problem and the legislative reaction to it by the United States Congress and the New Jersey Legislature, the court noted that in every family court action involving children, a paramount concern of the courts remains the best interests of the children, who may be affected by the outcome or by a delay in the resolution of the controversy. “Hence, we believe that a major factor deciding the question whether jury trials will be given for a marital tort action should be the divisibility of the tort claim from the other matters in controversy between the parties.” Id. at 677. When issues of child welfare, child support, and child parenting are intertwined with the dissolution of the marriage and the resolution of the marital tort, the family court may conclude that the marital tort should be resolved as part of the overall dispute between the parties. In such a case, the family court should retain jurisdiction over the marital tort and try that cause of action without a jury in the same proceedings.

On the other hand, the court held, when the family court is convinced that society’s interest in vindicating a marital tort through the jury process is the dominant part of the matter, it may order that the marital tort be tried by a jury. Where the jury trial takes place is a matter within the discretion of the family court judge, the court decided. It acknowledged, however, the difficulty of empaneling juries in family court to decide the marital tort. Consequently, the court ruled that when family court judges exercise their discretion to have marital torts tried separately, they may order that the marital tort action be severed and that the tort claims be transferred to a law court for trial in accordance with the regular procedures for civil cases.

The court raised but did not decide the question whether, in divorce cases where a tort claim is severed, the remaining marital issues should be deferred or resolved subject to reopening. A recent report recommended that the tort claims should be tried prior to the dissolution action, so as to enable the family court to consider the tort award when rendering its decision concerning equitable distribution, child support, spousal support, and the parties’ method of payment, the court noted. According to the report, resolving the divorce action first might lead to an increase in postdivorce applications for relief because parties against whom a tort judgment is entered would seek to reopen their economic divorce settlements based on a change of circumstances. Jury Trial Subcommittee on Family Practice, Report Concerning Jury Trial When a Marital Tort Is Joined in a Dissolution Action at 40 (1996).

On the other hand, the court noted, the report acknowledged that the delay in resolving the divorce proceeding might have a negative psychological impact on spouses by prolonging the uncertainty of their marital status. Moreover, another commentator observed that a jury hearing the tort action cannot assess a defendant’s assets properly to determine punitive damages without knowledge of the tortfeasor’s net worth, which is an open question until after equitable distribution. Wildstein, “The Application of the Entire Controversy Doctrine to Family Part Actions,” 16 N.J. Fam. Law. 69, 77 (1996).

In any event, the court said, most matters will benefit from single-case management by the family court judge. All issues, including the marital tort, should be submitted to the available processes of mediation and nonbinding arbitration. Failing resolution of all issues, the family court should decide whether, on balance, the interests in vindicating the marital tort outweigh the interests of a unitary disposition of the family dispute and thus warrant a jury trial.

Summarizing, the court stated that, consistent with the state Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, courts should strive to afford abused people the maximum protection from abuse that the law can provide. In some cases, the maximum protection will be in the form of a jury trial; in other cases, where other legal interests converge, the maximum protection of the law will be in the form of a nonjury trial. “We invest the Family Part with discretion to make an appropriate judgment concerning the type of trial to be afforded, with special emphasis placed on the severability of the tort claim from the other matters in controversy between the parties.” Brennan v. Orban, supra, 678 A.2d at 679. The court decided that in the case before it, which involved a short marriage and no children, a sufficient divisibility among the claims existed to warrant a jury trial on the tort claim.

Dissent. The dissent found unacceptable the broad discretion that the majority conferred on family court judges to decide whether or not the victim of a marital tort is entitled to a jury trial on the tort claim. Under the majority opinion, the dissent contended, family court judges may deny a jury trial in nearly every marital tort claim on the basis that the potential monetary award by a jury necessarily is intertwined with issues of alimony, child support, and equitable distribution. Courts should provide the fullest measure of vindication authorized by law to compensate victims of domestic violence, the dissent declared. Accordingly, all victims of marital torts who seek a jury trial should be entitled to one, whether or not the marital tort claim is joined with a claim for divorce. There should be only a narrow exception for cases where the marital tort action involves an obviously insignificant claim that has been asserted primarily for strategic reasons and is designed to influence the outcome of the divorce action, the dissent said.

Parental Rights – Analysis by Article of the UNCRC – Part 5 of 9

In Autism, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Homeschool, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes on May 29, 2009 at 5:00 am

Last year the Parental group analyzed article by article the impact of ratification of the
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) would have on Parental Rights and Children’s Rights in the United States.

Here is that continuing analysis:

Article 13, part 2: No, Thank You, Mom and Dad

In an age where information is becoming easier to access every day, children face new and uncharted risks. Our American heritage has long honored the right of parents to direct their child’s access to information, recognizing that in the vast majority of circumstances, parents are best situated to monitor their child’s activities and to provide necessary guidance during the transition from childhood to adulthood. Unfortunately, this vital role is being undermined by the rising tide of international thought, far removed from our own tradition and championed by international agreements like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

Last week, we began our discussion of Article 13 of the UNCRC by looking at its impact on what children are taught. This week, we return to Article 13 to examine the right of the child “to seek information,” and the impact this guarantee has on the relationship between children, their parents, and the state.

Article 13 is divided into two sections. The first states that “The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.” The remainder of the article clarifies that this right be restricted, but these restrictions must be provided by law and necessary to “respect the rights or reputations of others” or for “the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.”

This article focuses on the implications of a child’s “right to information.” Although our Constitution does not expressly grant such a right, there is a growing trend – both within our boarders and abroad – to grant children such rights.

Setting Children Free

Article 13 begins by guaranteeing to all children the right to seek, receive and impart all kinds of information and ideas. Although some proponents of the Convention allege that article 13 is particularly important for children who are seeking to discover more of their identities after spending years of their lives in the care of the state, there is nothing in the text which limits this provision to such a narrow meaning.

According to advocates of the CRC, such as Marian Koren, international author for the UN at the Hague, a more acceptable interpretation of article 13 would require the government to establish and support a whole host of government programs aimed at educating children, such as “advice and information services for children, free access to libraries and loans, workshops for children on topics of their interest,” and so on. According to law professor Bruce Hafen, such a “right” is a broad departure from current US law, and not only poses difficulties for parents, but also for schools, teachers, and educational administrators who have to make difficult decisions about what they teach the children entrusted to their care.

No Thank You, Mom and Dad

While article 13 allows the right of information to be restrained in order to “respect the rights or reputations of others,” this respect does not extend to the decisions of parents. As Koren writes, whenever the state feels that parents are “failing” to protect their child’s rights, “it is the duty of the state to control parents to take their responsibilities and to fulfill their tasks towards their children.” (emphasis added)

American law has long recognized the importance of parents in guiding their children to make good decisions. In 1979, for example, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Parham v. J.R. that “most children, even in adolescence, simply are not able to make sound judgments concerning many decisions, including their need for medical care or treatment. Parents can and must make those judgments.”

The UNCRC shifts this recognized balance in favor of increased autonomy for the child. According to Barbara Nauck, writing in the Cleveland State Law Review, “the more assertive language of Article 13 presumably means that Article 13 would prevail where there is a conflict between the child’s desire to freely express herself and the parent’s interest in curbing that expression.” Given the arguments advanced by many of today’s child advocates, “the interpretation of the Convention that will be argued in the courts is that the parent may act as counselor, suggesting the pros and cons and possible consequences, but the final choice would be in the hands of the child.” (emphasis added)

Our Children in Harm’s Way

It does not take a parent long to imagine the Pandora’s box that would be unleashed if the final choice is placed in the hands of the child. With television and the internet opening up an almost infinite number of avenues for children to seek information, it is more important than ever for parents to have the freedom to guide their children through the journey to adulthood. Article 13, and the autonomous ideology that it perpetuates, undermines these vital efforts.

Please forward this message onto your friends and urge them to sign the Petition to Protect Parental Rights.

Article written by Peter Kamakawiwoole, April 25, 2008.


UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Marian Koren, “The Right to Information: Too Vague to Be True?” in Monitoring Children’s Rights, Eugeen Verhellen, ed. (The Hague, 1996): 675.

Bruce & Jonathan Hafen, “Abandoning Children to Their Autonomy: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Harvard International Law Review (1996): 468

Parham v. J.R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979): 603.

Barbara J. Nauck, “Implications of the United States Ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Civil Rights, the Constitution and the Family,” Cleveland State Law Review (1994): 693.

Richard G. Wilkins, “Why the United States Should not Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Saint Louis University Law Review (2003): 420-421.

Parental Rights – Analysis by Article of the UNCRC – Part 4 of 9

In adoption abuse, Autism, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, Homeschool, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D on May 28, 2009 at 4:00 am

Last year the Parental group analyzed article by article the impact of ratification of the
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) would have on Parental Rights and Children’s Rights in the United States.

Here is that continuing analysis:

Article 13, part 1: Homeschooling Illegal?

This week, we continue our series on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by considering Article 13, which states that “the child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice.”

The crux of this article is the child’s “right to information.” Children access information through what they are taught and what they discover on their own. This week, we will consider the Convention’s implications on what children are taught.


Article 13 is far more sweeping than any right articulated by our Constitution or Supreme Court, guaranteeing all children the right to seek information of all kinds. International author and commentator Marian Koren explains that although the state should generally refrain from interfering in the family, “the State also has a positive obligation in supporting the possibilities for children to seek information or to express their views.” Ultimately, “it is the duty of the State to respect the rights of the child and his freedom to thought, conscience, belief, expression and opinion.” (emphasis in original)

Although the United States has not yet ratified the CRC, there is a growing sentiment that the state should bear the responsibility for ensuring that children are “properly educated,” instead of parents. A striking example occurred this past February, when a California court declared in In Re Rachel L. that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” unless they are certified by the state to teach. In so ruling, the court declined to follow the Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Wisconsin v. Yoder and its 2000 ruling in Troxel v. Granville, which guarantee parents the fundamental right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

Whose Responsibility?

Rachel L., like Article 13, presumes that it is ultimately the state’s duty to ensure that the child’s right to information is respected. The California court quoted repeatedly from an earlier California decision in 1952, which concluded that children must be educated in traditional public or private schools, subject to state standards and regulations: anything less would “take from the state all-efficient authority to regulate the education of the prospective voting population.” (emphasis added)

The language of “all-efficient authority” is not the language of liberty. According to Dr. Martin Guggenheim, Professor of Law at New York University, “our future as a democracy depends on nurturing diversity of minds. The legal system’s insistence on private ordering of familial life ultimately guards against state control of its citizens.” There may be questions over the “best way” to educate children, but according to Guggenheim, the American answer is that “unless the answers are so clear that there is no room to disagree, parents are free to decide for themselves what they believe will best serve their children.”

Thankfully, the public outcry to this decision led California courts to decide to rehear the Rachel L. decision this summer, allowing parents – at least for the moment – to continue teaching their children at home. But only time will tell whether the California courts will have a change of heart, or whether the damaging decision will simply be repeated. The strong words of the first Rachel L. decision suggest that this is a real possibility.

America’s legal heritage has consistently held that parents, not the state, have the right to decide whether their children would best benefit from public schooling, a private school, or even learning at home, but this recent decision from California highlights just how tenuous this freedom can be. If we wish to secure these freedoms, we must act now to place parental rights beyond the reach of judges</U? by protecting them within the Constitution.

Article written for by Peter Kamakawiwoole, April 21, 2008.


Marian Koren, “The Right to Information: Too Vague to Be True?” in Monitoring Children’s Rights, Eugeen Verhellen, ed. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1996): 675.

In Re Rachel L., 73 Cal.Rptr.3d 77 (Ca.App. 2008)(VACATED)

Martin Guggenheim, What’s Wrong with Children’s Rights (2005): 24-27, 43.

Parental Rights – Analysis by Article of the UNCRC – Part 3 of 9

In Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D on May 27, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Last year the Parental group analyzed article by article the impact of ratification of the
United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child (UNCRC) would have on Parental Rights and Children’s Rights in the United States.

Here is that continuing analysis:

Article 12: Suing Mom and Dad?

Last week, we looked at how Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child gives the government authority to intervene in the decisions of parents simply by appealing to the child’s “best interests.” This week, we continue our in-depth analysis of the CRC by examining Article 12, which says: “States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.”

Which Children?

At the outset, three key observations are readily apparent. First, this right protects a child who is “capable of forming his or her own view,” which must be given “due weight,” in accordance with his or her age and maturity. Second, our government (“States Parties”) would be responsible for ensuring that this right is respected, both in public places and in private realms, such as the home. Finally, this responsibility extends to “all matters affecting the child.” These three tenets place incredible discretion in the hands of the government to challenge – and even reverse – the decisions of parents.

Although the Convention claims to protect children who are “capable of forming their own views,” this phrase is incredibly ambiguous. Indeed, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recognized this ambiguity in 2006, when it asked for input from all UN member-states on the meaning of Article 12. A report by India’s Committee for Legal Aid to Poor suggested that the right to be heard extends to “the decision of the families and should not be restricted to Judicial and administrative proceedings only.” That same year, the Canadian Child Care Federation asserted that “Children need to be ‘heard’ during all stages of development, beginning in infanthood.” (emphasis in original)

“Suing” Your Parents?

In addition, Article 12 applies not only to legal and judicial proceedings involving a child, but also to decisions made within the privacy of a family. According to Dr. Geraldine van Bueren, Professor of International Law at the University of London and a lead-drafter of the CRC, “the duty on the State Party is to assure the right to freedom of expression in ‘all matters affecting the child’ and as a result places duties on the state in relation to matters traditionally relegated to the private sphere.” By referencing “all matters affecting the child,” van Bueren writes, “there is no longer a traditional area of exclusive parental or family decision-making.”

Although the CRC has not been ratified by the United States, our own courts have nevertheless begun to allow children to actively assert their “right to be heard.” The Florida State Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that a fifteen-year-old boy in foster care was entitled to a judicial hearing and a lawyer to contest his placement in a mental health institution. It makes sense to grant such a right to a fifteen-year-old who does not have parents and is in the custody of the state, but in 2003, the Florida court extended its ruling to say that children in foster care were entitled to legal hearings and appointment of a lawyer, in order to give the child a “meaningful opportunity to be heard.” Although the court did not say “all children,” it seems reasonable to infer that this legal standard could be applied to children well under fifteen years old.

The result of this and similar rulings has been children – some far younger than fifteen – who are successfully suing their own parents under the direction of a relative or government worker. As recently as June 2007, a nine-year-old boy in Minnesota sued both his parents through a government-appointed guardian ad litem and won $100,000 from their insurance company for injuries due to the “faulty installation” of his car seat. Children and even infants in states like Kansas, Florida, and New Hampshire have also successfully sued their parents for being involved in automobile accidents, being hit by a car in a parking lot, and even for prenatal injuries suffered when the mother was hit by an oncoming vehicle because she did not use a crosswalk.

Children in Harm’s Way

These cases illustrate the danger that “right to be heard” poses to children, especially to infants and young children, who are often completely unaware of what they are doing when they “sue” a parent. According to Dr. Martin Guggenheim, Professor of Law at New York University and President of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR), the modern “children’s rights movement” encourages litigation to enforce children’s rights, but fails to recognize that such litigation is “used more often than not as an opportunity to ‘take it to the judge,’” rather than to protect children. Thus, “more children are enmeshed in legal proceedings than would have been imaginable a generation ago,” as adults seek to invoke their children’s rights to “gain the upper hand” against an ex-wife, corporation, or auto insurance company.

