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Divorce, Custody and Borderline Personality Disorder :: Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, child abuse, Child Custody, Children and Domestic Violence, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, due process rights, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Fit Parent, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jayne Major, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine on February 25, 2010 at 10:45 pm

The force of empirical evidence is overwhelming not only in the testing procedures, a.k.a. MMPI-II testing, but in the actions of parents that alienate children, make false allegations of abuse, and are reciprocal perpetrators of domestic violence.  Borderline Personality Disorder, with Histrionic Personality Disorder types are classic Parental Alienators.

Divorce, Custody and Borderline Personality Disorder

I have spent a good part of my legal career working in the area of divorce and custody in the context of a parent with suspected or diagnosed BPD and NPD traits. Borderline personalities in divorce cases make for higher conflict cases, and when the cases involve the custody of children, many times there are elements of domestic violence, false allegations of domestic violence or sexual abuse, distortion campaigns, and parental alienation. I was fortunate to write the foreword to, and help edit, Bill Eddy’s landmark book on divorcing a borderline or narcissist, Splitting.

Today I saw a reference to a recent Time Magazine article on BPD. “The Mystery of Borderline Personality Disorder,” by John Cloud.

“A 2008 study of nearly 35,000 adults in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that 5.9% — which would translate into 18 million Americans — had been given a BPD diagnosis. As recently as 2000, the American Psychiatric Association believed that only 2% had BPD. (In contrast, clinicians diagnose bipolar disorder and schizophrenia in about 1% of the population.) BPD has long been regarded as an illness disproportionately affecting women, but the latest research shows no difference in prevalence rates for men and women. Regardless of gender, people in their 20s are at higher risk for BPD than those older or younger.

What defines borderline personality disorder — and makes it so explosive — is the sufferers’ inability to calibrate their feelings and behavior. When faced with an event that makes them depressed or angry, they often become inconsolable or enraged. Such problems may be exacerbated by impulsive behaviors: overeating or substance abuse; suicide attempts; intentional self-injury.”

What concerns me most in cases involving personality disorders is the high likelihood of levels of parental alienation by the disordered parent, along with false allegations made by the disordered parent to harm the other parent’s custody case. If you are in a divorce with BPD or NPD, or contemplating a divorce from a disordered spouse, please contact my office to arrange an initial consultation.

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Divorce, Custody and Borderline Personality Disorder :: Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog.

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Parental Alienation – Dr. L.F. Lowenstein – Southern England Psychological Services

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Custody for Mothers, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, cps fraud, custody, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, DSM-V, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jayne Major, Liberty, Marriage, Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Disorders, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy on January 20, 2010 at 5:58 pm

Parental Alienation – Dr. L.F. Lowenstein – Southern England

The comparison of parental alienation to the “Stockholm syndrome”

Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D

Southern England Psychological Services

2006

What follows is in great part fact and what is not fact is based on supposition and psychological assessment of how the Stockholm Syndrome develops and how it has worked in the case of Natascha Kampusch recently reported in the press. She was abducted and kept in a prison in an underground cell without natural light and air being pumped into her enclosure. The Stockholm Syndrome was coined in 1973 by Nils Bejerot, a psychiatrist, while working for the police. It occurred that there was a bank robbery and four bank clerks were taken hostage by an armed robber who threatened to kill them. To the surprise of the police, the hostages stated that they had no wish to be rescued indicating that they felt sympathy for their captor.

It was assumed that the feeling of stress and helplessness and possibly a desire to survive led to this unlikely scenario. All the captives were eventually released without harm. The hostage taker himself must have been influenced by the behaviour of his victims as they were influenced by him. One can only wonder how this phenomenon occurred after such a short captivity. In the case of Natascha Kampusch her period of captivity of eight years probably brought about deeper psychological changes and more enduring ones.

As a specialist in the area of parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome where I have acted as a psychological expert in the courts, there appears to be a considerable similarity between parental alienation and the Stockholm Syndrome. The alienator in the case of the Stockholm Syndrome also needs to extinguish any desire in the victim’s past, seeking to demonstrate any allegiance to anyone other than the powerful captor of that individual.

Here too is demonstrated the power of the alienator and the insignificance of the power of the alienated party/parties. It is almost certain that Natascha Kampusch had opportunity in the past to escape from her captor, yet chose not to do so. This was despite her initial closeness to her family. A combination of fear, indoctrination and “learned helplessness”, promoted the total loyalty and obedience of the child to her captor. This captor was no longer viewed, as was the case initially, as evil but as necessary to the child’s well-being and her survival. A similar scenario occurs in the case of children who are alienated against an absent parent.

My forthcoming book about to be published and my website http://www.parental-alienation.info provides information as to why Natascha may have remained so slavishly with her captor for eight years of her young life. Why she decided finally to escape her enslavement will in due course be established. I will attempt to explain what might have occurred to finally induce her to escape.

A child who has had a good relationship with the now shunned parent will state: “I don’t need my father/mother; I only need my mother/father. Such a statement is based on the brainwashing received and the power of the alienator who is indoctrinating the child to sideline the previously loving parent.

In the case of the Stockholm Syndrome, we have in some ways a similar scenario. Here the two natural loving parents have been sidelined by the work of subtle or direct alienation by the perpetrator of the abduction of the young girl. At age 10, the child is helpless to resist the power of her abductor.

To the question: “How does the abductor eventually become her benefactor?”, we may note the process is not so dissimilar to the brainwashing carried by the custodial parent. This is done for the double reason of: 1) Gaining the total control over the child and consequently its dependence upon them. 2) To sideline the other parent and to do all possible to prevent and/or curtail contact between the child and the absent parent/parents.

The primary reason for such behaviour is the intractable hostility of the custodial parents towards one another. This reason does not exist in the case of the abductor of a child such as occurred in the case of Natascha Kambusch. Nevertheless the captor wished to totally alienate or eliminate the child’s loyalty or any feeling towards her natural parents. Due to the long period away from her parents and a total dependence for survival on her captor, Natascha’s closeness to her family gradually faded. She may even have felt that her own parents were making little or no effort to find her and rescue her. This view may also have been inculcated by her captor.

Her captor’s total mastery and control over her, eventually gave her a feeling of security. She could depend on the man to look after her with food, shelter, warmth, protection and hence led to her survival. Such behaviour on the part of the captor led over time not only to “learned helplessness” and dependence, but in a sense to gratefulness. As he was the only human being in her life this was likely to happen. She therefore became a ready victim of what is commonly termed the “Stockholm Syndrome” or the victim of “Parental Alienation.”

This led even to her beginning to love her captor. This view has been substantiated by the fact that Natascha found it difficult to live and feel any real closeness to her natural parents once she was rescued or once she ran away from her captor. She even pined for the loss of the captor who had since committed suicide. Even her speech had been altered from the native Austrian or Viennese dialect to the North German speech due to the fact that she only had access to the outside world via radio and television. This again, however, was carefully monitored by her captor. He controlled what she could see on television and listen to on the radio from outside her underground cell. There was little in Natascha’s present life to remind her of her past except for the dress that she wore when she was captured.

While she developed physically from 10-18 years, her weight changed but little. Why did she decide eventually to leave her captor? This is a question that requires an answer. It is the view of the current author that the answer lies in the fact that she may have had a quarrel with her captor, possibly over a very minor issue. The result was her leaving her captor and then regretting doing so, especially after she heard of his death. By the time her captor, undoubtedly fearing the retribution by the law, had ended his life, she had pined for him.

After eight years or living in close proximity to his victim, some form of intimacy undoubtedly occurred including a sexual one. This led to a mutual need and even dependence. It is likely that the “learned helplessness” of the victim succumbed eventually a caring, perhaps even loving relationship developing. It is also likely that the psychological explanation is that attribution, helplessness and depression in the victim for the loss of her parents quickly gave way to seeking to make the best of her situation while under the total domination of her captor.

Again the same scenario occurs in the case of parental alienation where the power of the dominant custodial parent programmes the child/children to eschew or marginalise the absent parent. That absent parent no longer appears to be important and is even likely to be viewed as damaging to the child’s survival.

Psychological Services.

NEW CAMPAIGN: Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition « Fathers & Families

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Child Custody for Mothers, Child Support, child trafficking, Children and Domestic Violence, children legal status, Civil Rights, CPS, custody, deadbeat dads, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, False Allegations of Domestic Violence, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fathers rights, Jayne Major, Liberty, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Protective Dads, Protective Parents, Restraining Orders, Single Parenting on December 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition

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

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

Fathers & Families wants to ensure that the DSM-V Task Force is aware of the scope and severity of Parental Alienation. To this end, we are asking our members and supporters to write DSM. If you or someone you love has been the victim of Parental Alienation, we want you to tell your story to the DSM-V Task Force. To do so, simply fill in our form by clicking here.

Once you have filled out our form, Fathers & Families will print out your letter and send it by regular US mail to the three relevant figures in DSM-V: David J. Kupfer, M.D., the chair of the DSM-V Task Force; Darrel A. Regier, M.D., vice-chair of the DSM-V Task Force; and Daniel S. Pine, M.D., chair of the DSM-V Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence Work Group.

DSM V is struggling with many weighty matters and as things currently stand, Parental Alienation might not get much notice or attention. By having our supporters write to leading DSM figures, we hope to draw attention to the issue.

Again, to tell your story, click here.

