by Despina Vassiliou
Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling, McGill University
3700 McTavish, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1Y2
This chapter presents the results of the data analysis described in Chapter 3.
For the determination of indicators of PAS, the study of family data was an important area to examine first as there may have been some characteristics relevant in the occurrence of PAS.
(a) Family Constellation: Information about participants’ family characteristics such as marital status, number of marriages, length of alienating marriage, and number of PAS and non-PAS children were included. The information gathered pertaining to the family constellation was attained primarily through probing with the questions developed by the researcher which were part of the questionnaire shown in Appendix C.
Results: Three of the six participants had remarried after the alienating marriage and another participant reported that he was living with a partner. Of the remaining participants, one was continuing legal proceedings and the other, the only female participant, had remained unmarried since the divorce. The length of the alienating marriages ranged between three and thirteen years.
Four of the six participants each had one child (two of whom were girls) from the PAS marriage, one participant had two children of PAS (two boys) and another had three children (two of whom were boys). Four of the six participants had no other children outside of the PAS marriage (one participant was living with his partner’s children) and two participants had two children outside their PAS marriage. However, the lost parents tended to have had only one child from the PAS marriage and tended to have remarried after the PAS marriage ended. See Table 1 for a summary of the results. These results suggest a lack of common family characteristics inherent in PAS families.
Summary of the participants’ family constellations:
||Total Number of Marriages
PAS marriage (in years)
|Number of PAS children
||Number of non-PAS children
(b) Relocation: Information for this area was not probed. The participants related this information primarily when discussing either alienating techniques or the marital dissolution. Specifically, the data gathered pertained to any of the participants’ references to his or her own, or the child’s (with the alienator) change of home(s), whether to a different home, town, city, state or province, or country.
Results: The number of relocations per alienated family varied. The participants reported that they or their children (of the PAS marriage) had relocated between one and ten times. The father who reported that his ex-spouse and the PAS child relocated approximately ten times, had done so in the same city and simply relocated to ten different houses. Three of these participants reported at least one relocation of the alienator to another city or town. Only one parent attributed his ex-spouses’ repeated relocation to other cities as an alienation technique to prevent him from seeing his child. The remaining participants did not indicate whether or not their ex-spouses with the PAS children had relocated since the divorce. Only one alienated father indicated that he had relocated after the alienating marriage and he reported doing so in order to remain in close contact with his daughter who was being relocated by the alienating mother. The lost parents tended to report the relocation of the alienator with the PAS child or children after the marriage with little or no indication of their own relocation. Further, the nature and the reasons behind the relocations were not given. This information was not probed further as this was not an intended area of study. Thus the results suggest that the alienators’ change of home may not be a salient characteristic of PAS families. The overall results from the family data suggest that family characteristics such as number of PAS children, number of marriages, and the alienators’ relocations were weak indicators of PAS.
Dissolution of the Marriage
Another area indicative of the underlying reasons for the occurrence of PAS concerns the dissolution of the marriage. By broadening the examination of PAS into this area the issues of conflicts may be addressed, as well as indicators of the relationship between the alienator and the lost parent.
(a) Cause of marital dissolution: Primarily via the researcher’s questioning, data were gathered that pertained to any issues and conflicts that occurred within the marriage that the participants perceived as resulting in negative consequences for the marriage (i.e., leading to the dissolution of their marriage).
Results: Participants reported various reasons for the dissolution of the marriage. Those participants (four of the six) who initiated the divorce reported a breakdown in the relationship between themselves and their spouses for various reasons. A participant reported that his friends urged him to initiate the divorce due to the way his wife at the time treated him. He noted that she became physically violent at times:
She ripped my shirt off my back. On one occasion she took the flower pot and almost threw it on the lid of the car when I was backing up…She would just get in this rage when I would leave.