The danger of Article 12 is that it grants the government broad, discretionary legal authority, to protect the child’s nebulous “right to be heard” at all times when the child’s interests are involved.
Thankfully, our courts have not yet adopted this philosophy in “all matters affecting the child,” but if the CRC is ratified or imposed on the United States through customary international law, that will change.

America’s experience has opened parents up to extensive litigation, while often using the child’s “interests” as a way to claim a sort of “moral high ground” in disputes that are really between adults. When the bonds between children and their families are tried in the fires of litigation, they are often scorched in the process. Whenever we empower the government to be the arbiter, we are risking the welfare of our children and families.

Please forward this message to your friends and urge them to sign the Petition to Protect Parental Rights at

Article written for by Peter Kamakawiwoole, March 5, 2008.

The original article can be found here:{29FA17E8-B22C-461E-9B69-DEAA49DA0B9D}


UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Florida Supreme Court gives “silenced” children the right to be heard

Committee for Legal Aid to Poor, “The Right of the Child to be Heard” (India)

Canadian Child Care Federation, “To Speak, Participate and Decide” (Canada)

Geraldine van Bueren, The International Law of Children’s Rights (1995): 137.

Harrison v. Harrison, 733 N.W.2d 451 (Minn. S.C. 2007); for additional cases involving children suing parents, see Nocktonick v. Nocktonick, 227 Kan. 758 (Kan. S.C. 1980) and Bonte for Bonte v. Bonte, 616 A.2d 464 (New Hamp. S.C. 1992).

Martin Guggenheim, What’s Wrong with Children’s Rights (2005): 245.

Indentured Families – Social conservatives and the GOP: Can this marriage be saved?

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Support, child trafficking, children criminals, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Homeschool, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D on May 24, 2009 at 12:30 am

by Allan Carlson
03/27/2006, Volume 011, Issue 26

IN THE INTERNAL POLITICS OF the Republican coalition, some members are consistently more equal than others. In particular, where the interests of the proverbial “Sam’s Club Republicans” collide with the interests of the great banks, the Sam’s Club set might as well pile into the family car and go home.

Consider, to take one recent instance, the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, enacted last year, after a long delay, with support from congressional Republicans. A controversial clause that would have prevented abortion protesters from filing for bankruptcy to avoid paying court-ordered fines had stalled the measure. After the Senate rejected this provision, GOP leaders drove the bill through both houses of Congress and gained an enthusiastic signature from President George W. Bush.

In a nutshell, the new law makes a “clean start” after filing for bankruptcy much more difficult for families with at least one wage earner. Instead, most affected households will find themselves essentially indentured to a bank or credit card bureau, paying off their debt for years to come. “A new form of feudalism,” one critic calls it.

In truth, some had abused the old law, turning repeated bankruptcy filings into a kind of circus. A tightening on this side probably made sense. Significantly, though, the new law made no real changes on the lenders’ side, measures that might have reined in an increasingly predatory credit industry. It is common knowledge, for example, that credit card companies intentionally urge financially troubled families to borrow still more money, because they can charge these households exorbitant interest rates. As one Citibank executive has candidly observed, “They are the ones who provide most of our profit.” Late payment fees, another favored industry device, reportedly deliver over 30 percent of credit card financing revenue. Assurances by lawmakers that the new law will bring credit card interest rates down fly in the face of these more fundamental corporate strategies.

True, in the context of America’s new debt-driven economy, this treatment of financially troubled families may constitute “good business” (even if under older ethical standards it’s the equivalent of offering a barrel of whiskey to an alcoholic). More fundamentally, though, the GOP’s opting for an outcome that’s good for Citibank’s profits while disregarding the effects on families should cause no surprise.

SOME HISTORY may help here. The modern “family issues” are actually about a century old. The first openly “pro-family” president was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. Between 1900 and about 1912, he wrote and spoke often, and eloquently, about the dangers of a rising divorce rate and a falling birth rate. He celebrated motherhood and fatherhood as the most important human tasks, and described the true marriage as “a partnership of the soul, the spirit and the mind, no less than of the body.” He blasted as “foes of our household” the birth control movement, equity feminism, eugenics, and liberal Christianity.

However, the Rough Rider was the only prominent Republican of his time to think and talk this way. The dominant wing of the GOP tilted in favor of the banks, the great industries, and–perhaps more surprisingly–the feminist movement. Indeed, as early as 1904, the National Association of Manufacturers had formed an alliance with the feminists, for they shared an interest in moving women out of their homes and into the paid labor market. When the feminists reorganized as the National Woman’s party in 1917, the manufacturers’ association apparently provided secret financial support. More openly, Republican leaders embraced the feminists’ proposed Equal Rights Amendment, first advanced in Congress in 1923. The GOP was also the first major party to endorse the ERA in its platform.

Meanwhile, the Democrats consolidated their 19th-century legacy of “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion”: that is, as the party favoring beer halls, the new immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe, southern agrarians, northern Catholics, small property, the trade unions, and–importantly–the “family wage” for male workers. This cultural and legal device sought to deliver a single wage to fathers sufficient to support a wife and children at home. The Democrats also welcomed the “Maternalists” into their ranks, female activists who–while believing strongly in equal legal and political rights for women–also emphasized the natural differences between the sexes when it came to childbirth and child care. They favored federal programs for the training of girls in home economics and for “baby saving,” meaning efforts to reduce infant and maternal mortality. They fiercely opposed working mothers and day care. Under this Maternalist influence, every New Deal domestic program openly assumed or quietly reinforced the goal of a “family wage” and the model American family of a breadwinning father, a homemaking mother, and an average of three or four children.

In short, from 1912 until 1964, the Democrats were–on balance–the pro-family party. The Republicans, on balance, were the party of business interests and the feminists.

All this changed between 1964 and 1980 with the emergence of the “Reagan Democrats.” This radical reorientation of American domestic politics began with debate about adding “sex” to the list of prohibited discriminations under Title VII (employment issues) of the proposed Civil Rights Act of 1964, a fascinating event that ended with the addition of “sex” and the ensuing legal destruction of the “family wage” regime. The broad transformation continued with the rise of the “pro-family movement” during the 1970s, behind early leaders such as Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Weyrich. It ended in 1980 with the solid movement of northern Catholics and southern evangelicals into the Republican party, and the counter-movement of feminists and the new sexual revolutionaries into the Democratic fold. Ronald Reagan, a proud four-time voter for Franklin D. Roosevelt and a lifelong admirer of the New Deal, explained his 1980 victory to a group of Catholic voters this way:

The secret is that when the left took over the Democratic party we [former Democrats] took over the Republican party. We made the Republican party into the party of the working people, the family, the neighborhood, the defense of freedom. And yes, the American Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to One Nation Under God. So, you see, the party that so many of us grew up with still exists except that today it’s called the Republican party.

In fact, this was only partly true. For the Republican party as reshaped by Reagan now saw pro-family social conservatives in political alliance with the interests of the banks and the large corporations. Main Street and Wall Street were under the same tent, which was a very new development.

SO, HOW WELL has the Republican party performed as the party of the traditional family? At the level of the party platform, it has done fairly well. Since 1980, pro-family activists have successfully shaped Republican platforms that oppose ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, endorse a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and protect pre-born infant life, and call for pro-family tax measures.

And there have been concrete wins. Regarding taxation, for example, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 doubled the value of the child-friendly personal exemption and indexed it to inflation. Ten years later, another tax bill created a new Child Tax Credit. George Bush’s 2001 tax cut raised this credit to $1,000 per child and began to eliminate the tax code’s notorious marriage penalty.

There have been other gains. Congress approved and President Bush signed a ban on partial-birth abortion. The welfare reform of 1996 eliminated perverse incentives to out-of-wedlock births. Under the current President Bush, the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families and the Office of Population Affairs, important branches of the Department of Health and Human Services, are in pro-family hands. As of last month, so is the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Judges with pro-family records have won presidential appointment to federal courts, most recently Samuel Alito. Especially with the current administration, social conservatives have sometimes felt that they actually hold a true seat at the table.

Even so, all is not well within the existing Republican coalition. Indeed, there are other indicators that the Republican party has done relatively little to help traditional families, and may in fact be contributing to their new indentured status. Certainly at the level of net incomes, the one-earner family today is worse off than it was thirty years ago, when the GOP began to claim the pro-family banner. Specifically, the median income of married-couple families, with the wife not in the paid labor force, was $40,100 in 2002, less than it had been in 1970 ($40,785) when inflation is taken into account. In contrast, the real earnings of two-income married couple families rose by 35 percent over the same years (to nearly $73,000). Put another way, families have been able to get ahead only by becoming “nontraditional” and sending mother to work or forgoing children altogether. As the Maternalists had warned, eliminating America’s “family wage” system would drive male wages down and severely handicap the one-income home. So it has happened.

Despite the economic pressures, though, such families are not extinct. They still form core social conservative constituencies such as home schooling families and families with four or more children. But again, they have little to show from the years of the Republican alliance. Indeed, the GOP has done absolutely nothing to curb the egalitarian frenzy and the gender-role engineering set off by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and enshrined at the Pentagon. Equity feminism still rules these roosts.

Or consider child care. A timely veto by Richard Nixon stopped the government’s day care juggernaut in 1971, but only for a few months. The same year, Nixon signed a Republican-designed measure also backed by the National Organization for Women (heir to the GOP-favored National Woman’s party). This law allowed families to deduct day care costs from their income tax, cleverly labeling them “business expenses.” This has since grown into a credit worth between $1,500 and $2,100 in reduced taxes for households using day care. Even the wealthiest qualify.

Meanwhile, families that sacrifice a second income to keep a mother or father at home receive nothing except a higher net tax. Bills to correct this gross inequity have been regularly introduced in Congress since 1996, most recently the Parents’ Tax Relief Act of 2006 (H.R. 3080). However, the Republican leadership has ignored them. To underscore the lost opportunity here, note that conservatives in Canada rode to victory just a few weeks ago by embracing a plan to extend that nation’s day care benefit to stay-at-home parents; not a whiff of this, though, in the recent State of the Union address.

Add to these examples the bankruptcy reform measure discussed earlier, and ask: What do these issues have in common? All three are matters where the interests of big business and the interests of traditional, one-breadwinner families have collided, and in each case the Republican party has sided in the end with business. Concerning one-income families, the great corporations continue to view them as a waste of human resources, artificially raising labor costs by holding adults at home. Judging by its inaction and results, the GOP agrees. For the same reason, large businesses generally favor federally subsidized day care, for it creates incentives for mothers to work rather than care for their children. Existing Republican policy strongly favors this social parenting. And the credit industry has every interest in creating a new, indentured debtor class annually sending 20 percent of its income to the banks. The Republicans concur.

OTHER DEBT-DRIVEN FAMILY ISSUES are looming, with little indication of a Republican willingness to tackle them in a pro-family way. Consider the Federal Student Loan program, launched in the mid-1960s as a modest supplement to means-tested federal education grants. The system has since morphed into a massive debt machine, lending out $58 billion in 2005 alone and fueling a huge increase in college and university costs. The average bachelor’s degree recipient currently graduates with $20,000 in debt; students having attended graduate school report another $50,000 to $100,000 in debt, creating in one commentator’s words “the most indebted generation of young Americans ever.”

Here we find another newly indentured class of Americans, also paying about 20 percent of their incomes to the banks for decades to come. Disturbingly, over 20 percent of these borrowers report that they have delayed having children because of their debt, while 15 percent say they have delayed marriage. These are not pro-family outcomes. The most recent Republican response to the borrowers’ plight–undertaken in early February in the name of fiscal responsibility–was to pass a measure whose net effect will be to raise the long-term debt facing young adults.

Another troubling new issue is Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the federal government’s child support collection and enforcement program. Originally designed to track down the welfare fathers of illegitimate children, the measure has increasingly targeted middle income households affected by divorce. There is mounting evidence that the system now encourages marital breakup and exacerbates fatherlessness by creating a winner-take-all game, where the losing parent–commonly a father wanting to save the marriage–is unfairly penalized by the loss of his children and by a federally enforced child support obligation. Here we find objectively false feminist views–the assumption that men are always the abusers and women are always the victims–driving public policy. And here we find still another newly indentured class of citizens–noncustodial parents–being squeezed financially by the state. If you think this an exaggeration,

I refer you to no less an authority than Phyllis Schlafly, who calls this runaway federal law the most serious danger facing American families today.

Democrats often dream of wooing the “Reagan Democrats” back into the fold. Bill Clinton, who could speak “evangelical” and who embraced pro-family tax and welfare reforms, succeeded to some degree. Democratic strategist Stanley Greenberg, who actually coined the phrase “Reagan Democrats,” argues that “a new, family-centered politics can define and revitalize the Democratic party.” Its message should highlight “family integrity and parental responsibility” and offer a “progressive vision of family support.” Greenberg even theorizes that “Roman Catholics would [again] rally to a Democratic party respectful of family and committed to defending government’s unique role in supporting it.”

If the Democratic party remains the party of the sexual revolution, as its open yearning for same-sex marriage suggests it may, such dreams will remain just that. However, if a Democratic leader can ever shake that monkey off his–or her–back, and if this occurs in conjunction with an economic downturn, the prospects for another broad political realignment are fairly high. A new economic populism, delivering child-sensitive benefits and skewering predatory banks and bureaucrats, could work politically for a clever Democrat.

Moreover, when push comes to shove, social conservatives remain second class citizens under the Republican tent. During the 2004 Republican convention, they were virtually confined to the party’s attic, kept off the main stage, treated like slightly lunatic children. Republican lobbyist Michael Scanlon’s infamous candid comment–“The wackos get their information [from] the Christian right [and] Christian radio”–suggests a common opinion among the dominant “K Street” Republicans toward their coalition allies.

Contemporary Republican leaders need to do better–much better–toward social conservatives. They must creatively address pressing new family issues centered on debt burden. And they must learn to say “no” sometimes to Wall Street, lest they squander the revolutionary political legacy of Ronald Reagan.

Allan Carlson is president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion, and Society in Rockford, Illinois.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Lost Parent’s Perspective – Chapter 5 of 5

In child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, judicial corruption, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, state crimes on May 23, 2009 at 1:00 am

by Despina Vassiliou
Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling, McGill University
3700 McTavish, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1Y2


The present qualitative study examined lost parents’ perceptions of the alienating circumstances they and their families experienced in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the nature of Parental Alienation Syndrome and its consequences. The participants included five fathers and one mother who perceived themselves as having experienced PAS. The data were collected via semi-structured, open-ended interview questionnaires. The results consisted of verbatim data transcribed from participants’ tape recorded responses. A qualitative analysis of the compiled data was performed for each participant. This section presents a summary and discussion of all the results. The four previously outlined study objectives are addressed with respect to the findings of the present study.

Question 1: Are there characteristics (e.g., number of children, number of marriages, etc.) common to alienated families?