Supporters can send letters to DSM until the middle of 2010. In 2011, DSM will be considering the issue. In 2012, DSM V will be written, and in 2013 DSM V will be published. When you write your letter, please:

1) Keep the focus on your child(ren) and how the Parental Alienation has harmed them.
2) Stick to the facts related to the Parental Alienation.
3) Be succinct.
4) Fill in all fields on our form.
5) Be civil and credible, and avoid any profanity or use of insulting language

Again, to write the DSM Committee about your story, click here.

Running these campaigns takes time and money–the postage and supplies alone on this campaign will be several thousand dollars. To make a tax-deductible contribution to support this effort, click here.

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families


Frequently Asked Questions about Parental Alienation

1) What is Parental Alienation?

Parental Alienation is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of divorce/separation and/or child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent. Parental Alienation is also sometimes referred to as “Parental Alienation Disorder” or “Parental Alienation Syndrome.” To learn more, click here.


2) Most claims of Parental Alienation are made by divorced or separated fathers. When fathers have custody of their children, do they sometimes alienate them from the noncustodial mothers?

Yes, both genders can be perpetrators and victims of Parental Alienation, but those hurt the worst are always the children, who lose one of the two people in the world who love them the most.

3) Do fathers (or mothers) sometimes make false claims of Parental Alienation against mothers (or fathers)?

Yes. There are parents who have alienated their own children through their abuse or personality defects, and who attempt to shift the blame to their former spouses or partners by falsely claiming the other parent alienated the children from them.

4) How common is Parental Alienation?

Parental Alienation is a common, well-documented phenomenon that is the subject of numerous studies and articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. A longitudinal study published by the American Bar Association in 2003 followed 700 “high conflict” divorce cases over a 12 year period and found that elements of PA were present in the vast majority of the cases studied. Some experts estimate that there are roughly 200,000 children in the U.S. who have PAD, similar to the number of children with autism. To learn more, click here.

5) Opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation claim that abusive fathers often employ Parental Alienation as a way to wrest custody from protective mothers in family court. They’ve promoted several cause celebre cases in recent years as a way to garner public sympathy and political support for their agenda. Is their portrayal of these cases accurate?

No–most of these cases are being misrepresented by opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation. Examples include: Genia Shockome (publicized by Newsweek magazine and others); Sadia Loeliger (one of the alleged heroines of a 2005 PBS documentary called Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories; and Holly Collins (publicized by Fox News, Inside Edition and others.) In each of these three cases, opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation badly misrepresented the cases, turning reality on its head. To learn more about these cases, click here and here.

Despite this, opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation push for reforms which will make it easier to deny parents shared custody or visitation rights based on unsubstantiated abuse claims. They also push for laws to exclude evidence of Parental Alienation in family law proceedings. One example is California AB 612, a bill that a bill that would have prevented target parents of Parental Alienation from raising PA as an issue in their cases. In 2007 and 2009, Fathers & Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson helped build a professional coalition to scuttle AB 612.

6) Opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation, as well as some mental health professionals, claim that Parental Alienation should not be recognized by DSM as a mental disorder. What’s Fathers & Families’ position on this aspect of the issue?

Many intelligent, accomplished mental health authorities do believe that Parental Alienation Disorder should be considered a mental disorder, but there are also credible experts who do not. DSM has accepted several relational disorders, such as Separation Anxiety Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and PAD is a typical relational disorder. Any target parent of Parental Alienation would certainly believe that his or her child’s sudden, irrational hatred constitutes some sort of a mental disorder. In Parental Alienation Disorder and DSM-V, numerous mental health authorities make the case for including PAD–to learn more, click here.

Dr. Richard A. Warshak explains:

PAS fits a basic pattern of many psychiatric syndromes. Such syndromes denote conditions in which people who are exposed to a designated stimulus develop a certain cluster of symptoms.

Nonetheless, Fathers & Families’ emphasis is not on these technical aspects of the issue, but instead on the harm Parental Alienation does to children. The malignant behavior of alienating a child from his or her mother or father after a divorce or separation is a widespread social problem which merits a much more vigorous judicial and legislative response.

7) How will children caught in Parental Alienation be helped if Parental Alienation is included in DSM V?

Inclusion of Parental Alienation in DSM V will increase PA’s recognition and legitimacy in the eyes of family court judges, mediators, custody evaluators, family law attorneys, and the legal and mental health community in general. Psychiatrist William Bernet says that adding PA “would spur insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to a charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment.” To learn more, click here.

8) What is the child’s part in PAS?

The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior. The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger. The child is sure of him or herself and doesn’t demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate. The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this. The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent. The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent. The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced. Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brain-washed against the alienated parent. The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn’t want to spend any time with this parent, even though he or she has told him that he has to, it is a court order, etc. The alienator typically responds, “There isn’t anything that I can do about it. I’m not telling him that he can’t see you.” (excerpted from Dr. Jayne A. Major’s Parents Who Have Successfully Fought Parental Alienation Syndrome).

9) Are there varying degrees of Parental Alienation?

Yes. Dr. Douglas Darnall, in his book Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation, describes three categories of PA.

The mild category he calls the naïve alienators. They are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and change.

The moderate category is the active alienators. When they are triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries.

In the severe category are the obsessed alienators or those who are involved in PAS. They are committed to destroying the other parent’s relationship with the child. In the latter case, Dr. Darnall notes that we don’t have an effective protocol for treating an obsessed alienator other than removing the child from their influence.

An important point is that in PAS there is no true parental abuse and/or neglect on the part of the alienated parent. If this were the case, the child’s animosity would be justified. (excerpted from Dr. Jayne A. Major’s Parents Who Have Successfully Fought Parental Alienation Syndrome).

The Case for Including Parental Alienation Disorder in DSM V

Parental Alienation Disorder and DSM-V was written by psychiatrist William Bernet, M.D., Wilfrid v. Boch-Galhau, M.D., Joseph Kenan, M.D., Joan Kinlan, M.D., Demosthenes Lorandos, Ph.D., J.D., Richard Sauber, Ph.D., Bela Sood, M.D., and James S. Walker, Ph.D. In it, they make the case for including Parental Alienation Disorder in DSM V.

Their proposal was submitted to the Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence Work Group for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition in August of 2008. Below are some excerpts from their paper.

Bernet & Co. write:

Although parental alienation disorder has been described in the psychiatric literature for at least 60 years, it has never been considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). When DSM-IV was being developed, nobody formally proposed that parental alienation disorder be included in that edition. Since the publication of DSM-IV in 1994, there have been hundreds of publications (articles, chapters, books, court opinions) regarding parental alienation in peer reviewed mental health journals, legal literature, and the popular press. There has been controversy among mental health and legal professionals regarding parental alienation…

Regarding our proposed diagnostic criteria, we say that the essential feature of parental alienation disorder is that a child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a hostile divorce – allies himself or herself strongly with one parent (the preferred parent) and rejects a relationship with the other parent (the alienated parent) without legitimate justification. The primary behavioral symptom is the child’s resistance or refusal to visit or have parenting time with the alienated parent…

For purposes of this proposal, we are referring to the mental condition under consideration as parental alienation disorder (PAD). Depending on the context, we sometimes refer to parental alienation syndrome (PAS). Our primary criteria for PAD are the attitudes and behavior of the child, that is, the child essentially has a false belief that the alienated parent is a dangerous person and must be avoided. We reserve the word alienation for individuals with this false belief, whether the false belief was brought about by the alienating parent or by other circumstances, such as the child who avoids being caught between warring parents by gravitating to one side and avoiding the other side of the battle…

Bernet & Co. believe that PAD should be included in DSM-V for the following reasons:

Relational disorders are being considered for DSM-V, and PAD is an exemplar of this type of mental disorder.

Despite controversies regarding terminology and etiology, the phenomenon of PAD is almost universally accepted by mental health and legal professionals. Research indicates that PAD is a valid and reliable construct.

Establishing diagnostic criteria will make it possible to study PAD in a more systematic manner.

Establishing diagnostic criteria will reduce the opportunities for abusive parents and unethical attorneys to misuse the concept of PAD in child custody disputes.

Establishing diagnostic criteria will be helpful for: clinicians who work with divorced families; divorced parents, who are trying to do what is best for their children; and children of divorce, who desperately need appropriate treatment that is based on a correct diagnosis.

One of the important points that Bernet & Co. make is that PA is not new. They write:

The phenomenon of PAD has been described in the mental health literature for at least 60 years and the concept is almost universally accepted by psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers who evaluate and treat these children. Also, the concept of parental alienation is generally understood and accepted by legal professionals. The symptoms of PAD were described in the mental health literature long before Richard Gardner coined the term “parental alienation syndrome” (in 1985).

In 1949, Wilhelm Reich wrote in his classic book, Character Analysis, that some divorced parents defend themselves against narcissistic injury by fighting for custody of their child and defaming their former spouse. These parents seek “revenge on the partner through robbing him or her of the pleasure in the child. … In order to alienate the child from the partner, it is told that the partner is an alcoholic or psychotic, without there being any truth to such statements”.

In 1952, Louise Despert referred in her book, Children of Divorce, to the temptation for one parent “to break down” their child’s love for the other parent.

In 1980, Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly referred to an alliance between a narcissistically enraged parent and a particularly vulnerable older child or adolescent, who “were faithful and valuable battle allies in efforts to hurt and punish the other parent. Not infrequently, they turned on the parent they had loved and been very close to prior to the marital separation”.

Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee later discussed how court-ordered visitation can “be entangled with Medea-like rage.” They said, “A woman betrayed by her husband is deeply opposed to the fact that her children must visit him every other weekend. … She cannot stop the visit, but she can plant seeds of doubt – ‘Do not trust your father’ – in the children’s minds and thus punish her ex-husband via the children. She does this consciously or unconsciously, casting the seeds of doubt by the way she acts and the questions she asks…”

Bernet & Co. write:

In 1994, the American Psychological Association published “Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings”…the authors of the guidelines provided a bibliography of “Pertinent Literature,” which included The Parental Alienation Syndrome and two other books by Richard Gardner.

In 1997, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) published “Practice Parameters for Child Custody Evaluations.” This document, an “AACAP Official Action,” referred explicitly to “Parental Alienation” and said, “There are times during a custody dispute when a child can become extremely hostile toward one of the parents. The child finds nothing positive in his or her relationship with the parent and prefers no contact. The evaluator must assess this apparent alienation and form a hypothesis of its origins and meaning. Sometimes, negative feelings toward one parent are catalyzed and fostered by the other parent; sometimes, they are an outgrowth of serious problems in the relationship with the rejected parent”…

There has been an enormous amount of research on the psychosocial vicissitudes of children of divorced parents, including children with PAS. The most exhaustive single volume regarding PAS is The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome, published in 2006. More than 30 mental health professionals wrote chapters for this book, including authors from Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, England, Germany, Israel, Sweden, and the United States.

PAS was the focus of major national conferences in Frankfurt/Main, Germany, in 2002 and in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, in 2008. A scholarly article by Warshak cited a list of references that currently numbers 213, most of which were published in peer reviewed journals (http://home.att.net/~rawars/pasarticles.html)…

We conclude that mental health professionals (taken as a group) and the general public recognize parental alienation as a real entity that deserves considerable attention.

How common is Parental Alienation, and how many cases are there nationwide? Bernet & Co. estimate that there are roughly 200,000 children in the U.S. who have PAD, similar to the number of children with autism. They write:

In general, PAD is more likely to occur in highly conflicted, custody-disputing families than in community samples of divorcing families. Even in highly conflicted divorces, only the minority of children experience PAD. The following studies indicate that approximately 25% of children involved in custody disputes develop PAD.

Johnston – in California – found that 7% of the children in one study and 27% of the children in a second study had “strong alignment” with one parent and rejection of the other parent. Kopetski – in Colorado – found that 20% of families involved in custody disputes manifested parental alienation syndrome. Nicholas reported that 33% of families involved with custody disputes manifested parental alienation syndrome, based on a survey of 21 custody evaluators. Berns reported a study of divorce judgments in Brisbane, Australia, and said parental alienation syndrome was present in 29% of cases.

The prevalence of PAD can be roughly estimated as follows. The U.S. Census Bureau says approximately 10% of children under age 18 live with divorced parents. Approximately 10% of divorces involve custody or visitation disputes. Approximately 25% of children involved in custody or visitation disputes develop PAD. Multiplying these percentages yields a prevalence of 0.25%, or about 200,000 children in the U.S. For comparison purposes, this prevalence is the same order of magnitude as the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.

Bernet & Co. believe that “controversies related to definitions and terminology have delayed and compromised systematic research regarding [PAD]” and that “Establishing diagnostic criteria will make it possible to study parental alienation in a more methodical manner.” They write:

[Despite controversy] There is consensus among almost all mental health professionals who have written about parental alienation regarding the following: (1) PAD is a real entity, that is, there really are children and adolescents who embark on a persistent campaign of denigration against one of the parents and adamantly refuse to see that parent, and the intensity of the campaign and the refusal is far out or proportion to anything the alienated parent has done. (2) There are many causes of visitation refusal, and PAD is only one of them. (3) PAD is not the correct diagnosis when the child’s visitation refusal is caused by child maltreatment or serious problematic behavior of the alienated parent.

Dr. Richard A. Warshak makes the case for accepting PAD/PAS:

PAS fits a basic pattern of many psychiatric syndromes. Such syndromes denote conditions in which people who are exposed to a designated stimulus develop a certain cluster of symptoms. ‘Posttraumatic stress disorder’ (PTSD) refers to a particular cluster of symptoms developed in the aftermath of a traumatic event. … These diagnoses carry no implication that everyone exposed to the same stimulus develops the condition, nor that similar symptoms never develop in the absence of the designated stimulus. … Similarly, some, but not all, children develop PAS when exposed to a parent’s negative influence. Other factors, beyond the stimulus of an alienating parent, can help elucidate the etiology for any particular child.

Bernet & Co. add “We hope that the Work Group will not reject this proposal simply because of this 20- year-old argument about the concept, the terminology, and the criteria for PAD. There is no lack of controversy regarding conditions that are quite prominent in the DSM.”

Bernet & Co. also address the important issue of the misuse of PA/PAD. As we’ve often noted, claims of Parental Alienation can be used by abusive parents as a cover for their abuse, such as in the Joyce Murphy case.

More commonly, one parent may have damaged his or her relationships with his children due to his or her own personality problems, narcissism, substance abuse issues, erratic behavior, etc., but then, rather than assuming responsibility for his or her actions, instead blames the bad relationship on the other parent, under the rubric of Parental Alienation. Fathers & Families sometimes hears from parents, usually mothers, who say that they are being unfairly blamed for the deterioration of their children’s relationships with their former partners, who claim Parental Alienation. We believe that these are legitimate concerns.

However, as we’ve often noted, simply because false claims of Parental Alienation can and are made doesn’t mean that Parental Alienation doesn’t exist or isn’t a problem. Bernet & Co. believe that acceptance of PA/PAD by DSM V will “reduce the opportunities for abusive parents and unethical attorneys to misuse the concept of parental alienation in child custody disputes.” They write:

Having established criteria for the diagnosis of PAD will eliminate the Babel of conflicting terminology and definitions that currently occurs when parental alienation is mentioned in a legal setting. More important is that the entry regarding PAD in DSM-V will include a discussion of the differential diagnosis of visitation refusal. It will be clear that the clinician should consider a number of explanations for a child’s symptom of visitation refusal and not simply rush to the diagnosis of PAD. Also, it will be clear that the diagnosis of PAD should not be made if the child has a legitimate, justifiable reason for disliking and rejecting one parent, for instance, if the child was neglected or abused by that parent.

We believe that when everybody involved in the legal procedures (the parents, the child protection investigators, the mental health professionals, the attorneys, and the judge) has a clear, uniform understanding of the definition of PAD, there will be fewer opportunities for rogue expert witnesses and lawyers to misuse the concept in court. What really matters is whether PAD is a real phenomenon, a real entity. If PAD is a real clinical entity, it should be included in the DSM. If PAD is a real clinical entity, the possibility that the diagnosis will sometimes be misused should not be a primary or serious consideration.

They also note:

[T]he psychiatric diagnosis that is most misused in legal settings is posttraumatic stress disorder. In personal injury lawsuits, the diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder in an alleged victim is used to prove that the individual actually sustained a severe trauma. Also, military veterans and workers’ compensation claimants sometimes malinger posttraumatic stress disorder in order to receive disability benefits. However, we are not aware that anybody has ever proposed that posttraumatic stress disorder should be deleted from the DSM because it is sometimes misused.

Recognizing PA/PAD/PAD will help children of divorce or separation. Bernet & Co. write:

Establishing diagnostic criteria will be helpful for: clinicians who work with divorced families; divorced parents, who are trying to do what is best for their children; and children of divorce, who desperately need appropriate treatment that is based on a correct diagnosis. According to Barbara-Jo Fidler, clinical observations, case reviews and qualitative comparative studies uniformly indicate that alienated children may exhibit a variety of symptoms including poor reality testing, illogical cognitive operations, simplistic and rigid information processing, inaccurate or distorted interpersonal perceptions, self-hatred, and other maladaptive attitudes and behaviors. Fidler’s survey of the short-term and long-term effects of pathological alienation on children reviewed more than 40 articles published in peer-reviewed journals between 1991 and 2007…

The authors of this proposal believe that if PAD were an official diagnosis, counselors and therapists from all disciplines will become more familiar with this condition. As a result, children with PAD will be identified earlier in the course of their illness while it is more easily treated and even cured. Also, if PAD were an official diagnosis (with clear criteria for the diagnosis and for severity of the condition), it will be possible to conduct coherent research regarding its treatment.

The Authors’ Proposed Criteria for Parental Alienation Disorder is as follows:

A. The child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a hostile divorce – allies
himself or herself strongly with one parent and rejects a relationship with the other,
alienated parent without legitimate justification. The child resists or refuses visitation or
parenting time with the alienated parent.

B. The child manifests the following behaviors:

(1) a persistent rejection or denigration of a parent that reaches the level of a
campaign
(2) weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the child’s persistent
criticism of the rejected parent

C. The child manifests two of the following six attitudes and behaviors:

(1) lack of ambivalence
(2) independent-thinker phenomenon
(3) reflexive support of one parent against the other
(4) absence of guilt over exploitation of the rejected parent
(5) presence of borrowed scenarios
(6) spread of the animosity to the extended family of the rejected parent.

D. The duration of the disturbance is at least 2 months.

E. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social,
academic (occupational), or other important areas of functioning.

F. The child’s refusal to have visitation with the rejected parent is without legitimate
justification. That is, parental alienation disorder is not diagnosed if the rejected parent
maltreated the child.