The remaining two participants reported that they were unaware that their wives wanted divorces and they were in disbelief when the divorce proceedings began. One participant described how he found out his wife had left him: her mother informed him of the impending divorce: “X decided to divorce you, that’s the only way she can be happy is if she divorces you and…you just have to live with it, that’s how it is.” In his own words, the participant explained “…she apparently decided to…divorce me and I didn’t know.” These results suggest that marital conflicts and their intensity are weak predictors in the occurrence of PAS as participants either reported no conflicts that led to the dissolution of the marriage or, if conflicts did occur, a variety of issues were reported as resulting in conflicts.
(b) Current relationship with ex-spouse: The researcher had probed the participants to describe their current relationship with their ex-spouses. The issues relating to this topic presented in the data pertained to the verbal and physical interactions between the participants and the ex-spouses in the alienating situation.
Results: The participants reported that they currently engaged in little or no communication with their ex-spouses (the alienators). Three of the six participants stated that they had no contact with the alienator for one to three years. As one participant explained his current relationship with is ex-wife: “…there’s not too much to the relationship. I haven’t talked to her for about three or four years.” Two of the remaining three participants reported that they had some communication, however this communication was often limited to e-mail or to requesting to speak with the children over the phone. Those participants who reported having had some limited contact with the alienators described their relationships as tense. One participant explained her relationship with her ex-spouse as “very tense and… unpredictable at times.” There was one exception, a participant described his relationship with his ex-spouse as a relationship that they were “working on”. Previously their relationship was strained, however a change in their relationship occurred when, recently, his ex-spouse was diagnosed with a terminal illness. The results suggest that the participants’ experienced either an on-going strained or chronic lack of relationship between themselves and their ex-spouses (the alienator).
Overall, the findings indicated that related to the dissolution of the marriage, the conflicts between the participants and their ex-spouses were of varying issues and intensity. Specifically, the nature and intensity of the conflicts appeared to be weak indicators of the occurrence of PAS. The results also suggest, however, that after the dissolution of the marriage and the occurrence of PAS, the relationship between the alienator and the lost parent was virtually strained or non-existent.
Relationship with the PAS children
The importance of studying PAS is evident in its effects on the children and their relationship with their lost parents. Examining the frequency of visitation and the lost parents’ relationship with their children may provide insight as to the impact of PAS on the children and their relationships with their lost parents.
(a) Frequency of visitation/contact: The researcher probed the participants for information pertaining to the amount of contact between the participant and his or her child (or children). Contact was defined as any interaction between individuals whether by conventional mail, e-mail, telephone, or physical (“face to face”) contact.
Results: All of the participants reported that the mother had primary custody of the children at the time of divorce or separation. Visitation for the fathers was approximately every second weekend, with the exception of one father who was allowed visitation five days a week for five hours per day. Since the finalization of the divorce or the implementation of the custody agreement, all of the alienated parents had their visitation drastically reduced, including the alienated mother who initially had primary custody. Upon asking her how often she sees her children, if at all, her response was “none.” Most of the alienated parents had not seen their children via a court implemented visitation for up to four years. Those parents who continued to have visitation had less frequent visits than when they were first divorced or separated (e.g., instead of every second weekend, a father reported that his visitation had been reduced to once a month). For instance, one father described his reduction in visitation as follows: “…about three years ago…it [visitation] was once or twice a week, and since then….I can see him about once a month.” Overall, the results suggest that a change in the frequency of visitation and custody arrangement occurs with these PAS families. The change of visitation and custody arrangement tends to be as follows: At the onset of the divorce, fathers received regular visitation schedules and the mothers (including the alienated mother in the present study) were given primary custody. After the legal proceedings and the onset of PAS there was a significant decrease in the frequency of the visitation schedule with all the alienated parents, including the alienated mother who had been given primary custody at the onset of the divorce. Although this result may be attributed to having primarily male participants in the study who tended to have visitation rather than custody, nonetheless, the frequency of the visitation was drastically reduced after the proceedings for all of the participants. Further, it remains uncertain as to the cause of the change in the visitation frequency. This change may be due to the legal proceedings or to PAS itself or a third unknown factor. If such a change were due to PAS however, it would be indicative of the success of the alienators in having the lost parents removed from the children’s lives.