Previous studies on alienation that have examined the role of family characteristics as possible factors in the occurrence of the alienation have found differing results. For instance, in the study conducted by Dunne and Hedrick (1994) family characteristics were not found to be a factor of PAS, whereas a study conducted by Calabrese et al., (1987) found that characteristics of individuals were better predictors of alienation than family characteristics. Specifically, high levels of alienation were found to be associated with unemployed, single mothers with a daughter. Further, the daughter was found to have had few friends. Although a number of the participants in the present study had tended to only one PAS child, the lost parents tended to remarry after the alienation, and the alienators had tended to relocate with the PAS child. These results were found to be weak indicators of PAS as they were not reported by a majority of the participants (i.e., greater than 50%). Supporting the results of Dunne and Hedrick (1994), it appears that family characteristics such as number of children, number of marriages, and number of relocations are weak indicators in the occurrence of PAS. Though these findings contradict those of Calabrese et al., (1987), they examined different family characteristics reported by the alienator and found that individual family members characteristics, such as the alienator’s employment and the gender of PAS and non-PAS children were relevant in the occurrence of PAS. Further study is required with a larger sample and more detailed questions concerning the number and gender of PAS children and non-PAS children, the number of marriages by both alienator and lost parent, the current marital status and employment of each parent, and the number and reasons for relocations. With these specific questions, a larger sample, and a comparison group of non-PAS divorced families, more light might be shed on the role of family characteristics in the occurrence of PAS.

Question 2: Are there common themes or issues among the conflicts within couples that contribute to marriage dissolution?

Previous studies examined the effects of conflict involved in separation and/or divorce on individual family members. For instance, Johnston, Gonzalez, and Campbell (1987) examined the behaviour of children from separated and/or divorced families who were subjected to “entrenched” parental conflict regarding their custody. It was postulated, in the current study, that an elevated level of conflict contributed to the occurrence of PAS. However, the results suggest that the dissolution of the PAS marriages occurred with varying degrees of conflict, from high levels of conflict including physical aggression, to situations with absolutely no conflict. The current study also found that with time, the majority of the participants reported strained relationships with their ex-spouses, where most had little or no contact with their ex-spouses due to a degradation of communication between the parents. These results suggest that there may be other factors aside from initial marital conflict that contributes to the occurrence of PAS. Lund’s (1995) findings indicated that a heightened number of conflicts occurring during the divorce, not during the marriage, may contribute to the occurrence of PAS. Again, further study of separating families is necessary to determine whether it is other factors that occur during the dissolution of the marriage and subsequent custody proceedings or if it is the time of the conflicts with respect to the divorce that plays a more significant role in PAS. Such studies should consist of a long-term examination of the situations that occur in separating families and the family member’s responses to them. For instance, a future study may have participants maintain daily journals that chronicle the events of the separation and these journals may later be analyzed qualitatively in order to determine whether any similarities exist across different families.

Question 3: Are there common themes in the participants’ experience of the alienation process?

Several common themes among the cases were found in the present study. Interestingly, these commonalties spanned the continent; they were not focused geographically. One commonality was that the PAS children were “enlisted” by the alienating parent as secondary alienators to them (i.e., to the primary alienator) to contribute to the alienation. This finding is consistent with the characteristics of PAS children described by Gardner (1992). Also described by Gardner (1992) and Cartwright (1993), others such as grandparents participated and contributed to the alienation. The reasons for which extended family members participate in that alienation remains unclear. Although there is some support for the notion that the closeness of these other alienators to the alienating parent may play a role, the results were inconclusive. A future study could contribute to the knowledge of PAS by examining the roles of the extended family members of PAS children.

A second commonality was that the lost parents reported feeling powerless as a result of the alienating situation. Others, especially the children, appeared to have gained control of the lost parents’ behaviour. These children could determine when, if at all, they would see their lost parent under what circumstances, and particularly what the lost parent would do with the child. The lost parent had to be careful not to anger their child lest they not see the child again. The sense that power shifted from the parent to the child, although not previously examined in the field of PAS, remains a logical consequence of the custody proceedings. As Turkat (1994) noted, the family undergoes a shift from having two parents who make decisions for the child, to one parent becoming a “visitor” in the child’s life. The “visiting” parent then loses the influence that he or she had previously and is unable to make the same decisions as he or she once did.

Third, the results suggest a lack of satisfaction with the services rendered by both legal and mental health professionals. The participants perceived a lack of knowledge of PAS on the part of the professionals, as well as a failure at the professional level to gather pertinent information prior to drawing conclusions. Participants perceived the psychological services they received as not helping the alienating situation, and perceived the legal professionals as supporting and even contributing to the alienation. The sense of dissatisfaction toward mental health professionals may be merited. Currently, there is a minimal amount of research conducted on PAS by psychologists and psychiatrists. Consequently, the number of these professionals who have any knowledge and understanding of PAS may be limited. Further research and discussion of the topic is imperative in order to provide more mental health professionals with greater knowledge of PAS and the intervention techniques that may be useful.

Legal professionals appear to be more aware of PAS as more articles are published by lawyers. However, the dissatisfaction with the legal system appears to stem from lawyers contributing to the alienation. Many have postulated that the legal system contributes to the occurrence of PAS (Gardner, 1992; 1991; Clawar & Rivlin, 1991; Dunne & Hedrick, 1994; and Girdner 1985). For instance, Cartwright (1993) had noted that prolonged legal proceedings contribute to the occurrence of PAS. Much of the blame for the occurrence of PAS may be related to the dissatisfaction the lost parents experienced with the legal system. This dissatisfaction may be due to the lost parents losing primary custody of their children to alienators. As a result, it is imperative that indicators and precursors of PAS be established in order to better inform judges, lawyers, and mental health professionals about PAS. These professionals, working together, can influence the outcome for PAS families. Their influence is shown with the findings of Dunne and Hedrick (1994) who linked the termination of PAS to the legal enforcement of a change in custody from the alienators to the lost parents. This finding was the only one to suggest an effective intervention for PAS families. Specifically, a possible intervention includes mental health professionals identifying PAS families to the legal professionals, who can then legally enforce the necessary change in custody.

The role of these professionals is also to inform others of PAS and its consequences. Currently, Anita Woolfolk (1998), in her bestselling textbook Educational Psychology, provides some startling information to student teachers. In her note to be “sensitive” to the rights of information for both parents, she suggests the following:

1. “When parents have joint custody, both are entitled to receive information and attend parent-teacher conferences.”
2. “The noncustodial parent may still be concerned about the child’s school progress.” (emphasis added) (p. 96)

In her first point, she neglects to mention the rights of noncustodial parents and when she does so in her second point, she states that they “may still be concerned” about their child. Such remarks provide future teachers with the impression that once a parent loses custody they also lose their parental rights and feelings for their children. Under Quebec law, Article 648 stipulates that a parent retains parental authority even if that parent does not have physical custody of the child (as cited in Department of Justice Canada, 1993). Specifically, parental authority is elaborated in Article 647 of the Quebec Civil Code (as cited in Department of Justice Canada, 1993) is stated as follows:

The father and mother have the rights and duties of custody, supervision and education of their children. They must maintain their children.

Fourth, the results of the present study suggest that the lost parents attributed the cause of the alienation to the alienators’ feelings and desires. Specifically, they perceived the alienators’ actions as motivated by hate and anger, revenge or some combination of these. However, these results lack enough detail to determine whether these motivations may be influenced by the influences that Gardner (1992) had suggested, such as the alienators’ mental health and the legal system. Specifically, the motivations of hate and/or anger and revenge found in the present study may be mediated by the alienators’ mental health as well as the alienators’ reactions to the lengths, processes, and outcomes of their legal cases.

Fifth, the results suggest a change in the frequency of visitation and custody arrangements impact on the relationships between the lost parents and their children. The participants reported that primary custody was given to the mother at the onset of the divorce, regardless of who later became the alienator and who later became the lost parent. Further, the fathers all had a consistent visitation schedule at the beginning of the custody arrangements (e.g., one weekend every two weeks). The final custody arrangements resulted in the alienators receiving custody and the lost parents receiving a significant reduction in their visitation schedules from half the original plan to no contact at all. Of interest is the apparent gender bias in initial custody agreements; specifically, mothers received primary custody. However, following the alienation all the lost parents — even the mother with initial primary custody — had their visitation drastically reduced. Moreover, as expected with a reduction of visitation, the lost parents described limited relationships with their children to whom they often wrote without reply. The only exception were two fathers who related that they probably maintained a relatively steady relationship with their children because the PAS was mild and even one of these fathers was alienated from his eldest child and with whom he had a limited relationship.

Overall, these findings indicate that there are several possible factors, such as changes in relationships among family members, the roles of mental health and legal professionals, as well as custody arrangements, that may be indicators or precursors to PAS. All of these factors lend support to several of Lund’s (1995) findings. First, Lund’s (1995) identified separation difficulties that are developmentally inappropriate as a contribution to PAS. It is possible that the pattern of the change in custody arrangements (where the alienator received primary custody at the end of the custody dispute) may result in the separation difficulties described by Lund’s (1995). Second, a characteristic of PAS children is that they exhibit some form of “oppositional” behaviour at least to the lost parent, as supported in the present study. Third, Lund’s (1995) also found that the non-custodians’ parental skills deteriorated and contributed to the occurrence of PAS. Such deterioration of the parental skills may be a result of the lost parent’s sense of lost power over their situation and, as indicated in the present study, they did not exercise their usual parenting styles. The lost parents reported that they felt that disciplining the PAS child may result in the child becoming angry and retaliating by denying visits with the lost parent. Since there appears to be several factors that may influence the occurrence of PAS, a long-term study that examines these singly and in combination may provide a useful insight as to possible indicators.

Question 4: Given the opportunity, what are some things that the lost parents perceive they might do differently?

The results of the current study suggest that armed with the knowledge they have now, each participant would have taken other means in order to prevent the current alienated situation from ever occurring. Examples of the means they would take include never having married, taking different legal routes, or seeking psychological services at an earlier date. Few studies have addressed this issue, however, the importance of preventing PAS is evident in that all of the participant’s would never want to repeat the experience.

A summary of the findings of the present study is as follows:

(1) Family characteristics, such as number of children, number of marriages, and the alienators number of relocations were weak factors in the occurrence of PAS.
(2) Marital conflicts and their intensity were weak predictors in the occurrence of PAS.
(3) As expected, the relationship between the alienating and lost parents were strained after the onset of PAS.
(4) There was a general decrease in the frequency of visitation for the lost parent which may or may not have been due to PAS.
(5) There was a reduction of other contacts (aside from visitation) between the lost parents and their children that, as expected, limited their relationship.
(6) By the very nature of PAS, all of the participants perceived a general “sabotage” of their relationships with their children by the alienators. The findings confirmed that the alienators used denigrating techniques (e.g., implying that the lost parents were not good people).
(7) The children acted as secondary alienators.
(8) The alienator’s closer family members tended to also alienate.
(9) The participants perceived the underlying cause of the alienation as the hatred toward the lost parents, anger, or revenge, or some combination of these.
(10) The lost parents experienced a loss of parental role and power whether or not they had visitation with their children.
(11) Although the lost parents sought the assistance of both legal and mental health professionals, they remained dissatisfied with these services. Both the legal and mental health professionals have inadequately explored all the parameters implied in PAS.
(12) The participants, provided that they had the knowledge about PAS that they presently have, would have behaved differently towards their ex-spouse.
(13) As expected, the participants perceived the alienating circumstances as exerting serious negative emotional and financial consequences on their lives.
(14) They hoped to be able to be reunited with their children in the future. They would be able to do so by maintaining contact with the children (i.e., by sending letters and cards). These findings illustrate both the complexity and seriousness of PAS. Thus the ability to identify precursors, indicators, and effective interventions for these families is essential.

Limitations of the Study and Recommendations for Additional Research

The research conducted in the present study involved a small sample of participants who described themselves as victims of PAS and consequently, generalizations can only be made cautiously. Although some pre-defined criteria were given as a basis for choosing the participants, additional specific criteria are necessary. For instance, a useful future criterion may be that the participants be identified as PAS subjects by trained professionals. However, due to time limitations, a lack of resources and the difficulty of identifying cases of PAS when there were so few professionals who had any knowledge of PAS, it might be difficult for a researcher to include this criteria. Second, interviews were conducted by telephone due to the great distances involved. Such a means of interview may be prone to overlook or minimize important qualitative data from nonverbal cues. Ideally, with a larger sample size, possibly a random sample, and the inclusion of a comparison group (e.g., families involved in amicable divorces) greater generalizability may be attained in such a study. To date there is very little research specifically on PAS; much that is known remains tentative. Further building on the data base available to researchers to date can provide greater information upon which to base hypotheses for future research.

The importance of a greater wealth of knowledge on PAS is evident by examining the focus placed on problems encountered in custody disputes by the government. The Senate of Canada has debated drafts of legislation Bill-C41, whose principle is to have both spouses share the “financial obligation to maintain the children of the marriage in accordance with their relative abilities” (Chapter 1, article 11-2). As a result, the Senate of Canada and the House of Commons has created a Joint Committee on Custody and Access. The purpose of this committee is to “examine and analyze issues relating to parenting arrangements after separations and divorce” (Senate Debates, October 28, 1997, pp. 253). Senator Anne C. Cools presented a speech to amend certain aspects of the Joint Committee. The amendment passed and has been sent to the House of Commons for their approval. The amendment Senator Anne C. Cools proposed was to have the Joint Committee on Custody and Access examine important issues relating to separation and divorce. Specifically, she noted that issues such as Parental Alienation Syndrome and false allegations of sexual abuse are difficulties that non-custodial parents encounter. As a result the Committee will set out to:

assess the need for a more child-centred approach to family law policies and practices that would emphasize joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements based on children’s needs and best interests; (Senate Debates, p. 257)

The Committee will be examining issues related to custody and access to children after divorce and separation. Mental health professionals will likely be sources of information for this Committee, and Parental Alienation Syndrome will likely be a relevant issue to be examined. Consequently, mental health professionals need to examine PAS further in order to provide both pertinent information to the Committee and more importantly help for the families of PAS.


Arditti, J. A. (1992). Factors related to custody, visitation, and child support for divorced fathers: An exploratory analysis. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 17(3-4), 23-42.

BILL-C41, Chapter 1, Statutes of Canada (1997).

Calabrese, R. M., Miller, J. W., and Dooley, B. (1987). The identification of alienated parents and children: Implications for school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 24, 145-150.

Cartwright, G. F. (1993). Expanding the parameters of parental alienation syndrome. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 21(3), 205-215.

Child custody and access reform: Special joint committee established, Senate of Canada, Senate Debates, 1997.

Clawar, S. S., and Rivlin, B. V. (1991). Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago: American Bar Association.

Demo, A. H. and Acock, A. C. (1988). The impact of divorce on children, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 619-648.

Department of Justice Canada (1993). Custody and access: Public discussion. Canada, Ministry of Supply and Services Canada.

Dunne, J., and Hedrick, M. (1994). The parental alienation syndrome: An analysis of sixteen cases. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 21(3/4), 21-38.

Gardner, R. A. (1991). Psychotherapeutic and legal approaches to the three types of parental alienation syndrome families. In Family evaluation in child custody mediation, arbitration, and litigation. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

Gardner, R. A. (1992). The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

Girdner, L. K. (1985). Strategies of conflict: Custody litigation in the United States. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 9(1), 1-15.

Goldwater, A. (1991). Le syndrome d’alienation parentale[in English]. In Developments en droits familial (pp. 121-145) Cowansville, Quebec: Les Edition Yvons Blais.

Hoffman, M. L. (1971). Father absence and conscience development. Developmental Psychology, 4, 400-406.