Send Your Letter to the DSM-V Task Force and Tell Them Your Story

To write your letter to the DSM-V Task Force, please fill out the form below. Fathers & Families will print out your letter and send it by regular US mail to the three relevant figures in DSM-V. When you write your letter, please:

1) Keep the focus on your child(ren) and how the Parental Alienation has harmed them.
2) Stick to the facts related to the Parental Alienation.
3) Be succinct.
4) Fill in all fields on our form.
5) Be civil and credible, and avoid any profanity or use of insulting language

Together with you in the love of our children,

Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families

Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S.
Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers & Families

NEW CAMPAIGN: Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition « Fathers & Families.

Breakthrough Parenting – Moving Your Family from Struggle to Cooperation

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Domestic Relations, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Jayne Major, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parents rights on June 23, 2009 at 4:02 pm

Breakthrough Parenting – Moving Your Family from Struggle to Cooperation.
Breakthrough Parenting®

For more than 20 years, we have helped families from all backgrounds achieve what they described as solid breakthroughs.

Breakthroughs usually come from hard work of course. In this case, we invested more than 15,000 hours of work to develop a truly comprehensive program to help parents understand how children think, how they function at different ages, and how to get effective discipline through teaching what to do, as opposed to just pointing out what not to do. All of this with no manipulation and no violence.

Would you like to move your family from struggle to cooperation?
Here’s what one parent said about the award-winning Breakthrough Parenting® program:

“I had power struggles with my six year-old son on a daily basis, these have now been completely eliminated. Your techniques allow for a child’s individuality to shine through, in addition to the discipline necessary to give them the skills to learn and to develop good values. Breakthrough Parenting has made an incredible difference in my life!”

The Culver City, Cal. PTA (Parents & Teachers
Association) won the California State PTA highest
award for their Breakthrough Parenting program.

Family court judges in one of the largest counties in the State of Washington now specify in court orders for parents that they “…must take parenting classes such as Breakthrough Parenting.” Over several years these judges have seen the huge benefits of these classes for both parents and children.

Click here to learn more about our Parenting-Class-In-A-Box!

Are you going through a divorce with custody issues?
Learn here how to solve custody problems at a fraction of the sadly typical financial and emotional cost.

We have 20 years of experience with divorce custody cases and know a LOT about what helps parents.

“The techniques I learnt from Breakthrough Parenting made a definite impression on the court-appointed custody evaluator.”

~Jim Ward, parent, Los Angeles, Calif.

Click here to learn more about how we can help!

Would you like to be trained to become a Certified Breakthrough Parenting® Instructor anywhere in the U.S. or overseas?

Professionals at agencies, hospitals, family ministries, and in private practice across the U.S., Canada and overseas have set up exceptionally successful parenting programs with help from our comprehensive training program.

“Breakthrough Parenting is a revolutionary program, and it is obvious to my team that we have seen more success in the lessons of Breakthrough Parenting we have presented to date than in all the classes any of us have ever taught.”

~Mollie M. Hughes, CBPI, CHS, Everett, Washington

With more than 20,000 hours put into the development of the key materials used for this program, this is the most comprehensive and up-to-date parenting program today.

This program contains no fluff or “pop psychology,” it is simply based on solid research and experience with many thousands of families.

Every part of this program has shown its value to trained professionals across the U.S., working with parents of all educational and socioeconomic backgrounds.

All materials are as clear as we could make them, and the program is designed let you help parents take action immediately, without having to digest large amounts of information.

The very high quality classroom materials (available in English and Spanish) help instructors get the attention of stressed parents.

Even many very jaded family professionals have called this program “life changing!”

Most of the instructors that we have trained were previously using other parenting programs.

They mixed bits and pieces from several different programs in order to try to come up with a complete program to help today’s parents, but still got questions that weren’t covered in their materials.

The Breakthrough Parenting training curriculum is complete. It covers all that parents need to know about raising kids to be successful, while they grow up and afterwards when they have to go out on their own as responsible adults in society.

Parents learn how to “reach” teenagers so that communication is possible about anything that comes up. You may have noticed that you can’t really tell teens (or, increasingly also “tweens”) anything, so you have to make them want to communicate with you, and we show you how.

Breakthrough Parenting gives you a genuine understanding of how children function, not just “tips on parenting”.

Family court judges in one of the largest counties in Washington state now state in their court orders for parents that they, “…must take parenting classes such as Breakthrough Parenting.” Why do they mention Breakthrough Parenting specifically? Because they have seen the huge benefit of these classes for parents and their children.

MFTs (Marriage and Family Therapists) and LCSWs (Licensed Clinical Social Workers) can get 15 California CEUs (Continuing Education Units, also recognized by many other states) for our program, we are CEU Provider # PCE 1402.

However, you do not have to be an MFT or LCSW to take this training. Our many successful graduates have been teachers, day care providers, family ministry staff, domestic violence case managers and workers, psychologists, nurses, drug rehabilitation professionals, human resource professionals, and more categories.

What is important is that you have experience working with a public audience. We can teach you the rest in the most efficient professional training program available today.

News: We just got funding for 4 reduced tuitions for our instructor training program, be quick and you may be able to get in for less than our 1998 rates!

Currently Breakthrough Parenting Instructor Training is offered in Los Angeles (CA), Orlando (FL), and Seattle (WA).

Click here for information on becoming a Certified Parenting Instructor!

~Ms. Mindy Dadon, parent, Los Angeles, Calif.

LA County Puts the “Fix” on Parents Rights

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, Indians, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, kidnapped children, Liberty, motherlessness, mothers rights, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Orphan Trains, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D, Torts on June 4, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Your rights to retain physical and legal custody of your children during divorce proceeding is compromised by California’s new ex post facto law recently passed by the California Senate. As a matter of fact, in Los Angeles County, it already is.

In California counties divorce proceedings in the past 12 years may have been “fixed” in counties where counties supplemented Judges salaries with benefits above the state mandated salary. (Under California Law, only the state may compensate judges for performance of their work. The California Constitution (Sec. 17, 19, 20) states that Judges may not receive money from other parties than their employer, the State of California, and the Legislature has the sole responsibility for setting compensation and retirement benefits.)

However California, like all 50 states and territories, receive hundreds of Billions of $$ from the federal government to run its state courts and welfare programs, including Social Security Act Title Iv-D, Child Support Iv-E, Foster Care and VAWA prevention and intimidation programs against family law litigants. The federal block grants are then given to the counties applying for the monies.

If counties have been paying judges money above state legislated salaries, then counties have been fixing cases for years by maintaining de facto judicial officers to rule in their favor. How does this affect parent’s rights? The money received in block grants is applied for by the counties based on the divorce and custody proceeding awards. For example, the more sole custody or foster home proceedings existing in the county, the more money the county is qualified to receive.

Both the US Constitution, and the California Constitution. California’s wording is even stronger than the US Constitution. Here are the direct quotes:

United States Constitution, Section 9, Article 3
“No bill of attainder or ex post facto law shall be passed.”

Constitution of the State of California – Article I, Section 9
“A bill of attainder ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts may not be passed.”

The law in question is SBX2 11 which retroactively pardons, just about everyone involved in official activity including judges who received money for benefits from the county.

“The California Constitution requires the Legislature to prescribe compensation for judges of courts of record. Existing law authorizes a county to deem judges and court employees as county employees for purposes of providing employment benefits. These provisions were held unconstitutional as an impermissible delegation of the obligation of the Legislature to prescribe the compensation of judges of courts of record. This bill would provide that judges who received supplemental judicial benefits provided by a county or court, or both, as of July 1, 2008, shall continue to receive supplemental benefits from the county or court then paying the benefits on the same terms and conditions as were in effect on that date.”

The law also goes on to state:

“This bill would provide that no governmental entity, or officer or employee of a governmental entity, shall incur any liability or be subject to prosecution or disciplinary action because of benefits provided to a judge under the official action of a governmental entity prior to the effective date of the bill on the ground that those benefits were not authorized under law.”

Is this why attorney Richard I Fine is in a LA County Jail? For more on his story see:

Attorney Richard Fine files suit against judges http://www.dailynews.com/ci_8113733

Richard Fine, a brave and talented California attorney and United States Department of Justice Attorney http://www.ahrc.se/new/index.php/src/tools/sub/yp/action/display/id/2652

Metropolitan News-Enterprise http://www.metnews.com/articles/2009/stur021809.htm

The Full Disclosure Network: http://www.fulldisclosure.net/Programs/538.php and http://www.fulldisclosure.net/Programs/539.php

JUDICIAL BENEFITS & COURT CORRUPTION (Part 3-4) http://www.fulldisclosure.net/Programs/540.php

FISCAL CRISIS: Illegal Payments Create Law For Judicial Criminal & Liability Immunity: Nominees For U S Supreme Court To Be Impacted? See: http://www.fulldisclosure.net/news/labels/SBX2%2011.html

The Bill as passed by the Senate: http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0001-0050/sbx2_11_bill_20090214_amended_sen_v98.html

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 Rights.org 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 ParentalRights.org by Peter Kamakawiwoole, Jan. 29, 2009.

Notes

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)

The Macabre Dance of Family Law Court, Abnormal Psychology, and Parental Alienation Syndrome – Summary

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, California Parental Rights Amendment, Child Custody, Child Support, child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Freedom, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Rooker-Feldman Doctrine, state crimes, Title Iv-D, Torts on May 31, 2009 at 5:15 pm

by Jayne A. Major, Ph.D. http://www.breakthroughparentingservices.org/index.htm
Copyright 2009: Jayne Major. All rights reserved.