(b) Current relationship with PAS children: Again, the researcher probed the participants for data pertaining to the type of physical, verbal, and emotional contact between the participant and the children.
Results: Three of the participants reported having little or no relationship with their alienated children. The alienated mother reported that although she had very little contact with her children she still felt “connected” with them. She continued to attempt to be present during important children’s events such as soccer, baseball games and graduations despite various obstacles (e.g., not being told of such events and being “scolded” by the alienator for going). The fathers who had little contact with their children reported that they attempted to maintain contact by writing letters and cards as well as sending various types of gifts (e.g., toys) to their children. Regardless of whether their children responded to their communication attempts, these fathers hoped that their children understood that by these gestures they were demonstrating their affections to their children. One father described his attempts as follows: “…I write every week. I try to send him [his son] something every week. It can be a postcard, it can be a toy… ”
Only two alienated fathers reported having a close relationship with their alienated children. One of these fathers described his case as a mild form of PAS and attributed his closeness to his daughter to her young age and that he continued to maintain daily telephone contact with her. In his words:
I’ve always been very close with my daughter…very, very close…I don’t think they [the divorce/custody proceedings] had anything [to do with it], she was too young. She was only two years old.
The other lost parent reported a close relationship with his two younger children, while his relationship with his oldest daughter remained somewhat strained. This participant’s close relationship with his younger children may be attributed to a milder form of PAS with his younger children than with his daughter and to his relationship with his ex-spouse who was diagnosed with a terminal illness and with whom he is currently re-establishing some communication. Thus, the results confirm that most PAS children and their lost parents did indeed have a strained relationship. However, the severity of PAS was a weak indicator of the extent of such a strain.
Overall, the results pertaining to the issues of the lost parents’ relationships with their PAS children are as follows: First, the results suggest a decrease in the frequency of visitation for the lost parent which may or may not have been due to PAS. Specifically, participants reported that custody was routinely given to the mother at the onset of the divorce, regardless of who became the alienator and who became the lost parent with the onset of PAS. Further, all fathers had a consistent visitation schedule where all had visitation every two weeks with the exception of one father who visited every day. With the onset of alienation, the alienator received custody and the lost parents had their visitations drastically reduced either to absolutely no visitation or no contact, to visitation of approximately once a month. Of interest is that the only lost female parent who initially had primary custody of the children had absolutely no visitation schedule by the time of the interview. Second, as there was a reduction of other contacts with their children, the lost parents described a limited relationship with their children, often writing to them without reply. The only exceptions to these findings were two fathers who related that their ability to maintain a relatively stable relationship with their children was a function of the mild severity of the PAS in their cases. Therefore as expected, the findings mildly suggest indications that the less severe the PAS the better the chance of having a good relationship with their children.
Alienation and alienating techniques
As there is little research on this subject, a more detailed examination of alienation and associated alienating techniques is necessary in gaining a better understanding of its impact.
(a) Alienators’ attitude and behaviors: Data pertained to all references to the alienators’ behaviors and actions that resulted in any negative consequences for the participant or the alienated child or children. Some of the data gathered for this issue was either probed by the researcher or was spontaneously reported by the participants throughout the interview,
Results: The results suggest that the alienators denigrated the lost parents by implying that the lost parents were not good people. For instance, one father accidentally overheard the alienator inform the children that she had hired an attorney to prevent them from having to visit with their father. The alienator did not allow the child to continue a healthy relationship with the lost parent. Another parent reported that whenever his child went back to the alienator’s home after a visit with him, the child would be questioned or “debriefed” about everything that happened there. A way the alienators exercised their power, as described by a father, included attempts offering the children alternate choices (e.g. shopping) to visiting with the father. The results suggest that all of the participants perceived a general “sabotage” of their relationships with their children by the alienators. The lost parents reported that they perceived their relationship with their children as being “eroded” often by not being informed of a child’s activities (e.g., soccer game schedule) that the lost parent may have wished to attend. Whether the alienator used mild “alienating techniques”- for instance whenever the lost parent called, the alienator would call the children to the telephone by saying in an “angry voice” “Its your father!” – or more drastic means by making accusations of physical and sexual abuse, the effect was that all the lost parents perceived that they were denied or deterred access to their children.