Johnston, J.R., Gonzalez, R., and Campbell, L.E.G. (1987). Ongoing postdivorce conflict and child disturbance. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 15(4), 493-509.

Kressel, K. (1985). The process of divorce. New York: Basic Books.

Kurdek, L. A. (1981). An integrative perspective on children’s divorce adjustment. American Psychologist, 36(8), 856-866.

Lund, M. (1995). A therapist’s view of parental alienation syndrome. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 33(3), 308-316.

Palmer, N. K. (1988). Legal recognition of parental alienation syndrome. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 16(4), 360-363.

Slater, E. J., and Haber, J. D., (1984). Adolescent adjustment following divorce as a function of familial conflict. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 52(5), 920-921.

Rand, D.C. (1997). The spectrum of parental alienation syndrome: Part I. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 15(3), 23-52.

Turkat, I.D. (1994). Child visitation interference in divorce. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 737-742.

Woolfolk, A. E. (1998). Educational psychology: Seventh edition (pp. 96). Toronto: Allyn and Bacon.

Yin, R. K. (1984). Case study research, designs and methods. Beverly Hills.




If you or someone you know has experienced Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and are willing to participate in a study, please contact Despina at (514)-840-1159 or via e-mail at dvassi@PO-BOX.Mcgill.Ca.

*PAS is defined as a syndrome where one parent (usually the custodial parent) attempts to alienate the child or children from another parent. It includes a series of conscious and subconscious techniques, such as brainwashing, by the alienating parent, as well as the child or children’s own contributions for denigrating the allegedly hated parent (Cartwright, 1993, Gardner, 1992).



Note: All consent forms will be kept by the researcher (Despina Vassiliou) until the completion and acceptance of her thesis and graduation. After that time, the consent forms will be destroyed.

Consent Form
McGill University Research Project

The Effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome on Individual Family Members

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are presently conducting research that will examine the development of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)* within the family unit. More specifically, we are interested in examining each of the family member’s role in the alienation process. Participants will be asked a series of questions pertaining to the alienating relationships within the family unit. The questions are straightforward and will take approximately one hour to discuss and will be tape recorded. Your responses will be kept completely confidential and anonymous. You are not under any obligation to participate, and you may choose to discontinue the study at any point. If you agree to participate in this research project, please sign the form below.

We greatly appreciate your consideration of this project. We would be delighted to provide more background information and answer any questions you might have. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us. Thank you.


Despina Vassiliou
MA student, School Psychology
McGill University

Glenn F. Cartwright, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Educational Psychology
McGill University

I, ________________________, agree to participate in the McGill PAS study.
(Please print your name in full)

Participant’s Signature




Interview Questions

Current Status:
1. Describe to me your current family constellation?
· How many children do you have?
· Are they currently living with you?
· If no, how often do you get to see them if at all?
· Have you remarried?
2. Describe your current relationship with your ex-spouse.

Beginning of the Marital Dissolution:

3. When did the conflicts that lead to the dissolution of your marriage begin?
4. Did you see a common theme or issue in the conflicts?
5. How long did these conflicts before divorce became an option?
6. Who initiated the divorce and on what grounds?

Initiating and Proceedings of the Custody Case(s):
7. Describe the events that lead up to the custody proceedings?
8. How long was each of the legal cases (custody and divorce)?
9. Do you remember an occasion during the custody proceedings that lead to the delay of the case?
If yes,
· What effects did the delay have on the case?
· What effects did the delay have on your children and your relationship with them?

Contributions to P.A.S.:
10. Tell me some factors that contributed to the alienation in your case?
11. Do you believe that you had any role or make any contributions to the alienating situation?
12. What were your children’s role in the alienation? Describe some of their behaviours.
· Describe some of your behaviours or actions that contributed to the alienation?
13. Tell me about the effects of the alienation on your relationship with your children?
14. Describe for me your relationship with your children today?
15. Do you remember an occasion when other individuals contributed to the alienation? (How?)

Cause and Possible Termination of P.A.S.:
16. For how long did the alienation occur (in months)?
17. What do you believe was the underlying cause of the alienation?
18. How do you feel about the alienation now?
19. Has the alienation ceased? In your opinion, why is this so?
If the alienation has ceased:
· How long has it been since you have been removed from the alienated situation?
· Can you tell me about the circumstances that have made it possible for the alienation to have been terminated?
If the alienation has not ceased:
· Do you believe that there is a possibility of a reconciliation?
· If yes, what do you believe would make a reconciliation possible?

Looking Back:
20. When and how did you realize the implications of what was occurring, with regard to the alienation?
21. What do you feel is the impact of this whole experience on your life?
22. Had you or any of your family members sought out services for emotional assistance?
If yes,
· Who? And for what reasons?
· What was the outcome? (Were there any diagnoses made? Were you taking any medication?)
If not,
· How did you or they cope with the situation on your/their own?
23. How do you view the experience now as compared to how you viewed it then (while you were experiencing it)?
24. Has your opinion changed over time? How much time? How did it change?
25. Is there anything else that you would like to change or do over again?





The original article can be found here:

Children Held Hostage : Dealing With Programmed and Brainwashed Children

In child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, kidnapped children, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights on May 17, 2009 at 5:44 pm

by Stanley S. Clawar and Brynne Valerie Rivlin

Children Held Hostage is a superb book dealing with parental alienation. It is not a long book, but it is based on a body of research conducted by the authors into the specifics of the alienation.

Much of the focus is on the process of the alienation and the frequency of the processes and the motiviation of the abusing parent. However, there is also some good, specific, material on the impact of this alienation on the children. Part of the books message is that Gardner’s proposals in dealing with Parental Alienation Syndrome, the problem induced in the children, is not strong enough because even low levels of alienation create severe problems for the development of children.

This book will open your eyes to what you children might be experiencing if they are being alienated. It will also be good to make you aware to ensure that you don’t do anything to negatively impact your child either if you are involved in a highly charged divorce or separation.

This is a difficult book to find, and it is not inexpensive. Both Amazon and Chapters do have some in stock (likely do to this website’s orders). I would highly recommend ordering a copy if you are interested in parental alienation and the process.

Parental Alienation Syndrome: The Lost Parents’ Perspective – Chapter 2 of 5

In California Parental Rights Amendment, child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, judicial corruption, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, state crimes on May 16, 2009 at 11:07 pm

by Despina Vassiliou
Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, McGill University
3700 McTavish, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1Y2



A review of the literature concerning the development of parental alienation in families requires a review of the main theories surrounding the development of PAS. The main postulates include: (a) heightened levels of conflict, (b) divorce, (c) the contributions or influence of the legal system, and (d) a combination of various other factors that may contribute to the development of PAS.


As the dissolution of a marriage proceeds and court proceedings begin regarding the custody of the children, there is likely to be increasing conflict among the divorcing parents. It is believed that this conflict propels and heightens the occurrence of PAS. Family conflict may contribute to many difficulties that the individual family members encounter — such as problems in social development, emotional stability, and cognitive skills. These difficulties may instigate long-term consequences that may persist long after the finalization of the divorce (Kurdek, 1981).

Further, when the conflict occurring in a family (whether divorced or intact) is ongoing and heightened, the individual family members have been found to express feelings of lowered self-esteem, increased anxiety, and diminished self control (Slater & Haber, 1984). Particularly at risk are the children. There are reports that adolescents have a greater risk of developing adjustment problems whether the family goes through divorce or remains intact (Hoffman, 1971). Therefore, the level of family conflict is an important dimension which can alter the family structure and affects children’s well-being (Demo & Acock, 1988).

PAS is a syndrome that is usually associated with a heightened level of conflict. Further, the children in PAS families are present not only in the conflictual situation (in this case the denigration of one parent) but often contribute additional conflict to the situation. These conflicts tend to occur in conjunction with long custody proceedings. Johnston, Gonzalez, and Campbell (1987) examined the behaviour of children from separated and/or divorced families who were subjected to “entrenched” parental conflict regarding their custody. These researchers assessed 56 children between the ages of four and twelve during custody disputes and 2.5 years later.

The assessment consisted of three measures:

(1) parental conflict as measured by the Straus Conflict Tactics Scale;
(2) Clinical rating scales that were completed by each family’s counsellor; and
(3) the Achenbach Child Behaviour Checklist which measured the children’s adjustment on four scales: Depression, Withdrawn/Uncommunicative, Somatic Complaints, and Aggression, as well as overall problem behavior. Johnston and her colleagues (1987) found that at the time of the custody disputes, overall behavior problems and aggression could be predicted by (a) the extent to which children became involved in the custody dispute and (b) the occurrence and extent of role reversal between the child and parent.

Specifically, aggression between parents, both physical and verbal, was found to be a significant predictor of overall behavioural problems two years later. Moreover, involving the child in the custody dispute was a more important predictor of overall behaviour problems when it was the father who involved the child rather than the mother. If both parents involved the child in the disputes, then the child was more likely to have a tendency to display more withdrawn and uncommunicative behaviours two years after the dispute.

Finally, overall behavioural problems and depression were also predicted by the role reversal between father and child. These findings are related to the development of parental alienation in that PAS children who are exposed to heightened levels of conflict in combination with the denigration of one parent by the other.

As a means of coping with the heightened levels of stress, PAS children may copy the alienating parent’s behavior primarily by denigrating the lost parent. In doing so, they reduce some stress by believing that one parent is bad while the other is good. Subsequently, they focus on pleasing the alienating parent who is usually the custodial parent. Therefore, they ensure their survival in the alienating home by supporting the alienating parent’s beliefs. Children who do not adapt in this way may feel they run the risk of also being rejected by the alienating parent and losing that parent’s love.


The effect of divorce itself on the family can be devastating. What was once decided amongst the parents is now decided by third parties like lawyers and judges (Girdner, 1985). Further, access to the children by each parent changes. Where before everyone lived together and parents and children had the freedom to interact whenever they wished, divorce dictates they must now abide by rules set by others.

The most common effect of divorce is that the child remains primarily with one parent while the other parent becomes a “visitor” who is only allowed to see the child on certain occasions. In theory, this “visitor” is allowed to have parental authority, that is to engage in the decision making process regarding the children (e.g., what school they should attend) (Turkat, 1994).

However, divorce often occurs because the parents can no longer make decisions together. Consequently, the visiting parent does not always have the visitation that he or she should have and may be unable to participate in the decision making process for important issues in their children’s lives. One time significant parents can become unwanted visitors for their children. The Children’s Rights Council in 1994 reported that an estimated six million children in the U.S. were victims of interfered visitation by their custodial parents.

Arditti (1992) found that as high as 50% of fathers (usually the non-custodial parents) reported that their visitation with their children had been interfered with by their ex-wives.

Further, as many as 40% of custodial mothers admitted denying their ex-husbands their right to visitation as a means of punishing them (Kressel, 1985). In PAS families, the interference with child visitation is but one of the symptoms, though the most important. It is believed that the goal of the alienating parent is to not only interfere in the lost parent’s visits, but to eliminate both the visits, and the visiting parent as well from the child’s life.

Gardner (1992) postulated that PAS is of a serious nature that may be provoked by a serious emotional issue, such as custody. Consequently, Cartwright (1993) noted that PAS may also be provoked by other serious and emotional issues such as property divisions or finances.


According to Gardner (1992), the legal system contributes to the occurrence of PAS. In his book, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals, Gardner devotes two chapters to the history of the legal system and its impact on the occurrence of PAS. He postulates that parental alienation began to occur when courts began replacing the “tender-years” presumption with that of the “best-interests-of-the-child” presumption. The “tender-years” presumption stipulates that certain psychological benefits exist for children who remain with the mother, therefore custody was usually awarded to the mother. In the 1970s the courts began to favour the “best-interests-of-the-child” presumption, a less sexist position. With this presumption, the courts attempted to award custody to the parent who the best custodian for the child regardless of the parent’s gender.

Gardner believes that this change in the legal system exacerbated mothers’ fears that they might lose custody of their children to the fathers. Moreover, for mothers to strengthen their cases they needed to denigrate the fathers, engendering the beginnings of PAS. Gardner supports this notion by reporting that in 90% of his PAS cases, it was the mother who was the alienating parent (Gardner, 1991, conference).

Further changes in the legal system during the 1970s and 1980s, according to Gardner, contributed to the occurrence of PAS. Specific was the adoption in many jurisdictions of the notion of joint custody. Ideally in joint custody, both parents are to contribute equally to the upbringing of the children instead of one parent being the custodian and the other the “visitor”.

For joint custody to be granted it must be established that both parents can communicate with each other and can participate in the upbringing of the child. However, when joint custody is granted, the parents are often placed back in the same situation that led them to seek a divorce initially: the inability to communicate and make decisions together. Although some couples can do so successfully, Gardner notes that this situation presents the opportunity for the children to be used as weapons in parental conflicts that may arise.

Gardner developed several other related notions concerning the development of PAS and the contributions of the legal system are simply a part of this influence on PAS development. Unfortunately, the only statistics that Gardner provided were those that demonstrated that mothers were usually the alienators without detailing the procedure by which he attained these results.

Cartwright (1993) noted that the involvement of lawyers and the prolonged involvement of the court contributes not only to the occurrence of PAS but also to the increase in the severity of PAS. Clawar and Rivlin (1991) conducted a twelve year study regarding the parental programming of children “to influence the outcome of disputes” which was commissioned by the American Bar Association Section of Family Law. They found that 80% of divorcing parents practiced parental programming to varying degrees and 20% of whom did so at least once a day.

Further, Rand (1997) postulated that many allegations of either sexual or physical abuse may be an alienating technique. These allegations are powerful factors in the courts’ decisions for custody and therefore an invaluable tool to the alienators. Cartwright noted that the court requires adequate time to assess each case in order to determine the best interests of the child. However, he cautioned that once identified as a PAS case, then the court needs to make speedy judgments in order to stop the alienation process immediately. Unfortunately, the usual procedure of court postponements and continuances permit the PAS process to continue.

Further, Goldwater (1991) had postulated that the longer the children are in the alienating custodial situation, the “further they will drift away from their non-custodial parent” (p.130). Cartwright also noted that forceful judgment is required to counter the force of alienation. Specifically, clear and forceful judgments are believed to deter possible alienating parents from even beginning the alienation process as they may immediately lose custody of their children.

This is only possible if the judge is aware of PAS as a syndrome and if it has been clearly identified in each case. A second consequence of a clear and forceful judgment against the alienating parent is that such judgements can stop existing alienating processes from continuing.

Support for the notion that the court can counter the occurrence of PAS has been found in a study conducted by Dunne and Hedrick (1994). These researchers are two of the very few who conducted research specifically on PAS. In a qualitative study they interviewed sixteen families who exhibited a specified set of characteristics that met Gardner’s (1992) criteria for PAS.

The findings suggested that various family characteristics, such as the degree of PAS severity, were not indicators of the degree or effect of alienation on the family. Further, they found that the only effective intervention to counter alienation was a court implemented custody change that resulted in the children being removed from the alienating home.

The various types of therapy demonstrated no improvement in any of the families that had undergone therapy; in two of these cases the alienation actually became worse. It appears that the legal system is the most effective mean of terminating the process of alienation, reflecting the strong influence exerted by the legal system on the occurrence of PAS.

Girdner (1985), in an ethnographic study, examined the structure of custody litigation and the strategies used by parents who were contesting the custody of their children. She immersed herself in the legal culture for eighteen months. By observing court proceedings regarding custody she examined the relationships between the legal and the familial processes within the context of those proceedings.