Dr. Major attended the latests Symposium For Parental Alienation Syndrome during March 27-29, 2009 in Toronto, Canada and gave this speech reprinted here:

“Our litigation system is too costly, too painful, too destructive,
and too inefficient for civilized people.”
~ Justice Warren Burger

If we accept that Family Law courts have a moral imperative to seek truth and to do as little harm as
possible, our Family Court system is failing miserably. Too often what prevails in court is not the truth, but the illusion of truth. The current litigation system is not capable of protecting children from the horrendous damage inflicted by those parents who are disturbed. Children lose critical thinking ability, incur the devastating loss of one-half of their heritage and a lifetime doomed for failed social relationships and
psychiatric disorders.

Few lawyers, judges, nor laypersons are able to recognize seriously disturbed people who look and often act
“normal.” Yet, their numbers are large and the damage they do to other parents, their children, and society is
staggering. Sociopaths are cruel—without moral conscience, empathy, sympathy, or compassion. Their purpose is to win by domination. Harvard psychologist Martha Stout, in her book The Sociopath Next Door, states that one in twenty-five people is a sociopath. Furthermore, there is an estimated 20% of the general population with personality disorders. Those individuals who are the most dangerous are described in the DSM IV, Axis II Cluster B. The descriptive labels of these disorders are borderline, narcissistic, histrionic, and anti-social.

We can assume that a much higher percentage of these disturbed people can be found in Family Law courts
because they are unable to compromise or to work out family solutions without conflict. They lack insight, are unable to realize how they contribute to the problem, want their way, blame others, can’t self-correct, have difficulty forming trusting relationships, are unreasonable and demanding, create upset and distress with people around them, and justify inappropriate behavior. They have a “my way or the highway” mindset. Their behavior is not episodic but a pervasive character flaw that has always been present.

Therapy is of little help to these individuals, as their disorder is not fixable. The reason is that you can’t have a conversation about a problem when the problem is answering the question. Thus, the cure-all of sending such people to therapy is of little value. In fact, because sociopaths have no moral conscience, therapy gives them the language and skills to manipulate others more effectively; it helps them become better at being sociopaths. And they often get the upper hand in court by diverting attention off of themselves and onto the targeted parent by making numerous false allegations.

Often judges order a psychological evaluation to help them decide what would be the best orders for a
family. The evaluation is intended to curb the dysfunctional parent from doing more damage; however, this
is often not the outcome. When only one professional evaluates a family, the chance for error is high.
Personal bias is one problem.

Psychologists are not immune to being unduly influenced by a cunning and persuasive sociopath. Another problem is a policy followed by most evaluators to routinely offer a middleof-the-road recommendation rather than address the psychiatric problems directly. A third problem is that evaluators are unwilling to use labels that would identify these disorders. While there are many valid reasons to not label people, the end result is that the psychologists’ report does not provide a clear and accurate picture of the underlying dynamics of the family and causes of the dysfunction.

Imagine a parent who has to deal with the other parent’s crazy-making behavior day in and day out as they watch his or her child deteriorate under the disturbed parent’s care. They do not understand why the alienating person is so difficult and irrational. Most of all, the targeted parent wants to know what they can do to make the situation better. Without clarity, truth is hard to distinguish. The unfortunate outcome of too many psychological evaluations is that hard decisions to protect a child are not made early, which necessitates more litigation and future evaluations… in the mean time, more damage is done.

Furthermore, in litigation, lawyers are supposed to advocate for their clients, not for their clients’ children or
the well-being of the family. It is very easy for a lawyer to manipulate situations to make the healthier parent
look disturbed and their own disturbed client appear superior. For those lawyers who hold litigation as a
sport of winning and losing combatants, the principle of “the best interest of the child” is used as a slogan to
justify what is not in a child’s best interest. The result is often disastrous. The parent who will do the most damage to a child ends up with substantial legal and physical custody. In terms of preserving the mental health of all concerned, litigation of these cases causes profound and permanent damage, a loss of family assets, and untold suffering. The dance between Family Law courts and those who are psychologically abnormal is macabre indeed.

Do we really want to continue to let mentally unstable people get the upper hand and create mayhem? We are the professionals, the leaders, the creative thinkers who have the responsibility to implement a better way of handling family reorganization. The destruction of our families, our children, our wealth, has a horrific ripple effect into all of society.

Following is a paradigm that will not only stop parental alienation syndrome but preserve the well-being of
all members of separating families. The plan relies on mediation, education, and prompt legal intervention.
Highly trained professionals who understand family systems and are able to recognize mentally disturbed
parents work as a team. Families are tracked by a Case Manager.

A 6-week Divorce Education course provides a foundation of knowledge that creates understanding and enhances positive adjustment in the reorganizing family. Financial issues are worked out by professionals who also educate parents about how to manage their money. Parents pay for the services they receive according to their ability to pay. Most of all, parents always have a place to go when they see that the family plan is not working. The cost of this method of resolving family dissolution is minimal compared to the cost of maintaining an elaborate Family Law court system. High-conflict disputes are minimized or eliminated. The result of using this method would have a healthy impact on society as we would not be passing on from one generation to the next abusive practices that carry mental instability to the next generation.

To read more of the article see: http://www.breakthroughparentingservices.org/3-09_Summary_of_Presentation.pdf

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

ABSTRACT

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.

CHAPTER 1

THE NATURE OF PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME

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.

http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/vassil98.htm

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

http://www.liftingtheveil.org/supreme-court.htm

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.”

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS): Its Causes, Cures, Costs, and Controversies

In child trafficking, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, CPS, cps fraud, deadbeat dads, Divorce, family court, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, federal crimes, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, Jayne Major, judicial corruption, Liberty, MMPI, MMPI 2, mothers rights, Non-custodial mothers, Orphan Trains, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parentectomy, Parents rights, state crimes on May 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm

by Jayne A. Major, Ph.D.

Introduction

In no other area of family law do people become more polarized than in cases involving parental alienation (PA) and parental alienation syndrome (PAS). And though volumes have been written on this subject, there still exists enormous confusion as to what the real problem is. Because there is rarely enough accurate information to make an informed opinion, most bystanders as well as trained professionals eventually give up trying to figure out which parent in a high-conflict family is “right.” The “he said/she said” quagmire is simply too shaky a place from which to sort out the truth.

In high-conflict families, one or both parents may be guilty of allowing their anger toward the other parent to be expressed in a way that tragically involves their children. Parental alienation (PA) is the term used to describe the attempts by one parent to undermine the relationship a child has with the other parent. Because children are suggestible, many will eventually succumb to the relentless programming or “brainwashing” by an alienating parent toward a target parent. When a child aligns with a disturbed parent and becomes a representative of that parent’s agenda by also behaving in aggressive and hateful ways toward the target parent, parental alienation syndrome (PAS) has developed. A child with PAS becomes an alienator in their own right, independently creating their own scenarios of how horrible the target parent is. These imagined scenarios are often bizarre and bear little resemblance to the truth.

My purpose in writing this article is to share the knowledge I have gained firsthand working as a practitioner with such high-conflict families and to provide a more in-depth understanding of this very serious issue, in particular by offering insight into the causes of PA/PAS, its severe costs, and the controversies that surround it. As you will see, the fallout from PA/PAS is far-reaching. A tremendous amount of community resources are used trying to stabilize these high-conflict families. My focus, therefore, is on the top 15% of chronically litigating parents, as they use an inordinate amount of court time to try to resolve their family issues and are most likely to 1) force their children to take sides with them and 2) obstruct shared custody and mutual decision-making.

Causes of PA/PAS

There are three degrees of PA that can result in PAS.

A mild and very common form of parental alienation is when one parent speaks negatively about the other parent, over what might be the smallest of issues, so that a child hears what is being said. This can be somewhat unintentional. Parents may be so upset at each other that they simply don’t realize that they are inappropriately involving a child in adult affairs. Parent education is often needed to teach these parents to have boundaries that protect their children from upsetting feelings. Without such boundaries, parents are contributing to the psychological insecurity of their children.

In the moderate category of parental alienation are conflicting parents who exercise little control over their anger and go ballistic when they are upset, without any consideration of how their anger affects other family members. The suffering that this ugly behavior causes children and the target parent is severe. Many parents look to the court to stabilize what is a chaotic family system. These are families where there is little ability to use mediation to work out a reasonable parenting plan for their children. But using a court to resolve high-conflict family disputes such as where PA/PAS is present has had limited success at best. The outcome depends almost entirely upon a judge’s ability to understand the nuances of PA/PAS and to make appropriate orders to contain the problem—not an easy thing to do.

In this category, PAS develops as children find the need to protect the angry, alienating parent. To avoid further triggering the parent’s rage, they stop expressing positive feelings for the target parent. They become caught in a vicious cycle of trying to figure out how to be safe while also sorting through the demonizing attacks made toward the target parent.

Falling into the severe category of parental alienation are those parents who become obsessed with destroying the child’s relationship with the other parent and that parent’s family and friends. Dr. Frank Williams describes this goal of cutting a parent out of a child’s life as a “parentectomy.” In these cases, a child will succumb to the alienator’s programming or brainwashing and experience fear, anger, and hatred toward the target parent. When parental alienation is severe enough, children have no choice but to align with the disturbed parent against the target parent, thus destroying their relationship with the target parent. These children no longer have free will or the ability to continue loving the target parent. PAS describes the child’s behavior in response to the brainwashing that has occurred; it does not describe actions on the part of a parent. The focus of this article in on children who are being severely alienated or who are already experiencing PAS.

