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Arguments For and Against Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation

By HERWriter
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There are many possible disorders and syndromes that are not officially recognized by the American Psychological Association and are not featured in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, but that doesn’t mean people don’t suffer from these issues.

Two unofficially recognized psychological issues that come to mind are Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Parental Alienation (PA).

The differences between the two are that Parental Alienation deals with “abusive behaviors of a parent” and Parental Alienation Syndrome deals with “the possible effects of PA on the child,” according to Sarvy Emo, the treasurer and founder of Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO).

Parental Alienation is the “mental manipulation and/or bullying of children, which can result in destroying a loving and warm relationship they once shared with a parent,” according to the PAAO website.

This includes one parent targeting another through alienation and encouraging the child to do so as well. The whole purpose is to gain control and hurt the other parent, while sometimes a parent is alienated out of fear of losing a child or children. This type of scenario is usually seen during separation or divorce.

The result is Parental Alienation Syndrome, where the child avoids and hates the other parent for little or no reason.

The term Parental Alienation Syndrome was coined in the 1980s by Richard Gardner, and Parental Alienation characteristics have been noted in some court cases from the 1800s, Emo said in an e-mail.

The main reason why the APA hasn’t considered PA or PAS as official diagnoses is because there is not enough data to support these disorders/syndromes.

“Since 1996 there [has] been a ton of research on the subject and I believe the DSM is now considering entering Parental Alienation Disorder into the book, though it has not been decided either way,” Emo said.

Sol Rappaport, a clinical and forensic psychologist in Illinois, is working on a paper on parental alienation.

In a statement, he said, "My view is that most people, including professionals, do not fully understand the dynamics of it and how to assess for it.

Add a Comment12 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

I know of a tragic case where a sexually abusive father used PA against the mother to gain custody of the child...and the court ordered in his favor! THIS IS A TRUE CASE AND IS WIDELY APPLIED in Portugal to protect abusive behaviors of parents against their children.....BEWARE!

January 22, 2016 - 3:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I worry that the legal system will get so caught up in trying to determine whether to call this problem a syndrome or not; whether it should be admissable in court or not; if it is mostly mothers or not; that they will miss the most important piece: The longer this type of behavior goes on, the harder it is to reverse. Years of litigation to finally win custody or more visitation doesn't matter in a child's life. One year is a long time in a child's life, much less 2, 3 or more.
Court-appointed guardians MUST have a psychology background. The people who do the alienating are clever, focused, diligent and great performers. They absolutely know how to manipulate the legal system and influence judgement. And they will stop at nothing to make sure they get what they want.

August 26, 2010 - 12:09pm

Parental Alienation is certainly a serious problem. It impacts both men and women as target parents. In my research of Canadian case law, I found that alienator moms outnumbered dads by about two to one. But moms tended to be dealt with more sympathetically by the courts. I did not find any difference in the intensity of the alienation, at least from the published case reports. A summary of my research can be found at:
Gene C. Colman

June 27, 2010 - 1:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for highlighting this destructive family dynamic that affects countless parents, children and extended family members every year.

To be honest, anyone who is fighting desperately to maintain or restore a previously normal, healthy, loving relationship with his or her child doesn't care whether the academics and professionals call their situation a syndrome or a bad alignment of the stars and planets. They just want someone to help them with their very painful and heartbreaking situations.

The more we can eduate people about parental alienation the fewer people will experience what the writer above has gone through.


mike jeffries
Author, A Family's Heartbreak: A Parent's Introduction to Parental Alienation

June 16, 2010 - 2:11pm
EmpowHER Guest


Dean Tong, MSc.

June 16, 2010 - 1:50pm
EmpowHER Guest

Anonymous, I think if you looked at your case carefully, you would see that the "alienation" did not surface in isolation, but was part of the arsenal by an abusive man to control/belittle and eliminate you from the picture. When the efforts to remove you are this pathological, it has nothing to do with the subtleties or "unconscious behaviors" that Gardner described and everything to do with domestic violence by proxy. See link here:

[link removed by moderator]

June 16, 2010 - 8:32am
EmpowHER Guest

The above comment does not understand what PAS or PA is at all...! My ex-husband brainwashed our two children to completely delete me from their lives. They refuse to see me or communicate with me - their loving Mom! His control over them is complete. His control and abuse over me was too much to endure. I left and initially, we were able to split amicably. We officially and legally have joint custody, but he has been able to completely convince the kids to have nothing to do with me. The lawyer said there is nothing I can do about it, because the kids "are old enough to make up their own minds." The court system does not understand how controlling one parent can be....

June 15, 2010 - 8:40pm
EmpowHER Guest

What kind of women's site is promoting this garbage? PAS is the new witchcraft allegation. It epitomizes misogyny by pathologizing mothers who protect their kids as mentally ill. There are moms who have been beaten and raped and kids who have been beaten and raped who get declared mentally ill by having an abusive man pay a psychologist to come into court and proclaim the mother and child mentally ill with PAS. It can best be compared to the fake mental illness of Drapetomania where slaves who wanted to be free were declared to have a mental illness. Since when do women or children have to be subjugated to a male guardian? Anyone supporting this nonsense must be aligned with the views of Saudi Arabia where no woman has any say and must have male guardian. in the US version no children can be free of an abusive male guardina and any mother who dare to try to raise her children free from an abusive slave master male guardian will be declared by the morality police/psychologist & judge to be mentally ill. Sarvy Emo is full of crap.

June 15, 2010 - 7:41pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

How would you explain then women who are alienated from their children? or how about letters from adult children of alienation?!!? You pathetic excuse is garbage, women and men, who use the system with false allegations should be ashamed of themselves and punished. Women and men who have true allegations, get justice! May you find peace with your irrational anger.

December 12, 2010 - 12:56am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Pardon me but your ignorance and hostility is showing.

I think that this rightly belongs on a "woman's site", as much it belongs on a "man's site." The fact is that both mothers and fathers can be alienators. This is not an assault on mothers. For you not to see that this could indeed happen illustrates a sort of ridged/black and white thinking that I would say is a huge red flag.

Is a parent who alienates mentally ill? Could be. There are many cluster B personality disorders that would by their very nature support alienating type behaviors. It's coupled with a disordered parent's black and white thinking and inability to see their child's needs, want and desires as being different form their own. For these disordered parents there is no middle ground, you are either with them or against them. These parents love is very conditional and often forces a child to choose between the parents. The children, not having the capacity to fully understand their decision often choose the abusive/alienating parent. These kids will lie to please the abusive/alienating parent.

Some alienation tactics are mild and perpetrated out of ignorance and don't result in parental alienation syndrome. Some alienation tactics are very severe and effective in undermining the affections between the child and targeted parent. Not every child who endures alienation tactics is fully alienated from the target parent.

It's probably shocking to learn that there are parents, both mothers and fathers who purposely manipulating a child's reality. They lie, manipulate and revise history to gain control over their child(ren)'s affections. They are systematic in their approach, just like cults.

I would ask you if you believe that cults exist? Are the members brainwashed? Do former members require deprogramming to reenter society at large? Is a former cult member mentally stable when they leave or are forced out?

Parents who use parental alienation tactics are, in a sense, forming their own cult.

I am sure that you will not be swayed by what I wrote here. In any event, from one mother to another (I am making an assumption here), parental alienation is not a father issue nor a mother issue, it is a children's issue. There has to be some way to protect this kids from this.

June 15, 2010 - 8:47pm
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