She found that the final custody arrangements were usually made with respect to the economic issues of the divorce. Specifically, her findings suggested that the factors which influenced custody agreements included: (a) the negotiating style of the attorneys involved; (b) the dynamics of bargaining in the legal system; and (c) at which stage of the emotional process of divorce in which the clients were.


A number of factors influence the occurrence of PAS. The family unit does not function in isolation. Individual characteristics of family members may also play a role on the occurrence of PAS. A study conducted by Calabrese, Miller, and Dooley (1987) examined the characteristics of 49 parents and their children from two fourth grade classes.

These researchers assessed the parents’ alienation of their children using the Dean Alienation Scale that provides an overall measure of alienation through examining the following dimensions: Isolation, Powerlessness, and Normalesness. They also assessed the children’s school achievement by examining their percentiles, as well as the children’s attitudes toward school.

However, these researchers found that the best predictors of alienation was unrelated to the children’s academic attitudes or performance, but rather to the characteristics of the individuals involved. Specifically, they reported that high levels of alienation were found to be associated with unemployed, single mothers, whose child was female and the child had only a few perceived friends.

While these findings appear to support Gardner’s contention that the alienator is usually the mother, they provide little support for Gardner’s theory that the introduction of the “best-interests-of-the-child” presumption contributed to this phenomenon.

Lund (1995) examined factors that contributed to the development of parental alienation. She assessed families in terms of

(a) developmental factors in the child,
(b) parenting styles, and
(c) level of stress experienced by the child.

She postulated that contributing factors in the occurrence of PAS included the following:

(1) Separation difficulties that are developmentally inappropriate. Specifically, PAS could be related to the occurrence of pre-schooler’s separation problems that may normally occur but are heightened by the stress occurring within a separated home.
(2) The child exhibiting oppositional behaviour. With older children in adolescence and preadolescence the development of oppositional behaviour may be manifested as a rejection of the lost parent in a family with conflicts.
(3) The deterioration of the non-custodial parental skills. The alienated parent usually displays a distant, rigid, and sometimes authoritarian style of parenting, whereas the alienating parent is indulgent and clinging. The children can then more easily reject the harsher parent and defend the more indulgent one.
(4) Conflicts occurring during the divorce. According to Lund (1995), these may prompt the child to seek means of escaping the stress related to such conflict.

Therefore, the child may denigrate the lost parent as a justification of the alienating parent’s actions.


Relatively few research studies have been conducted specifically on PAS. The literature examined in this section pertained primarily to several articles that described parental alienation, however the majority were not empirical studies. The literature suggests that several factors may contribute to the occurrence of PAS. The heightened levels of conflict that are often associated with the dissolution of a marriage have been shown to have several short- and long-term effects on family members (Demo & Acock, 1988; Hoffman, 1971; Kurdek 1981). Johnston et al., 1987 found that involving the children in the disputes tended to result in the children displaying behavioural problems (e.g., withdrawing and not communicating).

PAS is one area in which heightened levels of conflict are believed to play a large role in the lives of the family members. Therefore, it is postulated that the heightened conflict levels may be an important factor in the occurrence of PAS. Divorce is a difficult time for all family members. With divorce comes a stressful restructuring where one parent, who was once involved in the child’s life, may suddenly become an unwanted visitor (Turkat, 1994).

This is difficult for those involved and there are indicators that these visiting parents (usually the fathers) encounter difficulties with their visits. For instance, Arditi (1992) found that as many as 50% of fathers reported an interference in their visitation rights; similarly, Kressel (1985) found that 40% of mothers admitted to attempting to interfere in the father’s visitation. Some circumstance or factor that occurs in the process of divorce may result in the rejection of one parent by the other.

If this occurs, it is postulated that PAS may follow. The circumstances that lead to the rejection of a parent are as yet to be determined. There may be high levels of conflict or stress involved in the dissolution of the marriage and thus further research is necessary to examine the degree to which these factors are important in the occurrence of PAS.

With the initiation of a divorce, the legal proceedings involved may pertain not only to the divorce but to custody agreements as well. Most of the literature on PAS suggests that various aspects of the legal system have contributed to the occurrence of PAS (Gardner, 1992) and has even heightened the severity of PAS (Cartwright, 1993). Moreover, Dunne and Hedrick (1994) found that the legal system can play an important role in the termination of PAS.

Specifically, a court ordered change in custody was found to be the most effective intervention that resulted in the termination of PAS with time. As Calabrese et al., (1987), and Lund (1995) found, many factors from individual characteristics to stress on the children have been linked to the occurrence of alienation. The number of possible factors that instigate PAS are legion, therefore, there is a need to examine PAS qualitatively to gain better comprehension. A better understanding of how PAS occurs may be helpful in learning how to treat and perhaps prevent PAS.

Parental Alienation Syndrome: The Lost Parents’ Perspective – Chapter 1 of 5

In child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, state crimes on May 16, 2009 at 4:36 pm

by Despina Vassiliou
Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling, McGill University
3700 McTavish, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1Y2

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts in Educational Psychology
© 1998, Despina Vassiliou


This qualitative study examines alienated parents’ perceptions of their own experience of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). The participants were five fathers and one mother. The data were collected via semi-structured, open-ended interview questionnaires.

A qualitative analysis of the data was performed for each participant in an attempt to answer the following questions:
(1) Are there characteristics (e.g., number of children, number of marriages, etc.) common to alienated families?
(2) Are there common themes or issues among the conflicts between couples that contribute to marriage dissolution?
(3) From the lost parent’s perspective, are there commonalities in the underlying causes of the alienation?
(4) Are there common themes in the participants’ experience of the alienation process?
(5) Given the opportunity what are some things that the lost parents perceive they might do differently? The findings are discussed and the limitations of the present study are given.



Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a forensic and child psychiatrist, has conducted evaluations regarding the custody of children following divorce (Rand, 1997). Through his case work he observed that many divorcing families shared common characteristics which he labeled as Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). PAS was defined as a syndrome where one parent (usually the custodial parent) alienates the child or children from the other parent. PAS includes the alienating parent engaging the child in a series of conscious and subconscious techniques like brainwashing in an attempt to denigrate the other parent. Further, the child also contributes to the denigration of the allegedly hated parent (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992). The general pattern of characteristics PAS children display during and after the divorce have been described by Gardner (1992) as follows:

1. Campaign of denigration: PAS children denigrate the “lost” parent completely, particularly in the presence of the alienating parent. The children express a profuse hatred for the lost parent. Initially, the children may denigrate each parent in the presence of the other. Eventually they learn that the denigration of the non-custodial or alienated parent is beneficial within the custodial home (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992). Subsequently, the child rejects the lost parent completely.
2. The children’s unfounded rationalizations: The children base their denigration on rationalizations that are weak or frivolous, e.g. “she snores in her sleep”. Statements such as these are often made with a complete lack of ambivalence by the children. The alienating parent, as well, does not question such statements as the bases for denigration and further uses the children’s statements as evidence of the lost parent’s inadequacy (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).
3. Dichotomization of the parents: The alienating parent is perceived by the child as encompassing only positive qualities and as such the children attempt to express themselves as “perfect little photocopies” (Goldwater, 1991 p. 126) of the alienating parent. On the other hand, the lost parent is believed to encompass only negative qualities. This negative attitude is generalized to events that the children and lost parent have shared. Even events that the children once enjoyed are now remembered as being forced, not enjoyed, or never even remembered (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).
4. The independent thinker phenomenon: The children present the decision to reject the parent as their own. The alienating parent reinforces this contention by making such statements as “I can’t force her to see her dad, if she does not want to”. Further, the claim that the decision to reject the parent was the child’s own is made suspect by the child’s use of language and phrases that are developmentally inappropriate and indicative of the alienating parent’s influence (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).
5. Automatic love of the alienating parent: the children automatically and reflexively support the alienating parent. This automatic love may be a consequence of the belief that the alienating parent is an ideal or perfect person or that the children perceive that parent as weak and in need of support and defending (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).
6. Absence of guilt: The children do not express any feelings of guilt about the circumstances surrounding the relationship with the lost parent. There is a lack of gratitude for any gifts, favours, etc.. This lack of guilt cannot be attributed solely to cognitive immaturity but is related to the brainwashing done by the alienating parent (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).
7. Borrowed scenarios: The children use language and expressions that are clearly not their own. The quality with which they express their beliefs appears to be coached and rehearsed, and the only source of the borrowed scenarios appears to be the alienating parent (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992). For instance, a five year old borrows the alienating mother’s words and say “Daddy’s new girlfriend is a whore!” (Cartwright, 1993, p. 207).
8. Generalization of animosity: The lost parent’s extended family is also included in the animosity. These individuals are also perceived as encompassing negative qualities or inappropriate actions since they are associated with the lost parent. For instance, any attempt by the extended family to counter the denigration of the lost parent is viewed by the children as an attack on their beliefs that they must defend (Cartwright, 1993; Gardner, 1992).

Further, Cartwright, 1993 postulated that often allegations of abuse associated with PAS may be virtual. Virtual allegations refer to cases where the abuse is simply suggested in order to cast aspersions the lost parent’s character without the alienating parent having to fabricate real incidents of alleged abuse. For example, in one case, the mother hinted at an allegation of sexual abuse by accusing the father of renting a videotape containing pornography for the child. The mother reported in court that the child was disappointed with the movie because it was “suggestive, erotic, and pornographic”. The movie, a Hollywood comedy starring Chevy Chase, was chosen by the child at a family video store. The judge proceeded to interview the child extensively and, disagreeing with the mother, found that the child was not disappointed in the movie because it was pornographic but rather because it was not funny. Virtual allegations are subtle and, as a result, difficult to prove or disprove. Therefore, Cartwright, 1993 postulates that as lawyers and judges become more aware of PAS and become more skilled at detecting it, the incidence of virtual allegations will increase.

As in most disorders, the severity of PAS can range from mild to severe. As a result, Gardner (1991, conference) has described three levels in the continuum of severity of the syndrome as mild, moderate, and severe. Using these anchor points, Gardner (1992) described the characteristics of the alienating parent and the child.

In a Severe level of PAS, the alienating parent demonstrates paranoid thoughts that may be limited to the lost parent or may generalize to other circumstances. Prior to the divorce, however, the alienating parent may not have demonstrated any paranoia. Another characteristic includes the alienating parent’s obsession with preventing the lost parent from having or exercising any visitation rights. The alienating parent will use any means necessary to ensure this goal. Further, alienating parents project their own negative qualities onto the lost parents, reinforcing their own paranoia and portraying themselves as victims. As a result of this paranoia, alienating parents do not respond with appeals to logic or reason, or even to confrontations with reality. Those who do not support the alienating parents’ beliefs, whether they are mental health professionals, lawyers, etc., are believed either to be against them or to be paid by the lost parent. The children in severe cases of PAS share the alienating parent’s paranoia about the lost parent. They will refuse to visit the lost parent and often demonstrate panic and hostility that renders visits impossible. Further, if visitation does occur, once they are in the lost parent’s home they may run away, become paralyzed with fear, or become destructive to the extent that they must be removed from the home.

The Moderate level of PAS includes alienating parents who exhibit more rage than paranoid tendencies. They are able to make some distinction between a child’s preposterous allegations and those which may have some validity. However, as in severe cases, an alienating parent in a moderate case of PAS will also undertake a campaign of denigration against the lost parent and will tend to prevent the lost parent’s exercise of visitation rights. Prior to the divorce, the moderate alienating parent is more likely to have been a good child rearer. The children of moderate PAS tend to be less persistent with their campaigns of denigration, and are more likely to abandon them in the presence of the lost parents, especially after long periods of time. In this type of case campaigns of denigration by younger children in the presence of their lost parents can only be sustained with the help of older siblings who function as surrogate parents during visitation. The alienated children’s primary motives for maintaining campaigns of denigration are to maintain “healthy” psychological bonds with the alienating parents.

The Mild level of PAS, the parents have generally healthy psychological bonds with their children. They respond to logic and reason in that they recognize that the alienation of the non-custodial parent is not beneficial for the children. Therefore, the alienating parent will be willing to take a conciliatory approach towards the lost parent’s requests. Gardner (1992) also notes that mild cases of PAS require considerablyless therapy than the more severe cases. Further, the children may become healthier when the intervention simply requires the child to remain in the presence of the lost parent over time.

Cartwright (1993) noted that the time that is spent alienating the child may be an indicator of the degree to which the child is alienated; the longer the alienation, the more alienated the child. Further, the excessive alienation may “build up” or increase the risk of mental illness in the child. As a result, the sooner the children are removed from the alienating situation, the healthier it is for the lost parent and the PAS children. It is, therefore, important to gain a better understanding of parental alienation, its development, and its termination, because of the devastating consequences of PAS to the family members who experience it.

Operational Definitions

Alienator or Alienating Parent. The terms “alienator” and “alienating parent” are used to designate the parent who influences the child or children to turn against the other parent.

Lost or Hated or Absent Parent. The lost (and usually non-custodial) parent is the one who is the target of the alienator.

Conflict. This term signifies opposing ideas and beliefs that members of the family experience in the form of arguments that may or may not become violent.

Alienation: This term signifies any actions, whether physical or psychological, that lead to the negative perception of a parent. Specifically, the term alienation refers to tactics utilized in order to induce PAS.

Parental Rights Caselaw

In adoption abuse, California Parental Rights Amendment, child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Christian, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, Homeschool, Indians, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial mothers, Obama, Orphan Trains, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, state crimes on May 12, 2009 at 12:44 am

United States Supreme Court

In the early 1920s, the United States Supreme Court first reviewed the rights, liberties and obligations of parents to direct the upbringing of their children. Two important decisions, Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, established a legacy which was followed by a series of decisions holding that parenting is a fundamental constitutional right, and among “the basic civil rights of man.”

Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among those rights the Court has ranked as “of basic importance in our society,” and as sheltered by the 14th Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.

Assembled here are a majority of those cases defining or reaffirming these fundamental rights. Links are provided to each case on the FindLaw Internet Legal Resources service. Each is in hypertext format, with links to related opinions of the court contained in the ruling.

M. L. B. v. S. L. J.
___ US ___, 117 S. Ct. 555 (1996)

Choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as “of basic importance in our society,” rights sheltered by the 14th Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect. This case, involving the State’s authority to sever permanently a parent-child bond, demanded the close consideration the Court has long required when a family association so undeniably important was at stake.

Santosky v Kramer
455 US 745 (1982)

The fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child is protected by the 14th Amendment, and does not evaporate simply because they have not been model parents or have lost temporary custody of their child to the State. A parental rights termination proceeding interferes with that fundamental liberty interest. When the State moves to destroy weakened familial bonds, it must provide the parents with fundamentally fair procedures.

Lassiter v Department of Social Services
452 US 18 (1981)

The Court’s decisions have by now made plain that a parent’s desire for and right to “the companionship, care, custody, and management of his or her children” is an important interest that “undeniably warrants deference and, absent a powerful countervailing interest, protection.” A parent’s interest in the accuracy and justice of the decision to terminate his or her parental status is, therefore, a commanding one.

Quilloin v Walcott
434 US 246 (1978)

We have little doubt that the Due Process Clause would be offended “if a State were to attempt to force the breakup of a natural family, over the objections of the parents and their children, without some showing of unfitness and for the sole reason that to do so was thought to be in the children’s best interest.” Whatever might be required in other situations, we cannot say that the State was required in this situation to find anything more than that the adoption, and denial of legitimation, were in the “best interests of the child.”