How can obsessed parents be effective in erasing a child’s love for a parent who showed the child only love and not abuse? In her book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind, Dr. Amy J. L. Baker provides solid qualitative research using 40 adults who experienced PAS as children. The subjects of the study reported five primary mechanisms that were used to manipulate their thoughts and feelings as children:

(1) relentless bad-mouthing of the character of the target parent, in order to reduce their importance and value

(2) creating the impression that the target parent was dangerous and planned to hurt the child, in order to instill fear and rejection of that parent

(3) deceiving children about the target parent’s feelings for them, in order to create hurt, resentment, and psychological distance

(4) withdrawing love if the child indicated affection or positive regard for the target parent, in order to heighten the need to please the alienating parent

(5) erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child through minimizing actual and symbolic contact (Baker 2007)

The outrageous behavior by the disturbed parent is often so shocking that people don’t want to believe it. Their dramatic justifications for their aberrant behaviors defy reason.

Few people understand the psychological underpinnings of PA and why a parent would treat a child so badly. Gregory Lester, Ph.D., describes possible causes that can account for the severity of the psychological disturbance seen in severely alienating parents. They demonstrate egocentricity to a fault and exhibit bullying behavior. He suggests that their brain may be partially wired. He describes them as assuming that they are entitled to special treatment and expect others to take care of them, including their children. They don’t engage in the normal give and take that is customary in social relationships. They are takers, not givers. If they give something, the gift is likely to have strings attached. They talk a fine game, but they don’t deliver.

Drama replaces reason. Individuals with these problems do not solve problems by being rational, but rather by escalating ordinary events into dramatic episodes. They have exaggerated mood swings. A person once revered and respected can suddenly become an object of hatred and contempt. This black-and-white, highly polarized thinking is called “splitting and is typical of these types of personalities. They are unpredictable—one day loving and cooperative, and the next attacking ferociously. They have no internal conflict, because they truly believe they are right. Like Teflon, nothing sticks to them. If a problem arises, it is always someone else’s fault. People comment, “How can they lie like that? How are they able to justify in their own mind any behavior, no matter how excessive?” This is because they are able to make up the truth to suit themselves and then passionately believe the story they made up. They can be very convincing because they themselves are convinced!

They are masters at projection, the strategy that refers to when another person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are reversed and used to describe the person making the complaint. For example, in Sharon’s declaration she described Jack’s irresponsible behavior. Jack’s declaration came back with exactly the same allegations about Sharon. Now Sharon has to defend herself about being abusive, neglectful, and out of control. Jack managed to level the playing field by using projection. Individuals using these tactics do not seem to have an observing ego or consciousness to witness their own mistakes. Therefore, if something is wrong it must be the other person’s fault. In our example, the fact that Jack has no evidence that Sharon behaves the way he does is irrelevant to him.

Often people who exhibit this level of nastiness have come from a disastrously dysfunctional family or have experienced a serious trauma that went untreated. They are unreasonably demanding and resist any discussion or negotiation to make a situation better. They must have their way and are rigid about expecting others to comply with what they want. (Gregory Lester, 2002)

Our court processes are based on the assumption that individuals are law-abiding citizens. However, these abusive people believe that rules and laws apply to other people, but not to them. If they don’t agree with a judicial decision, they are likely to see a court order as a recommendation and not something they must obey. Actually, these disturbed parents are like little children who haven’t reached the age of reason; however, they do respond to rewards and punishment. Sadly, their excessive behavior is constantly rewarded by the way our family law courts are structured. Unfortunately, PA/PAS cases can be stalled for months, even years, with no resolution. This is rewarding to them and easily used to their advantage to advance alienation in their children. Seldom in family law court are sanctions of fines, jail time, or community service applied to individuals for contempt of court orders.

Can PAS Be Cured?

It is safe to say that the average person is utterly perplexed about how to react to such aberrant behavior on the part of the alienating parent. They quickly run out of techniques that would work with a rational person. Furthermore, because so little is known about PA/PAS, target parents often do not even know that there is a name for their child’s increasingly hostile behavior. Unfortunately, this is also true of many therapists who are called upon to help families in crisis. Without a proper understanding of PA/PAS, it is easy to take sides and even provide evidence that the truly abusive person is a wonderful parent. Many therapists are not able to discern if what they are being told is true. Few psychologists understand rules of evidence used in family law courts or are trained in how to work with cases as difficult as these.

In exasperation, target parents often want to “cure” the toxic parent with medication or therapy. The problem with medication as a solution is that it is very difficult to get another person to take it consistently. After all, in their mind, there isn’t anything wrong with them. In fact, the suggestion that they need medication is more likely to be turned on whoever is suggesting it! For example, Jerry said that the raging mother of their son was guided to take psychotropic medication by her family. When she had stabilized, she was profusely apologetic to Jerry for her outrageous behavior. She thanked him for being such a good father and said that they would have no trouble with joint custody. Only three months of peace went by before she decided that she was all better and stopped taking the medication. She quickly deteriorated, becoming more vicious than she had been before.

What about therapy? Surely a therapist can fix them! Individuals who will brainwash a child are the worst candidates for therapy, because therapy implies that a person realizes that there is something wrong with them and that they are motivated to do something about it. These people do not have the ability to self-correct behavioral or emotional errors. The wiring of their brain will not permit it. Therapy doesn’t work because one can’t have a conversation about the problem when the problem is doing the answering! As soon as a therapist suggests that they behave better or that what they are doing is harming their child, splitting occurs. The therapist then becomes the bad guy and the parent leaves, taking the child with them. They do not form trusting relationships with others unless they believe that they are getting their way.

Therapy can, in fact, make these troubled individuals worse. Since they do not feel moral emotions of empathy, sympathy, or compassion, the therapist may unwittingly teach compassionate gestures and language that their client can use to more effectively manipulate people. They are most likely to be a warm body sitting in a chair for the required number of times; they may even be patronizing about how the therapist is saving their life. However, the end result is that they are unfazed by the efforts to make them healthier.

In spite of what they say, they are unable to act in the best interests of their child. It takes a truly disturbed and obsessed person to harm a child by brainwashing them, to remove from a child’s life a loving parent and their extended family and friends who care deeply about the child. The programming of a child is done for personal gain. These are not people with good parenting skills. Children are in their lives to serve them and to help them get their way. They are not nurturing and attentive to their child’s needs, nor do they know how to nurture their child emotionally. A child is not allowed to grieve for the loss of the target parent, extended family, and friends; they are kept busy taking care of the disturbed parent.

In family law procedures, we rely heavily on evaluators to assess the psychological underpinnings of a family. However, it is rare in psychological evaluations to see a specific diagnosis regarding the disturbed parent’s mental health. You might see a comment that there was an elevation in borderline, narcissism, or hysteria, but these labels are rarely used specifically. The reason is that when different psychologists attempt to diagnose a disturbed person, they are likely to arrive at different conclusions. Also, making a diagnosis is tricky, as there are rarely clean-cut distinctions that can be made. Most disorders may also be compounded by complications from drug abuse or alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder, situational hormonal fluctuations, or obsessive compulsive features. Furthermore, courts rely on evidence, not labels.

However, one label is commonly used, although not necessarily by evaluators. Because alienating parents are socially maladaptive and have no moral conscience, they are called “sociopaths.” Although they may know how to act the part, they are unable to have empathy, sympathy, or compassion for others. Unlike rational people, they do not distinguish between telling the truth and lying. Therefore, they may not know when they are lying. They can get worse by becoming so obsessed that they disassociate from reality and become psychotic—experiencing delusions and hallucinations.

In spite of admonitions from judges and mental health professionals to stop alienating, they cannot. One of the most difficult ideas for the target parent to understand is that the mentally disturbed parent is unable to act differently; nor can a child experiencing PAS act differently. The obsessed parent and child are likely to be experiencing a shared psychosis. There is no protocol to fix the alienating parent—not legally, not therapeutically, and not by reasoning with them. It is also unlikely that they will ever stop trying to perpetuate the alienation, because it has become a gut-wrenching survival issue to them! Douglas Darnall, a leading expert in PAS, points out that we do not have a protocol to treat these people. (Douglas Darnell, 2000)

However, if a child can be isolated from the toxic parent, there are protocols, developed by Dr. Richard Gardner, for reversing the alienation. Others have also developed ways to reverse the programming. In one sense, alienating parents have built a house of cards, as the child really wants to love both parents. If the severe alienator is legally prevented from being able to poison their minds, many children can be brought back with the right treatment; however, traditional talk therapy has not proven to be helpful. The most effective procedure to date is what has been used to deprogram individuals involved in cults. In some cases, though, it is simply too late and unlikely that the child will ever understand what happened. (Richard Gardner, 2001)

Of course, the significance of this result is that PA/PAS is often inner-generational and, once grown, those damaged are at risk of passing the problem on to their own children. These individuals are inclined to continue into adulthood the practice of seeing people in black and white. They are likely to be self-loathing, which creates horrific issues of low self-esteem. To compensate for how badly they feel about themselves, they may desperately attempt to have others see them as special and more important than other people. They have missed out on the social skills they need to gain respect and to get their needs met without having to resort to heavy-handed control and bullying.

Without legal intervention to limit an alienating parent’s access to a child and to have the brainwashed child deprogrammed by a specialist, it is unlikely that a child will ever recover from PAS. The tragedy is that they have lost their free will and ability to make rational choices over their lives. They are likely to experience serious psychiatric disorders, have poor social relationships, and of course pass the problem on to their children. For a greater understanding of the long-term impact of PA/PAS, I highly recommend Dr. Baker’s book, listed in the bibliography.