(b) Other’s contributions: Data gathered for this group pertained to all references to any individual, with the exception of the ex-spouse, who engaged in any alienating techniques (i.e., that were perceived by the participants as attempts at alienating the lost parent from the PAS child). Some of the responses were due to the researcher’s questioning but the primary source for the data was due to the participants’ spontaneous descriptions of the alienating circumstances involving others.
Results: In five of the six cases the children of the PAS families were described as “spies” for the alienator. These children reported back to the alienator anything that the lost parent said that the child did not like. This reporting would often result in arguments between the alienator and the lost parent. The female participant in the study reported that her children would copy all of her personal papers and bills for their father. Further, her children would report to him whenever she had a date. The results also indicate that gifts given to the children by the lost parent would often “disappear” or be broken by the children. In the two cases where there was more than one PAS child, the results indicated that the children were “turned against each other” where in one case they would spy on each other and in the other case the oldest child would engage in alienating the younger children (e.g., enticing the younger children to abandon their visit with their father in order to go to “Sea World” with her and her mother). In one of the cases the maternal grandparents continued the alienation when the alienator (the mother) had discontinued all contact with the father and the grandparents were placed in the position of monitoring the child’s visits with his father. In another case the lost parent’s ex-brothers-in-law and ex-mother-in-law also contributed to the alienation by denigrating the father in front of the children (e.g., saying “I am really sorry you have a father like that”). These results suggest that the children acted as the secondary alienator (i.e., the second alienator after the parent) and they would do so primarily by being spies for the alienating parent and by continually rejecting the lost parent via various means (e.g., breaking toys). Grandparents and other extended family members also appeared to play an important role by contributing to the alienation as secondary alienators, provided that they were close to the alienator. The findings suggest that the closer the alienator’s family members, the greater their tendency to alienate as well. These findings raise the question as to why close family members contribute to the alienation. For instance, are some of the alienating parent’s family characteristics indicative of their engagement in alienation or is it something about the alienation itself that engages other family members to contribute to the alienation or is it simply that these family members take sides? Researchers have yet to address this issue and future research will be important in answering this question.
(c) Cause of PAS: Data gathered here pertained to any causes or factors that the participants perceived to be linked to the development or occurrence of the alienation. Some of the data collected on this issue resulted from direct probing by the researcher, and some resulted from the participants descriptions of their circumstances.
Results: All of the participants believed that the motive behind the alienation was triggered by hate, anger, or a sense of seeking revenge towards them by the alienator or some combination of these. One father reported his belief that the cause of the alienation was “Hate…Hate towards me” and another participant perceived: “She hates my guts and she says it…And she’s trying to get back at me as well.” Another motive suggested in the findings was that the participants perceived the alienation as a means by which the alienators could succeed in severing the participants’ relationships with their children. One participant noted that the alienator may have made accusations of abuse as a means of explaining the reason behind the divorce. He described his belief as follows: “This gives her an excuse for leaving a bad guy and why the marriage broke up, and therefore it’s not her fault.” The findings suggest that the participants perceived the underlying cause of the alienation as the hatred toward the lost parents, anger, or revenge, or some combination of these.
(d) Control/power: All data gathered pertained to references to situations where the participant perceived that an individual’s actions or behaviours led to another individual’s behavioural change or constraint. Moreover, the data were spontaneously generated by the participants rather than elicited by the researcher.
Results: The results suggest that the participants had lost some power over their relationship with their PAS children. The alienators were often described by the participants as using the child or other means to attempt to produce a desired outcome in the lost parent or the child. An example of an alienator using the child is as follows: an alienator locked her child in a dark closet, to be found “yelling and screaming” by the lost parent, in order to make the lost parent give her some papers.
Feelings of powerlessness were also apparent in the findings as the participants reported feeling constrained as to the way in which they had to behave in the presence of their children. They reported a need to control their behaviour while in the presence of their children for fear of losing their visitation privileges or experiencing other legal consequences when the child reported to the alienator what the lost parent had done. As one father described his feelings:
So I think she [his daughter] has a lot more power than I do, you know. She has the power to just terminate the relationship at any time. I mean, if at any time she would say ‘Well Dad, I don’t feel like seeing you any more.’ Well, her mother’s …she says, you know, ‘whatever your daughter wants, you know…that’s the law type of thing’.
There is a sense of loss of parental role in the life of their children that has been attributed to the alienation. The lost parents cannot exert any of his or her parental responsibilities over their children. For instance, one lost parent reported how he could not discipline his child (e.g., send the child to her room) when the child behaved inappropriately, or she might end the visit the alienator would become angry at him for having disciplined his daughter as he once would normally have done.
Participants who did not have any contact with their children also reported a sense of being controlled or constrained in their behaviour. For instance, one father believed that he had to monitor the frequency with which he sent cards or packages to his child for fear of being charged with “harassment” if he did so too frequently. Further, two of the participants reported a sense of the children being controlled by the alienator. These children had to behave in a certain manner while with the alienated parent to avoid negative consequences by the alienator. For instance, one participant reported that an unscheduled visit to his child (in order to bring her a gift) resulted in the alienator yelling at the child for speaking to him. There was a sense of powerless reported by all the participants forcing them to behave in a certain manner to avoid legal or other consequences. As one father reported, once divorce occurs then “the courts really have the say over what happens to the kids, not you” [the parent]. These findings suggest that the lost parents perceived themselves as powerless with their children and to have lost their traditional parental roles whether or not they had visitation with their children.
Overall, the findings confirmed that the alienators used denigrating techniques (e.g., implying that the lost parents were not good people) and provided ultimata to children and spouses to further the alienation that was motivated by hate, anger, revenge or some combination of these three. Others were enlisted to contribute to the alienation. Children, in particular, were seen as spies to relay information to the alienator and, as such, may be considered secondary alienators. Second, extended family members such as in-laws who shared close relationships with the alienators contributed to the alienation as well. Moreover, the lost parents felt powerless as a result of the alienating situation. The children in particular were perceived as controlling the lost parents, they could determine when, if at all, they would see the lost parent, under what circumstances and in particular what the lost parent would do with the child. The lost parent had to be careful not to anger the child for fear of never seeing their child again and to be careful even sending them letters or toys. This loss of parental role was reported by the participants whether or not they had visitation with their children.
Experience with Professionals
When a marriage dissolves the family undergoes court proceedings to legalize the divorce. If children are involved, then the parents may seek custody in the courts, and the testimony of mental health professionals may be included during these proceedings. Services for mental health professionals may also be sought by any of the family members outside of the legal system before, throughout, or after a divorce. The role of these professionals and the participants’ perceptions of them may provide useful information for these same professionals as to their future dealings with PASfamilies.
(a) Legal services: The issues gathered here pertained to any legal proceedings, such as interactions with lawyers, judges, and the court system in general. The principle means of data collection for this issue was from the participants’ spontaneous divulgence of information and some data were gathered via the researcher’s additional probing.
Results: The participants generally reported having negative experiences within the legal system. The participants felt that the judges in their cases either played minimal roles in the final decisions since everything was decided beforehand by the lawyers, or the judges made quick and uninformed decisions, lacking knowledge and experience with respect to PAS. For instance, one father reported that his ex-wife — who was preventing him from having visits with his child — ignored court orders of his visitation rights. The judge did not impose any consequences on her; she received only a warning after ignoring more than one court order. Accusations were made against three of the fathers. The accusations ranged from physical and mental abuse of the ex-spouse and sexual abuse of the child, to accusations of scaring the children because he “talked like a walrus”. The participants perceived the court as an obstruction to seeing their children as well as a financial burden. Some participants reported the cost of the lawyers’ fees between U.S. $12, 000 to $200, 000. One father reported having to pay legal fees of $1, 000 in order to see his child for one weekend. Overall, the participants reported a sense of discontent over the way in which their cases were managed by the legal system. However, the discontent may have been related to the fact that the participants lost custody. A future study examining this issue may indicate whether the discontent with the legal services was due to the process of the legal proceedings or due to the end result (the loss of custody by participants).
(b) Psychological services: Here data gathered pertained to the participants’ experience of receipt of any type of psychological service whether by psychiatrist, psychologist , or counsellor. Once again, the principal sources of data were from the participants’ own descriptions of their experiences with mental health professionals. The secondary means was via follow-up probes by the researcher for the purpose of clarification.
Results: Half the participants reported receiving counselling with the alienator prior to the divorce. However, the female participant was the only lost parent to continue with the service and one male participant was “hoping” that an intervention by the therapist would be “crucial” for his case in court. Approximately half of the participants reported receiving a psychological assessment of the family for the legal proceedings in court. In general, the results suggest that the mothers in these families tended to receive psychological services around the time the separation was initiated and that they continued to receive counseling or therapy after the finalization of the divorce. The fathers, on the other hand, were asked by their wives to join their counselling sessions prior to the divorce.
Half of the respondents described their experiences with mental health professionals in negative terms. There appeared to be a sense of discontent with the mental health professionals’ knowledge of PAS and how they managed the PAS family. One father initiated a formal complaint against the psychiatrist who tape recorded their conversations without his knowledge. Members of the mental health profession were reported as being utilized as a “legal tactic” by the alienators and their lawyers. The mental health professionals involved with these PAS cases were often described as individuals who lacked the necessary knowledge of PAS and often neglected to collect pertinent information regarding the child’s relationship with their father. For instance, one father, whose daughter was seen by a psychologist, was never telephoned or asked for any information about his daughter until he called and complained to her himself. Moreover, the participants reported that their children primarily received psychological care for the family assessment for the court, with the exception that one child was seeing a psychiatrist for treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), a daughter who was being treated for anxiety, and two other children (from different families) who were being treated for aggression. Results indicate a general dissatisfaction with the psychologists or psychiatrists who were involved in the families of the participants and there was a lack of a positive outcome from seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist. Not one participant reported any positive outcomes from receiving psychological services. When asked how they coped with the alienating situation, three of the participants reported a desire to discuss and teach PAS to others.
Overall, the results suggest that the participants sought the assistance of both legal and mental health professionals. Further, the results suggest a lack of satisfaction with the services rendered by both legal and mental health professionals. There was a general sense of a lack of knowledge of PAS on the part of the professionals, as well as failing to gather “both sides of the story”. These negative perceptions gave rise to the question as to whether or not accusations that flew back and forth in the courtroom might have the impact of fuelling PAS, and suggests that further research is needed..
Examining the lost parents’ current perceptions after having undergone PAS may provide insight as to what issues are important for focus in future research, possible indicators of PAS, and the impact of PAS on the lost parents.
(a) Looking back: Here data gathered referred to the participants’ beliefs of any actions that they would have done differently as well as any general perceptions of the past.
Results: The results suggest that the participants, provided that they had had the knowledge about PAS that they presently have, would have behaved differently towards their ex-spouse. One participant reported that he would have never been married, while two participants reported that they would have taken different legal routes, such as hiring a different type of lawyer and taking a more aggressive legal approach from the onset. Two other respondents reported that they would have sought psychological services earlier on with a professional who was knowledgeable about PAS. The female participant would have allowed more discussions and pictures of the alienator with her children. Armed with the knowledge they now had, every participant would have taken other means to prevent the current alienating situation from ever occurring.
(b) The impact of PAS: Data pertaining to the participants’ perceptions of how the alienating circumstances have affected their life were gathered.
Results: Overall, the results suggest that the participants perceive the alienating circumstances as exerting serious negative emotional and financial consequences on their lives. Specifically, they felt that they had been drained emotionally, most participants reported a sense that the circumstances had “ruined my life completely”, and asserted that PAS had had “devastating” effects. One parent described the alienating experience as traumatic. The participants believe that they had lost a child or at the very least their roles as a parent. A participant described this feeling as if they would “rip one of my arms off” and another participant noted that his three year marriage will impact on him for the rest of his life (or at least until his child marries). A financial impact was also reported by three of the six participants, one of whom described himself as being “ruined financially”. The only positive impact was reported by the female participant who believed that the alienating experience helped her become more understanding of her pain, others’ pain, and this had assisted her to become a more understanding person.
(c) Termination/Looking to the future: Data gathered pertaining to this area included the participants’ belief that certain situations or circumstances are necessary for the termination of the alienating circumstances.
Results: The results suggest that the participants believed that by maintaining contact with the children (i.e., by sending letters and cards) increased the possibility of a reconciliation with their children. Even though the participants’ attempts at communicating with their children often remained unanswered, these parents believed that their attempts would inform their children that they were thinking of them, that they loved them, and that their doors were still open to the children. These participants hoped that as the children grew and matured they would decide to contact their lost parent on their own. However, these participants also reported that they realized that their children may never resume contact with them and that they must prepare for this eventuality. Two participants reported that they believed that by gaining access to their children the alienation might stop, and one of these parents stressed that terminating the contact between the alienator and the child was another means through which the alienation may cease. These results suggest that all the participants hoped that the alienation would terminate. The majority of the participants appeared to behave that this would occur with time; one participant perceived “time as a healer”.
Overall, the results suggest that the participants perceived their experience of PAS as having resulted in negative and devastating impacts on their lives and themselves and they would go to great lengths to avoid experiencing the alienation again. Moreover, the participants believed that their continued attempts at communicating with their PAS children, despite a lack of responses, would someday lead to the termination of PAS. Therefore, the results suggest that although PAS has had serious consequences on these families’ lives that could have been avoided, the lost parents hoped they would be “reunited” with their children in the future.
Results: The remaining data that did not appear to share any commonalities with other participants’ responses were gathered here. For instance, information gathered included detailed descriptions of the participants’ employment and finances as well as some information regarding other lost parents’ experiences as described by the participants. Such information was not related to any issues discussed by other participants and primarily pertained to details of the participants’ lives rather than to PAS.
Summary of Findings
The results of the study suggest that:
1. Family characteristics, such as number of children, and number of marriages, were weak factors in the occurrence of PAS.
2. The alienators’ changes of home were not a salient characteristic of PAS families.
3. Marital conflicts and their intensity were weak predictors in the occurrence of PAS.
4. The relationships between the alienating and lost parents were strained after the onset of PAS.
5. There was a general decrease in the frequency of visitation for the lost parent which may or may not have been due to PAS.
6. There was a reduction of other contacts (aside from visitation) between the lost parents and their children that, as expected, further limited the relationship between them.
7. All of the participants perceived a general “sabotage” of their relationships with their children by the alienators. The findings confirmed that the alienators used denigrating techniques (e.g., implying that the lost parents were not good people).
8. The children acted as secondary alienators.
9. The alienator’s closer family members tended to also alienate.
10. The participants perceived the underlying cause of the alienation to be hatred of the lost parents, anger, or revenge, or some combination of these.
11. The lost parents experienced a loss of both parental role and power whether or not they had visitation with their children.
12. Lost parents were generally dissatisfied with legal and mental health assistance. Both the legal and mental health professionals have inadequately explored all the parameters implied in PAS.
13. Lost parents would go to great lengths to avoid experiencing alienation again. They continued to hope to be reunited with their children in the future. Specifically, the participants believed that maintaining contact with their children (i.e., by sending letters and cards) increased the possibility of a reconciliation with their children.
14. Given the knowledge they now had about PAS, the participants would have behaved differently towards their ex-spouses.
15. The participants perceived the alienating circumstances as exerting serious negative emotional and financial consequences in their lives.
Though tentative, these findings demonstrate both the complexity and seriousness of PAS.