Smith v Organization of Foster Care Families
431 US 816 (1977)

In this action, individual foster parents and a foster parents organization, sought declaratory and injunctive relief against New York State and New York City officials, alleging that the statutory and regulatory procedures for removal of foster children from foster homes violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment. The ruling contains an analysis of the rights of natural parents as balanced against the rights of foster parents, as well as a comprehensive discussion of foster care conditions.

Moore v East Cleveland
431 US 494 (1977)

The Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A host of cases, tracing their lineage to Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters have consistently acknowledged a “private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.” When the government intrudes on choices concerning family living arrangements, the Court must examine carefully the importance of the governmental interests advanced.

Cleveland Board of Education v La Fleur
414 US 632 (1974)

The Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. There is a right “to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child.”

Stanley v Illinois
405 US 645 (1972)

The private interest here, that of a man in the children he has sired and raised, undeniably warrants deference and protection. The integrity of the family unit has found protection in the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the 9th Amendment.

Wisconsin v Yoder
406 US 205 (1972)

In this case involving the rights of Amish parents to provide for private schooling of their children, the Court held: “The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”

Loving v Virginia
388 US 1 (1967)

In this case involving interracial marriage, the Court reaffirmed the principles set forth in Pierce and Meyers, finding that marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival. “The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”

Griswold v Connecticut
381 US 479 (1965)

The 4th and 5th Amendments were described as protection against all governmental invasions “of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life.” The Court referred to the 4th Amendment as creating a “right to privacy, no less important than any other right carefully and particularly reserved to the people.” Reaffirming the principles set forth in Pierce v. Society of Sisters and Meyers v Nebraska.

Prince v Massachusetts
321 US 158 (1944)

It is cardinal with us that the custody, care and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. And it is in recognition of this that these decisions have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter.

Skinner v Oklahoma
316 US 535 (1942)

“We are dealing here with legislation which involves one of the basic civil rights of man. Marriage and procreation are fundamental to the very existence and survival of the race.”

Pierce v Society of Sisters
268 US 510 (1925)

The liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children was abridged by a proposed statute to compell public education. “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Meyer v Nebraska
262 US 390 (1923)

“No state … shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

“While this court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty thus guaranteed, the term has received much consideration and some of the included things have been definitely stated. Without doubt, it denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

The Problem of Parental Alienation

In children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Rights, fathers rights, Freedom, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, MMPI, MMPI 2, mothers rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on May 5, 2009 at 5:00 am

What Is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation occurs any time that a parent, relative or friend speaks badly about another parent so that a child can hear what is being said. Alienating behavior may be mild, moderate or severe. All parents are likely to “lose it” and be inappropriate with their words around children, however, when there is a predominance of negative messages being communicated to a child, these messages can seriously erode the child’s psychological well-being. In severe cases of parental alienation, children are manipulated and brainwashed (programmed) into such states of confusion that their perception of events and people around them are severely distorted.

Parental alienation in its most severe form is a heinous form of child abuse and neglect. It is a dangerous manipulation of children’s minds to alter their perception of reality about another parent. The purpose of marginalizing this parent is that he or she has no means to be an effective parent or to cut that parent out of a child’s life entirely, called a parentectomy.

The Tragic Result

Severe cases of parental alienation have the characteristics of being complicated in two ways. Combative parents duel with conflicting stories of “he said / she said,” and make it very difficult to determine who is telling the truth. Brainwashed children often support the side of the offending parent with dramatic stories of how they have been abused by the target parent. As target parents argue their position, they often seem defensive even when they are telling the truth. Programmed children lose their own sense of reason and their ability to express their own choice in the matter. If the alienator is not contained, these manipulations of the child’s mind become the incubator of their own future psychological problems. These children have an altered perception of reality that is not in their best interest or in the best interest of society.

Unfortunately, in many cases, fully capable parents and their extended family and friends who love the child and would provide a nurturing and healthy family life are eliminated. Once the cutting out of a parent has occurred the child is left under the full care of the most disturbed and dysfunctional parent. These tragedies are played out in our family law courts daily.

Target parents find that normal methods of handling parental conflict such as mediation and therapy do not work. They are forced to appeal to a judge to make a decision that will enable them to continue to see their children. This is often an expensive and perilous path that rarely results in a satisfying outcome as few people, including judges, attorneys and therapists understand the nature of the problem.

For more information about Stop Parental Alienation of Children (SPAC) go to “Become Informed”.

If you are reorganizing your family there is considerable amount of help available to you. One of the first places to start is by taking a parent education course that is offered at

Do Fathers Matter Uniquely for Adolescent Well-Being?

In children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, deadbeat dads, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, judicial corruption, mothers rights, Obama, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on May 2, 2009 at 5:30 am

by David Eggebeen
Research Brief No. 14, October 2008

The evidence is in and it is clear that fathers do matter for the lives of children. Hundreds of studies over the past two decades have consistently demonstrated that fathers have a measureable impact on children.[1] Studies show that infants are positively affected by the interactions and care given by their fathers.[2] Research has also established the importance of fathers for older children’s well-being. Good studies have found that the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources fathers bring or don’t bring to their families predict children’s behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction.[3] The reach of fathers has been shown to extend to adolescents and young adults, as research shows adolescents function best when their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives.[4] Finally, there is good evidence that fathers play an important role in helping their children make the transition to adulthood.[5]

Much remains that we do not know about the link between fathers and their children. Yet the first “stage” of work, that of establishing that fathers matter, is well advanced. The next stage, exploring the unique contributions of fathers as compared with mothers or other adults, remains less well developed. To date, debates about whether fathers are essential to optimal child development have taken place without much anchor in empirical research.[6] Assessing the unique effects of fathers on children is important for several reasons.

First, high rates of divorce and nonmarital childbearing mean that about half of children today are likely to live some of their childhood in a home where their father does not live.[7] As of 2007, 19.2 million children were not living with a biological or adoptive father or stepfather, compared to 9.5 million children living in fatherless homes in 1970.[8] While many nonresident fathers work hard to provide for their children and take parenting seriously, research shows that responsible, involved nonresident fathers remain rare. In a large number of cases, nonresident fathers are largely absent from the lives of their children.[9] Given this demographic reality, it remains imperative for family scholars to continue to research the full “cost” of fatherlessness for children.

Second, an increasing number of children are growing up in households that differ in important ways from two biological-parent households as well as female-headed households. Certainly, the numbers of children in multigenerational households, cohabiting-couple households, and other nontraditional living arrangements can no longer be ignored. Put another way, do children develop optimally when raised by their father and their mother? Or can any number of adults, regardless of their gender, parent as effectively as a father and a mother?

Finally, there is considerable cultural pressure today for fathers to be involved in the lives of their children. What exactly this “involvement” means, however, remains unclear. Should fathers act like mothers to their children? What does it mean that children might be better off if “there is a man around”?[10] Research on the similarities and differences between mothers and fathers in characteristics, behavior, and parenting may help parents better appreciate the distinctive parenting contributions of their spouse or child’s parent.

To date, research attempts to disentangle the effects of mothers and fathers have been thin. One review of the literature on the effects of fathers on children identified only 8 of 72 studies that took into account the relationship between the mother and the child when assessing the effects of father involvement.[11] Most of these studies have simply “controlled for” (or taken out) the effects of the mother’s characteristics in their assessment of whether fathers matter. The relationship between the mother’s and the father’s characteristics and behavior on a particular outcome, however, can potentially take three forms.[12] First, the father’s effects may be additive; that is, what fathers do may have an effect on adolescent outcomes over and above what mothers do. It is also possible, however, that the father’s and the mother’s involvement or characteristics are redundant; that is, children benefit from a father or mother—it doesn’t matter which one—engaging in certain behaviors or possessing certain characteristics. Finally, it is possible that fathers have a unique effect on certain outcomes; that is, fathers, but not mothers, are important for distinct outcomes. Little is yet understood about how the father’s influence is distributed across these possibilities.

In this research brief, I explore the importance of fathers and mothers for a nationally representative sample of teenagers, specifically examining whether a father’s human capital, social capital, and role modeling may uniquely influence his adolescent’s self-identity and behavior.

Sociological Perspectives on Fatherhood

When sociologists think about what fathers do and how they might make unique contributions to the welfare of their children beyond that of mothers, they focus less on the particulars of how fathers interact with their children (the province of psychologists) and more on what resources fathers directly or indirectly provide. Much of the sociologically oriented research concentrates on using survey data to compare children living in married-couple families with children in mother-headed families. While this approach has been useful for understanding the advantages for children of growing up in a two-parent family, it is not very useful for understanding the precise role fathers play because researchers are comparing unlike situations: children reared by one parent instead of two.[13] To better understand the unique roles of fathers and mothers, this brief compares the contributions of fathers and mothers within two-parent heterosexual families to determine if they are unique.

From a sociological perspective, what kinds of contributions to children might we expect from fathers? To answer this question, sociologists tend to think about what kinds of human capital and social capital fathers possess and how this might uniquely affect children. Also, because sociologists see both parents as the primary agents of socialization, they look at the role modeling of both mothers and fathers as important influences on children.

Human Capital

How mothers and fathers care for their children is strongly influenced by their human capital—the skills, knowledge, and values that they possess and that are associated with occupational success in American society. Parents with high levels of human capital, typically indicated by years of education, are more likely to do the kinds of things that enhance their children’s cognitive abilities and school performance. They are likely to provide a stimulating home environment by limiting television and encouraging reading. They are more likely to take their children to museums, libraries, plays, and other enriching activities. They may choose to live in communities with good schools or sacrifice to send their children to strong private or parochial schools. Mothers and fathers with high human capital not only encourage high occupational aspirations in their children but also promote the kinds of behavior in their children that are associated with success in school.

Most, but not all, studies show mothers and fathers with high education levels have children who do well in school.[14] Furthermore, most of these studies find that a father’s education affects children independently from a mother’s education. Although less studied, where fathers have good education, families have also been found in some studies to have children with positive self-esteem, life skills, social competence, and cooperativeness.[15] In short, there is consistent evidence that children benefit from the human capital characteristics of both their parents.

Social Capital

In a classic article in 1988, sociologist James Coleman identified “social capital” as resources embedded in family and community relationships. The quality of the relationship between each parent and child represents one important component of social capital.[16] A large number of studies that investigated associations between paternal supportive behavior and child outcomes found that the overwhelming majority showed significant associations between father support and measures of child well-being. Only a few studies, however, took into account characteristics of mothers, and among those that did, the evidence for father effects was weaker.[17]

Role Modeling

Beyond their resources and relationships, fathers and mothers influence their children simply by who they are and how they act. Children learn by observing those around them—and parents are the most visible adults in their world. Children who observe fathers and mothers treating others with respect, handling conflict in effective ways, and engaging in responsible and appropriate behavior are likely to emulate these behaviors themselves. On the other hand, children learn quite different lessons about themselves, how to behave or treat others, when parents treat each other badly, are neglectful or abusive to their children, or engage in inappropriate or illegal behavior. In addition, fathers and mothers uniquely model to their children what it means to be a man and a woman. The importance of parental modeling has been shown in a large number of studies, although only a few studies attempted to assess the effects of both mothers and fathers simultaneously. Two recent studies that did account for the role-modeling behaviors of both mothers and fathers show that each parent’s psychological health, drinking behavior, availability, as well as the degree of marital conflict all influence the child’s self-image and behavior.[18] More research needs to be done to understand the relative importance of mothers and fathers as role models.

An Analysis Using the National Study of Adolescent Health

Data drawn from the National Study of Adolescent Health (or “Add Health”) provides an excellent opportunity to examine these theoretical ideas. The Add Health survey is a long-term nationally representative sample of 20,745 middle and high school students first interviewed in 1995–1996. A second wave of interviews was conducted one year later, and a third round of 15,170 persons was interviewed in 2001.[19] I looked only at respondents who were living with both biological parents during the first round of interviews.[20] I focused on the link between mothers and fathers and two adolescent outcomes: poor mental health (indicated by the number of symptoms of depression) and bad behavior (indicated by participation in violent or delinquent activity in the past year). Both depression and delinquent behavior become significantly more common during adolescence and represent major risk factors for poor school performance, drug and alcohol abuse, and risky sexual behavior.[21]

I used two indicators of the mother’s and father’s human capital: education levels and whether or not they had worked full time in the previous year. I used two indicators of the father’s and mother’s social capital: adolescent reports of the relationship quality with their parent and how close they feel to their parent. Finally, I looked at three indicators of the mother’s and father’s role-modeling behavior: the number of activities they did with their adolescent, whether they were available for the adolescent at certain times of the day, and whether the parent engaged in excessive drinking.[22]

Fathers and Adolescent Depression and Delinquent Behavior

I found that the father’s levels of social and human capital, as well as some role-modeling behaviors, are strong predictors of the likelihood his child will show depression symptoms. Furthermore, the father’s characteristics and behavior remain statistically significant even when the mother’s human and social capital characteristics and her role-modeling behavior are taken into account. Specifically, if the father has a poor relationship with his adolescent, the adolescent reports lack of closeness, the father has a low education level, and the father does few activities with his adolescent, the more likely both male and female adolescents are to show depression symptoms, regardless of the mother’s characteristics.

Fathers also matter a great deal when it comes to delinquent behavior. The higher the father’s social capital (quality of father-child relationship and closeness) the less likely both boys and girls are to engage in delinquency. In addition, the father’s lack of education is associated with the son’s delinquency, and the father’s lack of availability increases the likelihood of the daughter’s delinquent behavior. All these indications of the father’s influence appear to exist regardless of the mother’s social and human capital and her role-modeling behavior.

Fathers as Complementary and Unique

In my analysis, I found that fathers typically make additional or complementary contributions beyond that of mothers to adolescent well-being. In almost all of these cases, the human and social capital of mothers and fathers tended to be additive in nature. In other words, two parents are better than one. In a few instances, adolescents benefit from having at least one parent modeling appropriate behavior—or suffer if one parent models bad behavior. For example, lack of one parent’s availability tended to increase the likelihood of the boy’s delinquency, and one parent’s excessive drinking tended to increase the likelihood of the girl’s delinquency. In addition, I found evidence that mothers and fathers make unique contributions to parenting depending on the gender of the adolescent, most often by their particular role modeling. For example, the father’s, but not mother’s, lack of involvement in the adolescent’s activities was associated with the girl’s depression symptoms, and the mother’s lack of involvement in her child’s activities uniquely predicted the boy’s delinquency. The mother’s, but not the father’s, lack of availability and excessive drinking were associated with the boy’s depression symptoms.


What these analyses clearly show is that mothers and fathers both make vital contributions to adolescent well-being. In a few instances, fathers and mothers appear to be interchangeable. There are more instances, however, in which mothers and fathers complement each other in their characteristics or behavior in ways that benefit children, and in most cases fathers make positive contributions to the well-being of their children beyond what mothers do.

While this research demonstrates that the well-being of adolescents living with their biological parents is influenced by both mothers and fathers, significant questions remain. Very little is known about how the parenting practices, parent-child relationships, and characteristics of the parents or other adults who care for children in cohabiting-couple families or other nontraditional family arrangements are similar to, or different from, married-couple families. Until careful, methodologically rigorous studies based on reasonably representative samples are conducted, we cannot be confident that these nontraditional arrangements offer the same potential benefits to children as growing up with involved, educated, and responsible mothers and fathers.