Costs of PAS

Consider the resources required by families afflicted with PA/PAS. Seeing their once-loving relationship with their child eroding away, many target parents will use all the financial resources they can muster to pay for legal representation to try to preserve their relationship with their children. This is risky. Mounting attorney fees, court evaluations, and multiple other costs involved in making the case that they are a good parent and deserve to be in their child’s life quickly deplete financial reserves. Target parents are likely to borrow against credit cards, siphon money from pension plans, liquidate the equity on a house, or ask extended family to help pay for an escalating and increasingly expensive conflict. Declaring bankruptcy and paying for these costs for years isn’t uncommon. Even still, sadly, all too often there is little to show for such an investment.

Additionally, target parents involved in these difficult cases find that every minute of their spare time is spent preparing legal documents, worrying about whether the next visitation with their child will occur, and managing increasing frustration at not being able to resolve their problems. Trying to communicate with the other parent to resolve issues that are vitally important to their child only results in more stress. In these cases, joint custody simply does not work because one parent refuses to negotiate or change their point of view.

Working parents involved in a high-conflict child custody case find it hard to focus on the job. Court dates and family emergencies repeatedly cause missed workdays. Employers carry a serious liability as their valued employee becomes less able to meet deadlines, makes more errors, and increases the risk of accidents at the workplace. Company profits can be deleteriously affected.

Furthermore, families experiencing PA/PAS consume an enormous amount of community legal and mental health resources. Numerous calls may be placed to the police. The department of social welfare is likely to become involved, requiring an investigation of abuses to children. Therapists are called upon to stabilize the family. Family law judges find their courtrooms repeatedly clogged with chronic litigators.

No one can experience this level of stress and anxiety without suffering serious mental health problems. This population is at high risk for post traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide, domestic violence, and homicide. Issues of deteriorating physical health arise as stress takes its toll.

Children are likely to suffer academically as their concentration is undermined. Their social relationships are compromised and they often exhibit adjustment disorder. An interesting situation that occurs among many PAS children is that while initially they struggle in school, many are likely to eventually excel academically as well as in sports. One reason is that school and sports offer them logic and stability, and through this, a way to escape the chaos at home. The child’s successes are likely to be seen as evidence that the disturbed and alienating parent is doing a good job of parenting, when this is not the case.

Problems related to divorce will continue long after the final decree is signed and the last court appearance is over. The psychological damage to children and the target parent is unlikely to ever be reversed.

PA/PAS Controversies

Understanding the raging controversies surrounding PA/PAS is extremely difficult. “Thinking” people don’t have the advantage of living with the certainty of seeing things as only black and white. Since rational people aren’t sure what the truth is, they don’t want to take sides until they can decipher the facts. They will research an issue. They realize that people may be solidly convinced of their opinions and that they present their opinions as facts. Thinking people wait, investigate, and figure things out. They realize that they will have to live in mystery until the facts are clear; whereas, for non-thinking people there is no mystery, so real is their certainty.

Polarized, “win/lose” thinking is systemic to our society. There are those who live with the certainty of right and wrong—what is true or false, black or white. People who think in absolutes can easily find others who think as they do. Together they are able to reinforce each other’s beliefs and present a united front about what they perceive as true. “Rigor mortis of the brain cells” has been used to describe their stuck position. Their calcified thinking does not allow them to be bothered with exceptions. The complex issues around PA/PAS invite simplistic thinking. Many people seem to need someone else to do their thinking for them. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon of highly charged issues such as preventing the sexual molestation of children and ending domestic violence. Gender wars are common; one gender sees the other as the enemy. The issue is about human rights, protecting not only children’s rights, but also mother’s and father’s rights. It is about being fair and logical and letting reason, not drama, make appropriate decisions.

To understand current controversies that surround PA/PAS, we need to go back to the 1980s, when a series of events greatly contributed to the problems of today. In 1980, Jim Cook single-handedly lobbied the California legislature to pass a law stating that there is a presumption of joint custody when parents divorce. California became the leader in joint custody laws, and most of the other states followed this lead. Prior to 1980, if there was a disagreement between mother and father about the custody of their child, the mother retained sole legal custody and was allowed to make all of the decisions, including whether her children would have a father in their life.

At the same time, with the rise of feminism in the 1960s, rigid roles for men and women were breaking down. Women had more voice over their lives and were attending college and entering the business world in increasing numbers. Most men were doing some domestic chores and, of course, taking care of their children some of the time. This meant tending to all of children’s needs, including changing diapers—a task once considered solely women’s work. In many families, sharing domestic duties became the order of the day. Most men gladly accepted some responsibility for the care of their children. Computers had made their way into people’s homes, and dads enjoyed working from home while tending to their children. In some families, women became the primary breadwinner.

When parents divorced, many liked the idea that “the best parent is both parents” and were able to share the decision-making and their children’s time. However, with others the idea of shared custody didn’t go over so well. Some women thought that, as before, children should be their sole property. Even though Dad had proven that he was fully capable of caring for his children, some moms stated that he was only a babysitter. Fathers going to family law court to get shared custody caused a burgeoning of family law cases. If a mother refused to share a child, court was a father’s only opportunity to be involved in his child’s life.

In 1983, a tragedy happened in Manhattan Beach, California. Judy Johnson made an allegation that Ray Buckey, the 25-year-old son of Peggy Buckey, who owned McMartin Preschool, had molested her 2½-year-old son. On September 7, 1983, Ray Buckey was arrested and sent to prison. After Police Chief Harry Kuhlmeyer arrested Ray Buckey, he sent a letter to 200 McMartin Preschool parents informing them that Ray Buckey was suspected of child abuse and asked them to question their children about having experienced acts such as oral sex, sodomy, having their pictures taken while naked, and being tied up. Chief Kuhlmeyer asked the parents to keep the letter strictly confidential. His request for confidentiality exploded into headline news across the country.

Ray Buckey was never charged, but he was held under the suspicion that he had done heinous crimes against children. Everyone who worked at the McMartin Preschool became suspect of bizarre and horrific acts against children. Judy Johnson’s reports of misbehavior became increasingly bizarre, claiming that Ray’s mother was involved in satanic rituals and that horrible things had been done with babies, animals, and sexual acts in front of the children who attended the preschool. Nine months later, Judy Johnson died due to complications from alcoholism. She had also been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Day after day the public was bombarded with details of bizarre allegations of what had happened to the children at the McMartin Preschool. Mass hysteria had taken over.

All preschools become suspect. Workers were told to never touch children, to have two people go to the bathroom with a child, to install glass doors at the front of the building so anyone who wanted to could see in. Parents were allowed to visit unannounced at any time to see what was going on. To make matters worse, Kee McFarlane, a consultant at Children’s Institute International, interviewed children at McMartin Preschool using anatomically correct dolls, leading questions, and rewards for answers that they had been molested. She testified that 384 McMartin students had been abused.

After two trials, no substantial evidence was found against the owner or staff at McMartin Preschool, including Ray Buckey. Five years had passed before Ray Buckey was allowed to leave prison, never having been charged with a crime. The government spent $15 million investigating and prosecuting the case over a seven-year period that involved two trials that led to no convictions. The fate of Ray Buckley foreshadowed what was going to happen to many fathers fighting for shared custody of their children.

What responsibility do journalists have to report the truth? As in the case of the McMartin Preschool, the media engaged in “pack journalism,” slanting heavily toward the prosecution, which provided sensational headlines day after day and almost never seriously questioned the allegations. Today, we have a media that continues to focus on lurid and scary news involving children. Politicians can easily exploit parents’ fears about the safety of their children, implying that they are the law-and-order people who will protect their children. Mark Foley was quoted in the Washington Times in 2005 as saying, “We need to stand together and unite cities, communities, and states in the effort to stop the assault on America’s children.” What assault? Mark Foley, who is now a disgraced congressman for his sexually inappropriate contact with high school pages, used this rhetoric for personal political gain. He was exploiting parents’ worst fears about the safety of their children. The problem with media reports of bad things that happen to children is one of proportion. Bad things do happen to children. The media can easily whip people’s emotions into a frenzy by exaggerating such events as happening more frequently than is the case. The mass hysteria unleashed by Judy Johnson in 1983 is still with us today.

The 1980s is a significant decade because of the colliding of joint custody laws and the hysteria of the McMartin Preschool trial. Fathers found that a mere allegation of being sexually inappropriate with a child was enough to have him kicked out of his home. Countless fathers became childless as they tried to prove what didn’t happen—what REALLY didn’t happen.

In 1983, at the beginning of the McMartin Preschool fiasco, there was a sharp rise in the number of reports of sexual molestation of children. Suddenly, people were hyper-vigilant about the issue. Elaborate tests were developed to determine whether a man had pedophilia tendencies and was likely to molest children. There is still a belief by many that children don’t lie about abuse. Kee McFarlane has been widely criticized for leading children to the conclusions that she wanted to hear, ultimately proving how suggestible children can be.

If a mother was driven to be vicious, the climate of hysteria about the sexual molestation of children became a powerful tool to gain her ends. All she had to do was say that she thought the father had molested their child. The tragedy of this kind of parentectomy continues today.

In 1985, Dr. Richard Gardner first introduced a phenomenon found in family law cases called parent alienation syndrome. He pointed out that PA/PAS is related to highly litigious court cases where there is a win/lose mentality. Ultimately, a desperate and obsessed parent could win in court by programming a child to despise the other parent, resulting in a parentectomy, and there was little that anyone could do about it. Dr. Gardner took on this difficulty, and he wrote volumes about how to understand the complexities of these highly volatile cases. He was first to identify the eight characteristics that PAS children display as a syndrome. He published extensively on how to identify false allegations of sexual molestation. He also wrote the book Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome to describe a protocol for deprogramming children. His contributions have been profound in helping us understand PA/PAS. He has written and testified extensively about false allegations of sexual abuse that had become common during this period. In this respect, he was a pioneer. Those of us who had the good fortune to know Dr. Gardner, to hear his lectures and read his books, are appreciative of his contributions. In addition to his groundbreaking insights about PA/PAS, he had a long and illustrious career as a psychiatrist specializing in children. (Richard Gardner, 2001)

Litigation over issues of parental alienation of children became common in family law courtrooms. Initially, mothers had more time with children and were the primary cause of PAS in children. A person who programs a child must have a lot of time with that child in order to be effective in the programming. As disturbed, narcissistic fathers gained more child custody, they proved to be just as capable of initiating PAS. Soon, PAS became a hot issue in gender wars, especially when women began losing legal custody of their children when a court ruled that they were guilty of alienating a child against the father.

PA/PAS has been a tragic issue that has polarized men and women.
On one side, malicious mothers who often have legal precedent for primary child custody on their side take children away from good fathers by alienating them. On the other side are vicious fathers whose purpose is to take children away from good mothers. Women have claimed that men are predators on women and children. Men are livid that they have been so labeled and frequently accused of sexually molesting children. The frequency of false allegations of child molestation against fathers has had a backlash from fathers against mothers. Some mothers lost custody because the evidence showed that they were coaching their child to participate in inappropriate behaviors toward the father. These mothers are quick to respond that all a father has to do is say she is guilty of PA/PAS and he will get custody of the child whom she was only trying to protect. It is also claimed that fathers have been awarded primary legal custody when they have in fact been guilty of domestic violence or have molested a child. This has created another backlash of mothers wanting to get back at fathers. No matter who is doing the alienating, it is terribly wrong. It isn’t a gender issue, as both men and women are guilty of initiating PAS in children. It is a human rights issue.

We’ve already seen that parents who alienate can be an angry, difficult group of people. When they go through a trial and a judge issues a court order giving sole legal custody to the other parent and limiting physical access to a child, these parents are not likely to roll over and passively obey. This leads to chronic litigation, as no matter how convincing the evidence against them or what the judge’s decision, they do not let go of the idea that they are right.

Unfortunately, angry, disgruntled women who are in fact guilty of severe parental alienation have found a sympathetic ear in the domestic violence community. Domestic violence groups have been successful in making domestic violence a crime and thus reducing its frequency. In most states, it is against the law for men to hit women, nor can women hit men without the possibility of being arrested. Interestingly, it is still allowed that adults may hit children. Hitting children is also domestic violence, but unfortunately, we haven’t progressed that far in our consciousness.

In an article in Newsweek, journalist Sara Childress stated, “It is…hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse.” Fortunately, the logic and rules of evidence that are necessary to remove a child from a seriously psychologically disturbed parent are extensive. Judges don’t just wake up in a bad mood, disregard all evidence, and say, “Let me take a child away from a good mother.” This makes for good drama, but not good logic. (Childress, Newsweek, October 2006)

The mendacity of non-thinking people creates a maelstrom of trouble in sorting out what is true. Too many members of the domestic violence community will assume that an accusation or allegation is true. Many do not understand the standard of evidence that is needed to turn an allegation into proof. The irony is that unthinking members of this community fan the flames of injustice and contribute to the most unspeakable kinds of violence against children, that of PA/PAS. No innocent father, or man such as Ray Buckley, should be recklessly accused of something he didn’t do. False allegations of sexual misconduct with children and the brainwashing of children where PA/PAS occurs are the worst kinds of domestic violence. The irony is that the very people who are against domestic violence contribute to it by denying the existence of PA/PAS.

Unfortunately, Richard Gardner has been relentlessly slandered, demonized, and dismissed as a pedophile by those who are threatened by his work and by others who have never read his articles and books and have not taken the time to realize that he was on the side of truth and justice in these complicated cases. This aggressive behavior on the part of so many has contributed to the mass hysteria that has done great damage to those parents and children who are impacted by PA/PAS.

There is no greater example of this hysteria than the denunciation of “so-called” parental alienation syndrome in the declaration by the National Organization of Women (NOW). See Appendix A. This declaration from NOW sums up the arguments against the very existence of PA/PAS. Of course, there is no mention of the unfairness of what happens to fathers, the need for a child to have a father, or the very real problem of PAS in children. There is no mention of the countless numbers of mothers who have been victimized by PA/PAS. The problem is not caused solely by one gender against another. It is caused by very disturbed people who have to get their way at all costs. Amazingly, the declaration claims that PA/PAS is non-existent! But anyone can use ordinary observation to find repeated examples of its existence.

Current debate over whether the child has experienced a “syndrome” has created a smokescreen that attempts to ignore the fact that children are, in fact, being manipulated and brainwashed into such states of confusion that their perception of events and people around them is severely distorted. It doesn’t matter what the tragedy is called; it is still a tragedy for children and the target parent.

This is an example of making simple that which is very complex with a maneuver of killing the messenger. Dr. Gardner’s contributions have been taken out of context and twisted to imply that he encouraged inappropriate sexual behavior. For example, he said that if a society has no social prohibition for molesting children sexually, then sexual molestation is common. This has been translated as saying it is okay to sexually molest children if no one says not to. The fabrications about Dr. Gardner are so extensive that it is an example of brainwashing in itself. He is the scapegoat for people who desperately need an enemy to blame. No group is more anti-Gardner than are the domestic violence community and the National Organization for Women.

PAS is the result of terrible domestic violence toward children and target parents. The irony is that those people whose stated purpose is to prevent domestic violence contribute to it by putting the whole body of Dr. Gardner’s work out for target practice, not for analysis. Those of us who appreciate and support Gardner’s contribution and understand that PA/PAS is serious violence to children and the target parent would never support awarding custody of a child to a pedophile or aggressor. The domestic violence community and those who want PA/PAS stopped should be rowing their respective boats in the same direction, instead of engaging in a bizarre tug-of-war characterized by the black-and-white thinking of who is right and who is wrong. Truth suffers. To take a child’s free will and mind away is violence from which they are likely never to recover.

The leadership in women’s groups has a responsibility to come to terms with the injustice of this slander of Gardner, and realize that their organization attracts disgruntled women who can easily find a sympathetic ear for how they were victimized by the father of their child and the court system. Just because someone has a dramatic story to tell doesn’t mean that they are telling the truth. The domestic violence leaders need to bring logic and reason to these issues.

Unfortunately, their efforts against any recognition of PA/PAS are relentless. They lobby for laws that would prevent PA/PAS from being used in family law court as a justification for modifying custody. They have successfully influenced the publishers of the 2006 edition of Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide—a publication of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges—to include anti-PA/PAS information. To the undiscerning eye, information published in such a prestigious document must be true. This is most unfortunate and tragic for the families impacted by these issues. (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2006)

Both sides of the debate have stated that their mission is the same—to protect people from the excesses of violent, disturbed individuals. Unfortunately, much of the domestic violence community focuses only on violence perpetrated by men, rather than also including the violence perpetrated by women against fathers and children. Violence is wrong, no matter who is committing it. The result is that domestic violence has been turned into a gender issue, when the truth is that both men and women are capable of doing serious damage to their children and to each other.

Conclusion

It is unfortunate that too many people will believe a dramatic story more than they will listen to evidence. Drama is the hallmark of people who are psychologically disturbed. Individuals with these severe mental health issues are under-diagnosed. We need more research and clarity on the effects of PA/PAS. The costs are staggering to children, the target parent, and that person’s family. The damage is severe and has long-reaching effects.

The whole fabric of our society is undermined by the behaviors of these severely disturbed individuals. Both men and women with obsessed thinking create PA/PAS situations with children and their target parent. Their irresponsible behaviors siphon off a staggering amount of social resources to stabilize the chaos they create. Any protocol that we use for the regular population is woefully inadequate in making them normal. Every year, hundreds of thousands of children and parents are experiencing the phenomenon of PA/PAS and the resulting devastation it causes. Millions of people are ending up damaged because, up to now, we have not even recognized the phenomenon or truly considered its impact. We all need to take action to educate and help people who have this terrible problem that does such severe damage to children.

Bibliography

* Baker, Amy, R. L. Adult Children of Parental Alienation: Breaking the Ties that Bind. W.W. Norton, 2007.
* Darnall, Douglas. Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation. Taylor Trade Publishing, 1998.
* Lester, W. Gregory. Personality Disorders in Social Work and Health Care, Third Edition. Cross Country University, 2002.
* “Fighting Over the Kids: Battered spouses take aim at a controversial custody strategy.” Newsweek, September 26, 2006.
* Linder, Douglas. “The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial: A Commentary 2003 Internet.”
* Gardner, R. A. The Parental Alienation Syndrome, 2nd ed. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1998.
* Gardner, R. A. Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 2001.
* Williams, Frank. “Preventing Parentectomy Following Divorce,” Keynote address, Fifth Annual Conference, National Council for Children’s Rights, Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 1990.
* National Organization for Women, http://www.now.org.
* National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide. Reno, Nevada: 2006.

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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
www.breakthroughparentingonline.com.

http://www.stopparentalalienation.org/index.htm