1. For recent reviews of this large literature, see William Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (2000): 1173–1191; Daniel Paquette, “Theorizing the Father-Child Relationship: Mechanisms and Developmental Outcomes,” Human Development 47 (2004): 193–219; Ross D. Parke, “Fathers and Families” in The Handbook of Parenting, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Being and Becoming a Parent, ed. Mark H. Bornstein (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002), 27–74.
2. Frank A. Pedersen, The Father-Infant Relationship: Observational Studies in a Family Setting (New York: Praeger, 1980); Michael W. Yogman, “Games Fathers and Mothers Play with Their Infants,” Infant Mental Health Journal 2 (1981): 241–248.
3. Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond.”
4. Cheryl Buehler, Mark J. Benson, and Jean M. Gerard, “Interparental Hostility and Early Adolescent Problem Behavior: The Mediating Role of Specific Aspects of Parenting,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 16, no. 2 (2006): 265–292.
5. Paul Amato, “Father-Child Relations, Mother-Child Relations, and Offspring Psychological Well-Being in Early Adulthood,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 56 (1994): 1031–1042.
6. Joseph H. Pleck, “Why Could Father Involvement Benefit Children? Theoretical Perspectives,” Applied Developmental Science 11, no. 4 (2007): 196–202; David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Pressler Press, 1996); Louis B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach, “Deconstructing the Essential Father,” American Psychologist 54, no. 6 (1999): 397–407.
7. Larry L. Bumpass and R. Kelly Raley, “Redefining Single-Parent Families: Cohabitation and Changing Family Reality,” Demography 32 (1995): 97–109.
8. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Survey, March and Annual Social and Economic Supplements, 2007 and earlier, retrieved 8/20/2008 at Census data does not distinguish among fathers as biological, adoptive, or stepfathers.
9. Kathleen Mullan Harris and Suzanne Ryan, “Father Involvement and the Diversity of Family Context” in Conceptualizing and Measuring Father Involvement, ed. Randal D. Day and Michael E. Lamb (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2004), 293–319; Daniel N. Hawkins, Paul R. Amato, and Valerie King, “Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence,” Journal of Marriage and Family, vol. no. 68 (2006): 125–136.
10. For a fascinating account of the tendency for lesbian mothers to want a male to be involved in their children’s lives, see Abbie E. Goldberg and Katherine R. Allen, “Imagining Men: Lesbian Mothers’ Perceptions of Male Involvement During the Transition to Parenthood,” Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (May 2007): 352–365.
11. Marsiglio et al., “Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond.”
12. For a related discussion of these issues, see Jeffrey T. Cookston and Andrea K. Finlay, “Father Involvement and Adolescent Adjustment: Longitudinal Findings from Add Health,” Fathering 4 (2006): 137–158.
13. Pleck, “Why Could Father Involvement Benefit Children?” 200.
14. See Paul Amato, “More Than Money? Men’s Contributions to Their Children’s Lives” in Men in Families: When Do They Get Involved? What Difference Does It Make? ed. Alan Booth and Ann C. Crouter (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1998), 241–278.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., 245.
17. Ibid., 253–255.
18. D. Wayne Osgood et al., “Routine Activities and Individual Devia­nt Behavior,” American Sociological Review 61 (1996): 635–655; Lauren M. Papp, E. Mark Cummings, and Alice C. Schermerhorn, “Pathways Among Marital Distress, Parental Symptomatology, and Child Adjustment,” Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2004): 368–384; Benjamin W. Voorhess et al., “Protective and Vulnerability Factors Predicting New-Onset Depressive Episode in a Representative of U.S. Adolescents,” Journal of Adolescent Health (2008): 605–616.
19. A more detailed description of the data can be found in Kathy M. Harris et al., “The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health: Research Design” (2003), available at
20. N=5,494.
21. Robert D. Ketterlinus, Michael E. Lamb, and Katherine A. Nitz, “Adolescent Nonsexual and Sex-Related Problem Behaviors: Their Prevalence, Consequences, and Co-Occurrence” in Adolescent Problem Behaviors, ed. Robert D. Ketterlinus and Michael E. Lamb (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994), 17–39; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Trends in the Well-Being of America’s Children and Youth: 2003 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2003).
22. Ordinary Least Squares regression was used to estimate the models. Besides the mother and father variables, all the models included the respondent’s age and race, family income, and parent’s marital status as control variables. These analyses were all weighted using the wave 1 sample weights, adjusting the sample to be nationally representative.

About the Author

David Eggebeen is Associate Professor of Human Development and Sociology; Senior Research Associate, Population Research Institute, Pennsylvania State University.

About This Brief

This research brief was commissioned by National Fatherhood Initiative and supported by Grant No. 2006-DD-BX-K003 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice.

About the National Fatherhood Initiative

The premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is one of the leading producers of research on the causes and consequences of father absence, public opinion on family issues, and trends in family structure and marriage. NFI’s national public service advertising campaign promoting fatherhood has generated television, radio, print, Internet, and outdoor advertising valued at over $500 million. Through its resource center, FatherSOURCE, NFI offers a wide range of innovative resources to assist fathers and organizations interested in reaching and supporting fathers. Learn more by visiting

About the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values
Directed by Elizabeth Marquardt, the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values issues research briefs, fact sheets, and other material related to marriage, families, and children. Its Scholarly Advisory Board includes William Doherty, University of Minnesota; Norval Glenn, University of Texas; Linda Waite, University of Chicago; W. Bradford Wilcox, University of Virginia; and James Q. Wilson, UCLA (Emeritus).

The Institute for American Values is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to strengthening families and civil society in the U.S. and the world. The Institute brings together approximately 100 leading scholars—from across the human sciences and across the political spectrum—for interdisciplinary deliberation, collaborative research, and joint public statements on the challenges facing families and civil society. In all of its work, the Institute seeks to bring fresh analyses and new research to the attention of policymakers in government, opinion makers in the media, and decision makers in the private sector.

Copyright October 2008, Institute for American Values

Federal Incentives Make Children Fatherless

In California Parental Rights Amendment, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on May 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm

Phyllis Schlafly
May 11, 2005

Why has Congress appropriated taxpayers’ money to give perverse incentives that break up families and deprive children of their fathers? The built-in financial incentives in the current child-support system have expanded the tragedy of fatherless children from the welfare class to millions of non-welfare divorced couples.

Americans have finally realized that providing generous welfare through Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was counterproductive because the father had to disappear in order for the mother to receive taxpayer-paid benefits. Fathers left the home, illegitimacy rose in alarming numbers, and children were worse off.

AFDC provided a taxpayer-paid financial incentive to reward girls with their own monthly check, food stamps, health care and housing if they have an illegitimate baby. “She doesn’t need me, she’s got welfare” became the mantra.

Congress tried to reform the out-of-control welfare system by a series of child-support laws passed in 1975, 1984, 1988, 1996 (the famous Republican Welfare Reform), and 1999. Unfortunately, these laws morphed the welfare system into a massive middle-class child-support system that deprives millions of children of fathers who never abandoned them.

As Ronald Reagan often said, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

People think that child-support enforcement benefits children, but it doesn’t. When welfare agencies collect child support, the money actually goes to the government to reimburse for welfare payments already given to mothers, supposedly to reduce the federal budget (which, of course, is never reduced).

In 1984, Congress passed the Child Support Enforcement Amendment which required the states to adopt voluntary guidelines for child-support payments. In 1988, Congress passed the Family Support Act, which made the guidelines mandatory, along with criminal enforcement, and gave the states less than a year to comply.

The majority of states quickly adopted the model guidelines conveniently already written by an HHS consultant who was president of what was shortly to become one of the nation’s largest private collection companies making its profits on the onerous guidelines that create arrearages.

The 1988 law extended the guidelines to ALL child-support orders, even though the big majority of those families never had to interact with government in order to pay or receive child support. This massive expansion of federal control over private lives uses a Federal Case Registry to exercise surveillance over 19 million citizens whether or not they are behind in child-support payments.

The states collect the child-support money and deposit it in a state fund, but the federal government pays most of the administrative costs and, therefore, dictates the way the system operates through mandates and financial incentives. The federal government pays 66 percent of the states’ administrative overhead costs, 80 percent of computer and technology-enhancement costs, and 90 percent of DNA testing for paternity.

In addition, the states share in a nearly-half-billion-dollar incentive reward pool based on whatever the state collects. The states can get a waiver to spend this bonus money anyway they choose.

However, most of the child support owed by welfare-class fathers is uncollectible. Most are either unemployed or earn less than $10,000 per year.

So, in order to cash in on federal bonus money, build their bureaucracies and brag about successful child-support enforcement, the states began bringing into the government system middle-class fathers with jobs who were never (and probably would never be) on welfare. These non-welfare families have grown to 83 percent of child-support cases and 92 percent of the money collected, creating a windfall of federal money flowing to the states.

The federal incentives drive the system. The more divorces, and the higher the child-support guidelines are set and enforced (no matter how unreasonable), the more money the state bureaucracy collects from the feds.

Follow the money. 1. The less time that non-custodial parents (usually fathers) are permitted to be with their children, 2. the more child support they must pay into the state fund, and 3. the higher the federal bonus to the states for collecting the money.

The states have powerful incentives to separate fathers from their children, to give near-total custody to mothers, to maintain the fathers’ high-level support obligations even if their income is drastically reduced, and to hang onto the father’s payments as long as possible before paying them out to the mothers. The General Accounting Office reported that in 2002 states were holding $657 million in UDC (Undistributed Child Support).

Fatherless boys are 63 percent more likely to run away and 37 percent more likely to abuse drugs, and fatherless girls are twice as likely to get pregnant and 53 percent more likely to commit suicide.

Fatherless boys and girls are twice as likely to drop out of high school twice as likely to end up in jail.

We can no longer ignore how taxpayers’ money is incentivizing divorce and creating fatherless children. Nor can we ignore the government’s complicity in the predictable social costs that result from more than 17 million children growing up without their fathers.

Parental Alienation Syndrome: Examining the Validity Amid Controversy

In children legal status, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, MMPI, MMPI 2, mothers rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on May 1, 2009 at 6:00 am

by J. Michael Bone, Ph.D.
The Family Law Section, Vol. XX, No. 1, Fall/Winter 2003, p 24-27

Use of the diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in family law cases has generated substantial debate. When one parent alleges the other is alienating a child or committing a similar wrongdoing, it is incumbent upon the attorneys within the adversarial process to explore and challenge the factual basis of both positions. In cases involving PAS, not only is the diagnosis of PAS questioned in predictable ways in the courtroom, the critique often extends on a more personal level to the syndrome’s originator, Richard Gardner, M.D.(1) Much of the literature often considered by courts as authoritative in challenging Gardner or PAS is based on opinion rather than fact.

Recently published articles contain criticisms and even misconceptions of PAS, and in some cases are critical of Gardner himself. To sort through the misconceptions, they have been extracted from various sources and cataloged below. Following each “myth” is a counter argument that places each criticism in context.

Myth #1: PAS is not in the DSMIV and therefore does not exist.

The DSM-IV is the diagnostic manual for all mental health providers. It is re-written every 10 to 12 years, and is the collaborative result of committees of mental health professionals reviewing the most recent scientific literature on all psychiatric disorders. The committees make recommendations on modifications of symptom lists for the diagnosis of a disorder, consider the inclusion of newly identified disorders, and in some cases remove disorders from classification.

The argument is that since PAS is not in the DSM-Iv, it does not exist. The DSM-IV, was published in 1994, with its committees first meeting from 1991 to 1993.(2) The first publication on PAS appeared in 1987.(3) At By J. Michael Bone, Ph.D., Winter Park that time there were understandably too few published articles and research studies on PAS to warrant its inclusion into the DSM-Iv. It is also important to note that inclusion into the DSM is necessarily a very conservative and stringent process, requiring many years of study and publication in peer-reviewed journals. Research on PAS was still in its infancy at the time of the DSM-IV, and was never even submitted for consideration. Currently, there are in excess of 135 peer-reviewed published articles on PAS from over 150 authors, as well as numerous books either devoted to PAS or including it.

The committees for the DSM-V have only recently begun meeting, and a PAS file has been opened. It is likely that PAS will be included in the DSM-v. However, even if it is not included, this does not necessarily mean it is invalid. Gille de la Tourette first described the syndrome that bears his name in 1885, but it was not until 1980 that the disorder was included in the DSM. Similarly, the AIDS virus was not in diagnostic manuals when it was first discovered, but its omission did not invalidate its existence. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was hotly debated when first described around the end of the war in Viet Nam, and at first was not considered a “real disorder.” Currently, PTSD is accepted by all in the profession, and no longer subject to such debate. Other examples abound.

Inclusion in the DSM is ideal but not necessary for a disorder to be considered a reality. Inclusion into the DSM is a process that should and does take time. All newly described disorders begin by not being included; this is simply how the growth of scientific knowledge occurs. To argue, as in the case of litigation, that non-inclusion in the DSM-IV de facto invalidates PAS is a misstatement and a distortion of this scientific process.

Myth #2: Only mothers are guilty of being PAS indoctrinators

When the first publications on PAS began to appear in the late 1980’s, it was true that most indoctrinating parents were mothers. It is noteworthy that it was just in the prior decade that the “best interest of the child presumption” replaced the “tender years doctrine,” making it more possible for mothers to lose custody of their children in divorce. Under the “tender years” doctrine, a mother’s losing custody was highly unlikely except in the case of serious abuse. Under the “best interest” presumption, mothers faced a new vulnerability. In response to this, it is likely that one parent indoctrinating the child against the other parent in the context of divorce proved to be a powerful strategy in winning custody. As more time has passed under the guidance of the “best interest” presumption, we are beginning to see more alienating fathers.(4) When these facts are ignored, the argument can be made that PAS is somehow biased against women. This issue has been addressed directly in Gardner’s writings; (5) however, critics of PAS continue to maintain that gender bias was and continues to be the case. This criticism misstates the argument and appears to “cherry pick” the literature to advocate a certain position. While it may be considered appropriate for advocates to emphasize certain points and de-emphasize other points in their zeal to protect their client’s interests, this advocacy position is highly improper for mental health professionals, who are ethically bound to the pursuit of impartial truth.

Myth #3: PAS is not a syndrome
A syndrome is simply a cluster of symptoms with a common etiology. The eight symptoms of PAS are the specific symptoms found in a child who has been successfully alienated. The more symptoms one sees of the eight, as well as the intensity of them, determines the level of severity of the PAS disorder.

The eight symptoms are: (1) A campaign of denigration; (2) weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the deprecation; (3) lack of ambivalence in the child; (4) the “independent thinker” phenomenon; (5) reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict; (6) absence of guilt over cruelty to and! or exploitation of the alienated parent; (7) presence of borrowed scenarios; (8) spread of animosity to the extended family of the alienated parent.

In mild PAS, the eight symptoms are mostly present with the exception of two symptoms, which are: lack of ambivalence and absence of guilt over cruelty to the alienated parent.

As one moves from mild to moderate PAS, the remaining six symptoms increase in their severity, and the two symptoms noted above begin to appear. In severe PAS, all the symptoms have progressed to the severe level including the two noted above. In other words, with severe PAS, the child loses his or her ability to empathize and to feel guilt in a patterned and predictable way. This level of symptom organization is the very hallmark of the existence of a syndrome.

Myth #4: PAS is not accepted within the professional community
It is often argued that PAS is not accepted in the professional community. One will occasionally see this in an article.(6) This argument is not supported by data, however; as noted above, there are currently over 135 articles published in professional journals that accept PAS. These articles either present argument why it does exist, or they assume the acceptance of PAS as a premise and have moved beyond that to explore nuances of the syndrome. To be accurate, PAS has passed the acceptance phase and has moved into the exploration phase. This criticism is therefore out of date and inaccurate.

Additionally, PAS has been argued and accepted in over 70 court cases in the United States. Internationally, PAS has been accepted in Great Britain, Germany, Canada, Israel, and other countries (see list from website). (7) In this country, PAS has been tested by the Fryer standard twice and affirmed in both cases. The first was in Florida in 1999.(8) The second was in Illinois in 2002.(9) In the face of this information, it is indeed difficult to argue that it is not accepted in the professional community. In fact, it is accepted not only by the professional community in this country, but also by the professional community in the countries listed above, as well as their court systems.

Myth #5: There is an absence of empirical research to support PAS

The multiple articles and publications devoted to PAS contain such empirical research, otherwise they would never haven accepted for publication. To argue that the existing PAS literature is not based on empirical research is tantamount to saying that the content of all of this published material is simply “made up.”

Myth #6: PAS is not accepted by the courts
Much of the response to this criticism has already been mentioned. Of special interest are the legal citations from Florida courts, which are listed in the footnotes.(10)

Myth #7: PAS protects genuinely abusive parents
This is also a misinformed position and one most often taken by those least familiar with the literature on PAS. It is clearly and repeatedly stressed in the PAS literature that a PAS diagnosis is not warranted when real abuse is present.(11) Therefore, truly abusive parents cannot take refuge behind a diagnosis of PAS.

It is true that some abusive parents may try to allege victimization by the other parent, whom they also allege to be negatively indoctrinating the child. This is a misapplication of PAS. The PAS evaluator must first and foremost determine the veracity of such abuse allegations. In fact, it is primarily within the PAS literature that strategies have been developed to detect truly abusive parents from falsely accused ones.

The PAS evaluator must take painstaking care in his or her evaluation of the alleged abusive parent, and not simply rely on clinical data from the alleged victim. Prior to the scientific contributions of PAS research, abuse evaluations focused primarily on an evaluation of the alleged victim, with only incidental evaluation of the alleged abuser. It is due almost exclusively to the contribution of PAS-related literature that methods of detecting the alleged perpetrator were developed. This is significant, since virtually all of the professional associations directed that such evaluations should not rely only or even primarily on an evaluation of the victim, but must rely heavily on other sources. It is the PAS literature that has provided strategies to do this.

Myth #8: PAS is the only source of alienation of children
It is well documented and understood throughout the literature that children can be alienated from a parent by that parent’s own poor behavior. For example, we know that physically and sexually abusive parents can alienate their children. It is also true, though, that it requires severe and fairly consistent abuse to alienate a child from a parent. Anyone who has worked with abused children quickly sees how abused children are still very much affectively tied to their abusive parents. This is one of the most difficult problems in treating such families. It is clear, however, that there comes a point when a parent’s abuse can cause a child to want to escape or have no contact with that parent.

What is notable about PAS children is their level of repulsion from their targeted parent is grossly inconsistent with the alleged parental behavior that turned the child away. For example, a PAS child will express never wanting to see a parent again because of “their cooking”, or because they “talk like a bumpkin”, or because they “take them to Disney World too much.” This inconsistency is a hallmark diagnostic centerpiece of PAS, but it is through what we know about the effects of real abuse and what it truly takes to alienate a child from a parent that we derive our knowledge of PAS. The knowledge of real abuse is our measuring stick; it is from truly abused children that we learn how much abuse children will often take without becoming alienated from that parent.

Myth #9: All of Gardner’s works are self-published and he is a fraud
Richard Gardner, M.D. was a professor of medicine at Columbia University’s College of Medicine. His curriculum vitae are easily available. He has published multiple books and peer-reviewed publications beyond those published by his own company. Additionally, the American Psychological Association’s (APA) official “Guideline for Custody Evaluations” lists three of Gardner’s works in its elite list of references for psychologists who do custody evaluations, including Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. This reading list, which is officially endorsed by the APA, has over thirty references, and Gardner is the only author listed three times. If Gardner’s work and reputation were not completely accepted, these listings would not be contained in the APA reference list.

While it is true that Gardner developed his own publishing company, it is not true that he is not otherwise published. While most would agree that Richard Gardner was the most prolific and tireless authority on PAS in the world, he is not the only source on it. Over 70 writers in addition to Gardner authored the list of publications noted above, and Gardner’s company has published none of them. The implication of this criticism is that there is something improper, perhaps even fraudulent, about Gardner having his own publishing company, and that this somehow invalidates PAS. As an aside, it is also interesting to note that Sigmund Freud began his own publishing house in the nineteenth century.

Myth #10: PAS is based on the Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale
This criticism appeared in the family law publication, The Florida Family Law Commentator, which should be taken as evidence of this criticism’s widespread acceptance. In this article, its author argued that Richard Gardner had published a test called the Sexual Abuse Legitimacy Scale (SALS), which was designed to help identify genuine sexual abusers from the falsely accused. In 1987, Gardner withdrew the SALS from publication. He did so for two reasons. First, he found that its users were scoring it too subjectively, and that the detailed data gathering that was required was sometimes not adequately done. Second, it was a requirement for its use that both the parents and the children be seen by the evaluator, which was sometimes also not being done. Due to these two reasons, Gardner decided to withdraw it himself rather than risk its being misused.(12) The content of the Scales was never invalidated. Gardner’s critics, however, argue that PAS is based on the SALS, which they wrongly label as being invalidated. Additionally, the first article on PAS was published in 1985, two years before the SALS was published and then subsequently withdrawn, which further overturns this criticism.(13) Obviously, PAS could not have been based on something that did not yet exist.

One intriguing aspect of the continued criticisms of PAS in the face of overwhelming information is their indelibility. All of these criticisms can be shown to be groundless and false, but they tend to somehow be resurrected in the next hearing or the next pleading. It is difficult to explain the tenacity of these falsehoods. A recent publication of the’ American Bar Association featured a review of Divorce Poison, an book by psychologist Richard Warshak, Ph.D. The reviewer criticized Warshak for relying on the work of Richard Gardner regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome, stating, “…the PAS doctrine has widely been discounted.”(14) As discussed above, this is simply not accurate; it does, however, expose the peculiar nature of dealing with and litigating PAS. There is tremendous misinformation about PAS and its critics seem driven to maintain these inaccuracies in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It is perhaps reminiscent of the father who has been falsely accused of sexually abusing his child in the context of a custody dispute. In spite of the fact that this man has been proven to be innocent, his relationship with his children has been indelibly contaminated by the allegation. The psychodynamics of this phenomenon are difficult to ascertain. As for Richard Gardner, it has occurred to me that he may well be the ultimate targeted parent, falsely vilified in the courts and accused of being a danger to those children whom his work has protected.


1. It is perhaps ironic that this manuscript was begun just months before Richard Gardner’s death in May of this year. Dr. Gardner was responsible for first describing Parental Alienation Syndrome. Since its description almost twenty years ago, he has been responsible for creating an awareness and acceptance of this terrible disorder in children. Since PAS occurs in the divorce context, he suffered many unfair and manufactured criticisms, and in many respects became himself the quintessential and symbolic “target parent” for those indoctrinating parents that his discoveries and work confronted. In spite of this, he maintained a tireless focus on his work, and even a sense of humor. He continued to make contributions to the field until the day of his death, and his tenacity was a lesson to anyone who knew him. His passing is a great loss to us all, and his friendship is missed deeply by those of us who were fortunate enough to know and to work with him. That said, his death might also serve as impetus to us all to continue on in developing remedies for PAS children and families. We are seeing now that PAS can be treated. We are seeing that with the proper interventions, even severely alienated children can be united with both of their parents. These interventions, however, require the conviction and courage that Dr. Gardner casually exemplified every day in his work.
2. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-IY, American Psychiatric Association (1994).
3. Gardner, RA., The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between False and Genuine Sex Abuse. Creeskill, N.J., Creative Therapeutics, Inc. (1987)
4. Gardner has recently observed that the current ratio of mothers vs. fathers as alienators are about 50/50. Personal communication.
5. Gardner, RA., The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. Creeskill, N.J.: Creative Therapeutics, Inc. See Chapter Five, Subsection entitled, “The Underlying Psychodynamics of the Alienating Father” pp. 188-194 (1992).
6. Ackerman, M., “Does Parental Alienation Syndrome Really Exist?”, 2000 Wiley Family Law Update, 145-165 (2000). In this work, Ackerman relies heavily on an article published by Kathleen Faller in which she grossly distorts issues related to PAS. Gardner’s rebuttal to it was published before Ackerman wrote this chapter, but was purposefully ignored by him. See Gardner, R “Rebuttal to Kathleen Faller’s Article,”Child Maltreatment, 3(4): 309-312 (1998).
7. Multiple of legal cases on international scene
8. Kilgore v. Boyd, 783 So.2nd 257 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000).
9. Bates v. Bates, 18th Judicial Circuit, Dupage County, IL. Case No. 99D958, January 17, 2002.
10. The legal citations in Florida are as follows: . Blosser v. Blosser, 707 So. 2d 718 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998). . Schutz v. Schutz, 522 So. 2d 874 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988). . Tucker v. Greenberg, 674 So. 2d 807 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996). . Berg-Perlow v. Perlow, 816 So.2d 210. . Loten v. Ryan, 15th Circuit Ct, Palm Bch County, Case No. CD 93-6567 FA, 12/11/00 . Kilgore v. Boyd, (Fla 2d DCA 2002) 733 So 2d 546 This case was the first FRYE test for PAS . Boyd v. Kilgore, 773 So. 2nd 546 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000), prohibition den. . McDonald v. McDonald, 9th Circuit, Orange County, FL. Case No. D-R90-11079, 2/ 20/01 . Blackshear v. Blackshear, Hillsborough County, FL, 13th Circuit. 95-08436
11. Gardner, R, “Differentiating between the Parental Alienation Syndrome and bona fide Abuse/Neglect,” The American Journal of Family Therapy, 27(2), p. 97-107 (1999).
12. Personal communication.
13. Gardner, R A., “Gardner’s Rebuttal to Carol S. Bruch’s Article “Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child custody Cases,” Family Law Quarterly, 35(3): 527-552 (2001).
14. American Psychological Association: Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings, American Psychologist, 49(7): p. 677-680 (1994).

J. Michael Bone, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist with a solo practice in Winter Park, Florida. He specializes in high conflict divorce, with a special interest in Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Dr. Bone has conducted .continuing education seminars for psychologists on PAS in multiple states, and worked directly with the late Richard Gardner, M.D. on many occasions. He has authored multiple publications on PAS, and served on the Scientific and Professional Advisory Board of the Parental Alienation Research Foundation in Washington D.c. Dr. Bone has also served as expert witness on PAS in Florida as well as in other states, and has been appointed by the court to make recommendations involving PAS and families.

The original article can be found here:

When Children Get Caught in the Middle

In children legal status, Childrens Rights, Divorce, DSM-IV, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, MMPI, MMPI 2, mothers rights, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parents rights on April 30, 2009 at 6:00 am

Parental Alienation Syndrome

When Children Get Caught in the Middle

By Kelly Burgess

Most people have probably witnessed parental alienation. This is where one parent denigrates another in front of the children. In its most severe form it can lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, where the child completely rejects contact with one parent.

PAS was first described in 1985 by the late Richard Gardner. J. Michael Bone, who worked extensively with Gardner, notes that PAS occurs almost exclusively in the context of divorce. “Most of the research done on this suggests various motivations, but in general it involves anger and a desire for revenge because of abandonment,” Bone says. “However, sometimes it’s also engaged in by the person who initiates the divorce because of emotional instability or a desire for control.”

In addition, although in the past it was thought that the mother was primarily the alienating parent, Bone notes that it’s now thought to occur equally between the mother and father. Parental alienation can manifest itself through constant negative and untrue comments by one parent against the other, through false allegations of abuse and, in its most extreme form, literally through abducting and convincing the child that his mother or father no longer loves him or is no longer living.

“It’s easy to think that one parent could never have the power to turn a child against a parent they’ve always loved and been close to, but one of the things we’ve discovered is that it’s not that hard to do,” Bone says. “Divorce is very tough on kids and it represents a loss for the child. It’s not that great of a leap for the child to start worrying that if he doesn’t ‘side’ with the one parent against the other he may lose both parents.”

What makes it worse is that the alienated parent often reacts by getting angry at the child, thus reinforcing what the child is being told: that this parent is a bad person, or doesn’t love them or is angry at them. In fact, the child is not responsible for the alienation; they are merely a pawn.

Fighting Alienation

Jeff Opperman of Seymour, Conn., has been divorced for six years and has not seen his youngest son for the last five. “At first there was contact but it was very negative,” Opperman says. “I forced him to spend time with me even though he obviously didn’t want to. Finally, I just gave up and there’s been no contact at all since then. I send e-mails and gifts just in case there might be a breakthrough, but they just go into a black hole.”

In Opperman’s case, the alienation started before he and his ex-wife separated, when they first began having problems in the marriage. Bone says this is not uncommon. However, even in retrospect, Opperman is pessimistic about whether or not he could have fought successfully against his ex-wife’s influence over their son.
While PAS was finally accepted by a court of law in a case in 2000, in general it boils down to situations that are “he said, she said” and is extremely difficult to prove. “It’s very easy to split up property and money in a bank, but what do you do whe you have a child who says he doesn’t want to have anything to do with one parent, and one parent thinks the child should be able to make that decision while the other parent is protesting it,” Opperman says. “The courts simply aren’t prepared or equipped to deal with this.”

Complicating the situation are those rare instances where one parent truly is a bad person and does want to hurt the child and the parent accused of being alienating is just trying to protect the child.

Recognizing PAS

So what’s a parent to do? Opperman says you can watch for signs that your spouse has the potential to alienate. Look for things like the spouse having little secrets with the child or telling the child things about the parental relationship that are inappropriate. It may be worth holding off on divorce or separation and getting counseling to work out child relationship issues before going ahead with ending the marriage.

Bone says a parent who thinks he or she is being alienated should find out as much as possible about parental alienation and PAS so that they react appropriately and don’t make matters worse with the child. He is also more optimistic that action can be taken through the courts than Opperman is, but it’s important not to blame the child for actions over which he or she has no control.

Opperman, like all alienated parents, can’t do much but hope for the day when his son realizes that his father loved him all along and chooses to resume their relationship.

A Happy Ending

One happy ending came for Lisa Bingham of Highland, Calif., whose parents divorced when she was 3. In the course of a nasty custody battle her mother constantly told her terrible things about her father until Bingham came to hate him and refused to see him.

Then, when she was 21 years old, she contacted her father and they had a heart-to-heart talk. That’s when she realized that her father had been unfairly pushed out of her life. They’re still playing catch up for the years they missed, but Bingham thinks it’s important that other young adults hear her story and give their estranged parent a chance to tell their side of the story.

The original article can be found here: