Are You Ready to Engage for Parental Rights?
We are taking the final steps toward introducing the Parental Rights Amendment (PRA) in this session of Congress. And this session will be like no other. In this session, we are pushing to fully pass the PRA in both the House and the Senate!Now, I must warn you. There is a chance our Summer Power Sweep is about to be delayed. But if it is, it will be because an opportunity has come along that is so huge that we can’t ignore it – the kind of opportunity that will make our delay a wise investment of time. And if it’s not delayed, well that’s good, too. Either way…
this is it!
This is the push for which we have laid a solid foundation over the last 7 years.
So the question is, are you ready to engage?
Soon, we will be asking you to engage your congressman and your senators to get them on board. But until then, we still need to engage the community around us.
‘My 5’ for Parental Rights
As we wrap up our Mega-Month of May, I have to tell you the results were not what we hoped. We added far fewer to our list than our 10,000-person goal.Presumption of Shared Parenting – Dispatches (
) As a Channel 4 documentary tries to scratch around the edges of the current problems in ‘family’ law and imbalances between parents it focuses on a separated couple who…Read More
But we are still excited about the new tool we introduced a few weeks ago, ‘My 5’ for Parental Rights. So I’d like to challenge you now to fill out your 5 this month. And if you already did so in May, let me challenge you to get 5 more.
It’s really very simple, and you can find all the details here.
National Parental Rights Week July 20-26
Toward the same end, we have designated July 20-26 as “National Parental Rights Week.” We want to celebrate parental rights that week in three different ways.
First, if our Summer Power Sweep is on its original schedule, we will have a call blitz to urge your members of Congress (House and Senate) to sign on as PRA cosponsors.
Second, we will prepare fliers that you can share in your house of worship forParents’ Day on July 26. These fliers will alert those in your congregation to the threatened state of parental rights in America today.
Finally – and most importantly right now – we would challenge every one of you right now to set aside some time that week to fill up one petition page for parental rights.
That’s 16 names. And it’s 7 weeks away. That’s plenty of time to make a plan of action for you and your family to find and secure those 16 signatures.
Will you approach people at the baseball game? At church? Hold an old-fashioned, door-to-door petition drive in your neighborhood, or even across town? Or maybe talk to people in the supermarket parking lot? However you do it, we’re looking for just 16 names.
If that sounds too easy for you, then just print out extra petition sheets – as many as you need.
And if it sounds too ambitious, then plan to secure a “My 5” during that week. Just get the family together and do the very best you can. Every signature will help add voices to our own as we call on Congress to adopt the Amendment for parental rights.
So start your “My 5,” make plans for National Parental Rights Week, and hang on. It’s going to be one exciting summer!
Director of Communications & ResearchMany members on here will know what this phrase means to themselves and for their children. No contact for days, months or years often for daring to challenge the court, or its corrupt agencies, on ‘sufficient contact’. sexist reports, false allegations and…Read More
Family Courts should not be allowed to treat you and your child like second-class citizens.
Parents in intact families who are presumed to act in their children’s best interests every day. See Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65, 120 S.Ct. 2054, 147 L.Ed.2d 49 (2000) (observing that “the interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children[ is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized by this Court”). ~In re Lee, 411 SW 3d 445 – Tex: Supreme Court 2013– Judges have a duty to report child abuse / neglect.
PARENTAL ALIENATION carries pretty much the same symptoms as kidnapping does… except maybe worse- this kidnapper hates the other parent. They are often jealous of the parents’ latter successes. For whatever their reasons they are using children to destroy, and the first and primary destruction is Daddy (in some cases Mommy).
Organization and civil liberties protection spirited creative to help motivate activism, solution ism and efforts to “squash the alienation!”
Why do mental health professionals and attorneys who evaluate or work with alienated children frequently mistake alienation for estrangement?
The main reason is that cases of parental alienation are counter intuitive. That is, the brain is hardwired to misinterpret and misunderstand the family dynamics in these situations. That leads to a number of common cognitive errors (thinking errors) that, in turn, lead to serious errors in professional reasoning and decision-making. In other words, the brain is tricked by alienation cases just as it is tricked by an optical illusion.
Consequently, many professionals, including mental health professionals and attorneys, get these cases backwards. Often, the targeted parent is unfairly criticized for having allegedly contributed to his or her rejection, and the alienating parent is either absolved or believed to have made only a minor contribution. Thus, unless the professional has an in-depth understanding of alienation and estrangement, cases of severe alienation are frequently mistaken for estrangement.
This phenomenon has been described in some detail by Steven Miller, M.D., a physician who studies clinical reasoning and clinical decision-making. For an excellent summary, readers might wish to refer to a chapter that Dr. Miller wrote entitled, “Clinical Reasoning and Decision-Making in Cases of Child Alignment: Diagnostic and Therapeutic Issues,” in the book, Working with Alienated Children and Families, edited by Amy J. L. Baker, Ph.D. and Richard Sauber, Ph.D. Dr. Miller examines the complexity of alienation cases, explains why such cases are so counter intuitive, even to professionals, and describes how even the most experienced mental health practitioner can succumb to a variety of cognitive and clinical errors.
I will subsequently specify some of the more common counter intuitive mistakes and biases that occur in alienation cases. But I wish first to discuss how an experienced mental health professional can be fooled in these cases and may be no better at diagnosing alienation than a layperson.
Why is that so? For one thing, professionals who are assigned to conduct custody evaluations provide reunification therapy, or represent a child in court are usually not experts in alienation and estrangement. Parental alienation is a highly specialized area, a sub-specialty within the field of family dynamics and family systems therapy. It requires special knowledge and special skills. But most mental health professionals have received little or no specialized training in these areas.
For instance, most custody evaluations are performed by clinical psychologists. And yet, the usual doctoral degree in clinical psychology does not include even a single course in family dynamics. Although I collaborate with many knowledgeable PAS-aware psychologists — many of whom are excellent, superb clinicians — they have usually gained their expertise in parental alienation through extensive practice experience, not as part of their formal training.
A similar situation exists within the discipline of child psychiatry, which generally provides little or no specialized training in family dynamics. Although some degree programs in clinical social work offer the option of specializing in family dynamics and family therapy, that is only an option, and many clinical social workers have little or no background in this area. Among mental health professionals, one of the few degrees that actually require formal training in family dynamics is a degree in marriage and family systems therapy, and even those who hold that degree are not necessarily experts in alienation and estrangement.
The bottom line is that not all mental health practitioners have the required expertise to handle cases of parental alienation, and not all therapists are bona fide specialists, let alone sub-specialists, in alienation and estrangement.
Thus, parental alienation is a complex sub-specialty that requires special expertise. To make this point, I sometimes use the following analogy: both a tax attorney and a divorce lawyer have gone to law school, and are presumably familiar with basic legal principles. Nevertheless, each would probably be over his or her head — like a fish out of water — if he or she attempted to practice the other specialty.
The situation is even more problematic for attorneys who deal with parental alienation. As previously noted, such cases are highly-counter intuitive, and attorneys who do not have special expertise in this area can make a multitude of cognitive, legal and strategic errors — including serious errors when trying these cases in court. Although Dr. Miller has described more than 30 such errors, some are particularly important and are highlighted here.
Most professionals believe that if a child has rejected a parent, the parent must have done something to warrant it. Few people would even think of another explanation: namely that the child had been programmed or brainwashed, just like what occurs in a cult or in the well-known Stockholm syndrome. But if one were to compare alienated children to foster children — specifically, children who had been removed from their parents due to actual abuse and neglect — the difference would be obvious.
Children who have truly been abused crave a relationship with their parents. Paradoxically — and this is what makes it so counter intuitive — with few exceptions, abused children protect their abusive parents. They do not disparage attack or reject them. I myself saw this consistently during my 24 years of working in New York State’s Child Welfare System.
Most professionals believe that it is unlikely that a child would align with an abusive, alienating parent. What is missed here is that the child is vulnerable to the manipulations of the alienating parent, such as bribery, abuse of authority and power, and permissiveness. We know how it is generally the targeted/alienated parent who enforces the appropriate discipline to fill the parental vacuum vacated by the alienating parent. By doing so, targeted/alienated parents are incredibly misunderstood and doubly victimized by the inexperienced professional, who then labels them as too harsh and not respectful of their children’s feelings and wishes.
Most professionals confuse pathological enmeshment with healthy bonding. To the naive observer, the closeness and clinging seen with enmeshed parent-child relationships seems normal, even healthy. But it is not. As a result of this dysfunctional relationship, alienated children lose their individuality; must suppress their natural feelings of love and need for a parent; and are manipulated to do the bidding of the alienating parent. That is extremely dangerous and damaging to the child.
Having fallen prey to these and other cognitive errors, mental health professionals who lack expertise in alienation then succumb to other biases that lead them to conclude that the alienating parent is competent and the targeted parent is not — in other words, those professionals get it backwards.
For example, the targeted parent frequently presents with symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear. What PAS-unaware professionals fail to understand is that these symptoms are situational and maintained by the alienation and are not dispositional. As noted by Dr. Miller, this is called the fundamental attribution error. It is one of the most common and pernicious cognitive errors. Likewise, it is common for PAS-unaware professionals to conclude that a targeted parent’s anger is the result of a character flaw instead of the result of trauma caused by the alienation.
I thought I knew children and young people quite well. After all, I had three of my own and I had worked with them for 10 years; I understood child and adolescent behaviour didn’t I? So challenged was I by the behaviours I had observed, that I sought to gain an informed understanding. This was when I came across ‘parental alienation’ (PA). The more I read, the more I understood, the greater my shame, guilt and sadness. Shame that I had usually taken what I saw before me at face value and not sought to look deeper; guilt that my ignorance had probably contributed to the alienation; sadness at the growing realisation that there was very little I could do to rectify the situation for this young girl and her dad. Witnessing the devastating repercussions on the lives of people I loved and cared about, motivated me to ‘do’ something…
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Sometimes when parents are divorced or unmarried parents are no longer together, one parent decides that she does not want the child‘s other parent in his life. She may go to vast lengths to turn the child against his other parent by telling lies, denying visitation and convincing the child he doesn’t need his other parent. This is called parental alienation syndrome. The effects of this can be damaging to children and may be very difficult to reverse.
- Encourage the child to talk about how she feels about the alienated parent. Listen for words or terms that are not typically used by children, such as words beyond their vocabulary level and those that are likely to have originated with the alienating parent. Statements such as “he touched me inappropriately” or “she abused me” are examples. Young children, especially, do not commonly use words such as “inappropriately” or “abused” without being taught them specifically.
- Ask him why he feels that way about the alienated parent and when he began to feel that way. Use his answers to determine the cause of these feelings to determine whether he has been coached by the alienating parent. For instance, if the child claims that he is afraid his father will hurt him, ask him why. If he cannot give an answer, lead him gently by asking more direct questions, such as whether his father has ever been hit him before and if not, why he thinks it is possible now. If a child cannot answer these questions or seems confused, parental alienation is likely the cause.
- Give the child examples of how his alienated parent has been there for him and done nice things for him. Show him that the alienated parent really does love him and wants to be a part of his life by showing him pictures of him with the alienated parent and projects they did together. He may have been told that the alienated parent doesn’t care about him, love him or want to see him.
- Approach the alienating parent for help if you feel she will cooperate. Some parents do not realize what they are doing and if you approach the subject, they may be willing to change and help. Let her know what the consequences of parental alienation can be and ask her to help the child develop a good relationship with his other parent.
- Allow the child to spend time with his alienated parent without interference from the other parent. This includes no phone calls or emails during the visitation. If the child can spend time alone with the alienated parent, he may change his mind on his own.
- Seek out the help of a professional who specializes in parental alienation. You may need to search around a bit to find a therapist willing to take on a parental alienation case, but a therapist may be necessary in extreme cases when nothing else has worked. The therapist often sees the alienated parent and the child together to gauge their interactions and to help the child speak to the alienated parent. The therapist leads the discussion and helps the alienated parent show the child that he loves her and that they were once happy together. The therapist is also likely to hold individual sessions with each parent and with the child. However, unlike typical therapy, the therapist must be firm and forceful in his approach to effectively reverse the effects of parental alienation. The therapist will also use a combination of reasoning and emotional exploration to get through to the child.
- Petition the court to remove the child from the custody of the alienating parent if the case is severe and it seems as though the alienating parent is not going to change. In some cases, the alienating parent has so much control over the child that no amount of help can reverse the effects as long as that parent is in the picture. This step should only be taken as a last resort, and there is no guarantee that the court will agree to remove the alienating parent from the child’s life completely.
- Parental Alienation; How Can One Overturn the Programming of a Child Against a Parent; Ludwig Lowenstein Ph.D.; 2005
- Parental Alienation; Signs of Parental Alienation Syndrome and How to Counteract Its Effects; Ludwig Lowenstein Ph.D.; 2005
- Parental Alienation Syndrome; Judge Ruled Father Brainwashed Son Into Hating Mother; Kirk Makin; May 2008
Criteria for Differentiating Between PAS and Bona Fide Abuse-Neglect in Children
Inducing a PAS in a child is a form of abuse. After all, it can result in the attentuation and even permanent destruction of the psychological bond between loving parents and their children. It is a form of emotional abuse, however, that is different from physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. Here the term abuse will generally refer to physical abuse and, to a lesser degree, sexual abuse. Included also in such abuse would be such behaviors as frequent menacing, threatening, hovering, and other forms of child intimidation.
Brainwashing in Custody Cases:
The Parental Alienation Syndrome
by Kenneth Byrne
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences that most people in our culture will experience in a lifetime. It is often accompanied by strong feelings of bitterness, betrayal, anger and distrust of the former partner. Each party often feels that they are “right” in many of their views on issues about which the couple disagree. When they have children the picture becomes infinitely more complicated. Among many other reactions, there is often a tendency for each partner to want the support or agreement of the child (or children) on critical issues. The more difficulty and intensity of negative feeling between the two adults, the more likely is this to be the case.
In some cases, the desire to have the agreement of the child can become strong enough to verge into brainwashing. By brainwashing I mean an effort on one parent‘s part to get the child to give up his or her own positive perceptions of the other parent and change them to agree with negative views of the influencing parent. At this intensity the motivation of the parent goes beyond simply getting the agreement and support of the children. Commonly, brainwashing parents are motivated by an opportunity to wreak a powerful form of revenge on the other parent -diminishing the affections of the children.
Typical examples include mentioning obvious weaknesses of the other parent and blaming those as the major source of difficulty between the parents. Nothing is said about the other parent’s positive traits. The fact that both parents have contributed to the problem is also omitted.
This kind of communication has at least two psychologically destructive effects. First, it puts the child squarely in the middle of a contest of loyalty, a contest which cannot possibly be won. The child is asked to choose who is the preferred parent. No matter what choice, the child is very likely to end up feeling painfully guilty and confused. This is because in the overwhelming majority of cases, what the child wants and needs is to continue a relationship with each parent, as independent as possible from their own conflicts.
Second, the child is required to make a shift in assessing reality. One parent is presented as being totally to blame for all problems, and as someone who is devoid of any positive characteristics. Both of these assertions represent one parent’s distortions of reality. It is as if the child walks outside on a sunny day in summer clothes, and feels quite comfortable. Then one parent says, “Billy, it’s raining right now, and it’s cold. You have to wear a raincoat and jumper”. To appease that parent. the child must act in accordance with that statement, and bend his own perceptions of reality.
Some may argue that such behavior is simply accommodating to the directions of a parent, something that children have to do all the time. However, in healthy interactions, the child is encouraged to accept a view of reality that is both accurate and adaptive. (“I know you don’t want to study, but unless you do you might very well fail the test.”)
Adults in the midst of a divorce are not famous for their objectivity, especially regarding their spouse. Typically, over weeks, months and years, the child is exposed to a long series of such distortions. In many cases, directly opposite information is being presented by the other parent. Children caught in this cross-fire inevitably end up with a significant degree of psychological disturbance, not the least of which is a distortion in basic reality testing about the world around them.
In divorces where the parents are unable to find any way to mediate the questions of custody and access, they typically turn to the legal system. In most cases, each seeks the advice of their own solicitor, setting in motion a legal duel. One of the effects of this duel is that each parent senses the need for a list of “horror stories” about the other. The intuitive feeling is that if it can be shown that the other parent is “worse” through a longer and more vivid list of horror stories, then “victory” in the form of physical custody (or greater access in some cases) will be won.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome
In cases of contested custody and access, mental health professionals have been seeing with increasing frequency an extreme form of brainwashing which has been called The Parental Alienation Syndrome (originally described by Dr. Richard Gardner, “Recent Developments in Child Custody Litigation”, The Academy Forum Vol. 29 No. 2: The American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 1985). Children who are suffering with this situation have been subjected to an intense and persistent form of brainwashing by one parent against the other. The overt goal is almost always – at a minimum – to dramatically reduce contact by the child with that other parent. Commonly, the goal becomes to virtually eliminate the other parent from the child’s life.
Example: Mrs. Litigious complained to her solicitor that her two children, aged five and eight, kept refusing to see their father on access visits, and that with each passing week, they became more tearful and resistant as the visit approached. She wondered whether the mid-week visit couldn’t be reduced to every second or third week, or eliminated altogether, in order “to spare the kids all this pressure”.
Mrs. Litigious had been married to her first husband, Mr. Cross, for ten years. She divorced four years ago, and is now remarried to Mr. Litigious. The solicitor asked for consultation from a forensic psychologist, Dr. Neutral.
Mr. Cross, father of both children, complained to his solicitor that his former wife was making it increasingly difficult to see his children. It started with him being kept waiting for increasingly longer periods of time when he would pick them up. Recently they had been pouting and saying he was “mean”, with the younger echoing the older’s complaints. On weekend visits this would last through Friday night and Saturday morning. By lunch time, both children began to seem happier, and the rest of the visit would go fine, until the drive back to mum’s house. At this point the kids would again begin to disparage the father, saying for example, “We don’t really like you – we only pretended to have a good time”.
During his first visit with Dr. Neutral, Joe Cross, aged 8, said that he disliked his father very much, and did not want to seek him as often. When questioned about his reasons for this, he said “He hits me and doesn’t let me watch television”. The youngster could say nothing positive about his father, yet found a wide variety of praises for mum, with virtually no complaints about her.
Lisa Cross, age 5, virtually echoed her brother’s words. Her reasons for not wanting to see her father were that “When I go there he justs sits around and he makes me cook dinner!” She too could find nothing positive about father, and had no complaints at all about mother.
In a joint visit with father and the two children, Joe’s complaints were aired. Mr. Cross readily acknowledged that what his son had said was correct, but put it in further context. He limited television to two hours, and made Joe stop when that time was up. On a recent Saturday morning, Joe had balked at this limit, an argument developed, and father slapped him once on the bottom.
In individual visits it soon became clear that Mrs. Litigious despised her former husband. Since the initial separation there had been a continuing feud, with bitter accusations on both sides. She argued strongly that whilst she encouraged and even forced her children to accept access visits, it was they who were now reluctant and unwilling. Her proposed solution was less access time. Her husband, when seen alone, echoed her bitterness. In his opinion it would be better for the children to never see their father, since he had no positive virtues whatever.
Psychological evaluation of Mr. Cross indicated that he was an argumentative and rigid man, who many would see as being somewhat difficult to deal with. He was also seen as a quite adequate father, who offered his children a good deal of love and support, and who was deeply attached to them.
Evaluation of Mrs. Cross found her to be a devoted and competent mother, but a rather immature woman, prone to let her emotions override her judgement.
In a report tendered to the court and to all parties, Dr. Neutral made the diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome, and made specific recommendations for resolution of the matter.
This case illustrates all of the diagnostic symptoms of this disorder in its fully developed form. These symptoms are:
The child shows a complete lack of ambivalence one parent is described almost entirely negatively, the other almost entirely positively;
The reasons given for the dislike of one parent may appear to be justified, but investigation shows them to be flimsy and exaggerated; with younger children, the reasoning is even more transparent;
The child proffers the opinion of wanting less contact with one parent in a way which requires little or no prompting. The complaints have a quality of being rehearsed or practised;
The child seems to show little or no concern for the feelings of the parent being complained about;
The alienating parent, while seemingly acting in the best interests of the children, is actually working to destroy the relationship between them and the other parent. It is not uncommon for this to be further fuelled by new spouses or de factos;
Most importantly, while the children will verbally denigrate one parent, they retain an unspoken closeness and affection for that parent. However, if the syndrome is allowed to develop unchecked, this can be all but erased by the alienating parent.
These symptoms are seen exclusively in children where parents are engaged in a legal battle for custody or access. The more protracted and bitter the dispute, the more this is likely to occur.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome represents the intertwining of a complex series of factors. It certainly goes well beyond simple brainwashing. It is begun and propelled by a host of factors in the alienating parent, including both unconscious and subconscious elements. The child, independent of the brainwashing parent, can have a vested interest in maintaining an overt position against one parent for both conscious and unconscious reasons.
The case above describes the syndrome in a relatively “pure” form. More often, the case is complicated by a host of other factors. For example, allegations of child sexual abuse are being lodged with increasing frequency during custody battles. Often the child will report details of how the other parent (usually the father) has abused the child. Some of these claims are legitimate; many more are manifestations of this syndrome embedded in charges of abuse. Kidnapping of children, often across state or national borders, is being reported with increasing frequency; (speaking at The Bicentenary Family Law Conference at Melbourne in March, 1988, Lawrence Stotter provided the following figures. Between 1973 and 1979, 85 cases of international child abduction were reported to the United States Consular Affairs Office. For the years 1983 to 1988, this figure had jumped to 1,516). On top of the web of legal challenges which these cases present, there is the added element of this syndrome operative in most, if not all, cases.
I have encountered several cases in which mental health professionals have allowed themselves to become embroiled in these scenarios without appreciating what they were dealing with.
Case 1: At the request of the court, a psychiatrist, Dr. Eager, conducted a custody evaluation concerning Mary, age 6. After one interview with each parent, he recommended that the father have custody and the mother be granted limited access. The court followed this recommendation. The mother lodged an appeal against this decision. After the court made its initial decision, the father asked the psychiatrist to accept his daughter for treatment. Dr. Eager agreed, seeing the girl once weekly with occasional visits with father. However, he did not involve mother in the treatment, and neither father nor Dr. Eager even told her the daughter was being treated.
During the next hearing, the father produced a letter from Dr. Eager which indicated that he was now treating Mary. His letter described how the child told him how frightened she was of her mother, and quoted the girl, then aged six, reporting memories from when she was three about how her mother had hit her. He concluded that “In my opinion Mary’s emotional state is still not stable enough to allow her to have access to her mother. I cannot estimate how long it will be before the child would be well enough to begin any sort of regular access.” He then commented that “If access must commence, I believe it would be best done in a supervised setting with an independent third party, such as a representative from the State social work department.”
Here Dr. Eager treats a child without involving the mother, whom he has already met. He accepts unquestioningly the memory of a six year old of events she couldn’t possibly recall, and overlooks any possibility of programming of the child by the father. Perhaps most importantly, based on only one interview with mother, he concludes that the child is too unstable to visit her.
Several questions could be posed. If the mother is so destructive and frightening, wouldn’t a natural part of the treatment be the re-uniting of the mother and child in a safe, controlled environment, such as the therapist’s office, where there would also be an opportunity to explore more carefully her parenting ability? If deficiencies were found, wouldn’t it help the child to have the therapist teach the mother how to parent this girl more effectively? Finally, how can one treat a six year old without involving the mother?
Case 2: A mother brought her two children, aged 5 and 7, to the family GP and described how reluctant they were to see their father during access visits. The doctor provided a letter to the mother’s solicitor which said “I have interviewed Billy and Sally at 2:10 pm in my surgery. I have a videotape of the interview if required.
“Both children have indicated they do not wish to see their father. It is my opinion that it is the individual and personal wish of Billy and Sally to decline their father’s access. It is also my professional opinion that if such access were granted it would be detrimental to the welfare of the children.”
The doctor accepted at face value the statements made by the mother and children. Without consulting the father, who was known to him, he offered this professional opinion to the solicitor for one side. His reasoning appears to be that these children of five and seven are able to determine a matter of the magnitude of whether or not it is in their best interest to visit and thereby maintain a relationship with their father.
In each of these cases a medical professional, using the weight of that authority, offered a written opinion for one parent’s “cause” without a careful assessment of the other parent or of the underlying situation between the couple. As closely as I can determine, both professionals seemed well motivated, though naive. In my opinion, their efforts only aggravated already difficult situations. Each seemed to be led into this error by being manoeuvred by one party into becoming an advocate for one side, instead of serving as an impartial examiner.
Guidelines for Solicitors
When faced with parents or children who want to reduce or eliminate access visits, maintain a healthy degree of scepticism. Remember that even children who have unquestionably been physically or sexually abused are usually extremely reluctant to discuss this with a stranger. When a child easily volunteers mostly negative criticisms to a solicitor, mental alarm bells should go off.
Do everything possible to hear both sides of the story. This requires remaining more flexible on occasion. Legal training is designed to instil an adversarial spirit, and parents who use children in this way can quickly stir up one’s “mental juices” to “fight for this child”. To hear both sides of a story doesn’t mean that you can’t be adversarial later, if need be. Try to arrange a without prejudice round table conference of the parties and their solicitors.
Chose experts who insist on being involved only as an impartial examiner from the outset. Such experts are less likely to be drawn into becoming advocates. Selecting these people means that you risk getting an opinion . on which doesn’t favour your client, and perhaps losing the fight the client is paying you to win. However, it greatly enhances the possibility that you will obtain an opinion which is genuinely in the best interests of the child. Should the opinion favour your client, the evidence of such an expert is far more likely to be found credible by the judge.
Use courtroom litigation only as a very last resort. Litigation is psychologically damaging to children. The more times that the couple goes to court, the more damage is done to children. Aren’t there times when court is the only answer? Yes, but they aren’t nearly as frequent as the number of cases which actually end up in court.
Consider alternative solutions to the courtroom. When the couple will agree to counselling, this is obviously the preferred solution. However, by the time the couple reaches solicitors, the likelihood of their selecting such a recommendation is only modest. A thorough evaluation by a truly impartial examiner often helps to settle cases before getting to court. Another option is court-ordered counselling, to which all parties agree. To be successful, certain prerequisites are essential. The plan must have the support of both solicitors. Certain changes to the usual rules of confidentiality need to be agreed upon in writing. The therapist must be able to see all parties in whatever combination is considered warranted. New spouses or de factos must be available for involvement. The therapist must have sufficient time to work with the family – these cases aren’t worked out in just a couple of visits. It is not essential that the parties want counselling. It is only essential that they agree to a court order, and that they see this as being preferable to a courtroom battle.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome represents an extreme form of brainwashing of children by one parent. It is always seen in the context of disputed custody or access situations. The goal of the brainwashing parent is to get revenge. There is no greater revenge than blocking the other parent from playing a meaningful role in the child’s life. The syndrome has clear signs and symptoms and, with appropriate procedures, can be diagnosed and treated. This syndrome is also seen in more complex forms, when it is embedded in situations of alleged child sexual abuse or child kidnapping. It can easily be misdiagnosed by professionals who have not educated themselves about these situations, and misguided efforts at helping can worsen an already bad situation.
Dr. Byrne is a clinical and forensic psychologist in full time private practice in Clifton Hill, Victoria, and is an Honorary Lecturer in the Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University.
|Brainwashing children is a crime executed by a dysfunctional parent willing to strip children of their self- esteem to accomplish their own revenge against an ex-lover. Those of us impacted by Parental Alienation know that memories can be changed. We have seen it happen. We have helplessly watched as our children’s self-identity is vengefully pulled from them, twisted, manipulated, and reprogrammed until a new person emerges that is consumed by hate.
Parents and children are both victims of mind manipulation by an ex-spouse obsessed with revenge and a burning need to assuage their injured ego. They are motivated by avenging their sense of abandonment and their narcissistic need for adoration.
We have lived with our children and powerlessly experienced the deterioration of our loving bonds. But, we rarely know why and how hate replaces the familial love that had always defined our relationship. The complete reversal would seem unimaginable if…
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Judge: “I really feel uncomfortable labeling someone as a murderer. Can’t we just say they’re a doer of bad things?”
Psychologist: “I know the person has prominent hallucinations, delusions, and conceptual disorganization, but why do we need to label the person as having schizophrenia? Is that really necessary? Can’t we just say they have different thoughts and experiences?”
Social Worker: “Just because someone sexually molests a child, do we really need to label that person as a pedophile? Can’t we just say the person has unusual sexual desires?”
Our job in mental health is to understand the nature and variety of psychopathology, to assess persons and situations, and then to apply this knowledge of psychopathology to the person and situation based on standard principles of professional psychology, including the DSM diagnostic system of the American Psychiatric Association.
Personality disorders, and in this context I am speaking specifically about narcissistic and borderline personalities, are acknowledged and fully described forms of psychological pathology by preeminent figures in mental health, including Otto Kernberg (1975), Theodore Millon (2011), Arron Beck (2004), and Marsha Linehan (1994).
Narcissistic and borderline personality disorders are also recognized mental health pathology in the DSM-5 diagnostic system of the American Psychiatric Association with established diagnostic criteria.
In addition, the pathology of personality disorders is recognized as presenting along a “dimensional” continuum of severity (Widiger & Trull, 2007), meaning that a person can present some traits or features of a personality disorder without necessarily meeting the full diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder.
Furthermore, blends of personality disorder traits are acknowledged as more the norm than the exception. For example, the renowned psychiatrist, Arron Beck, describes that,
“Patients with BPD [borderline personality disorder] consistently meet criteria of one to five other personality disorders.” (Beck et al., 2004, p. 196)
And the preeminent expert in personality disorders, Theodore Millon (author of the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory, which is considered the gold-standard for the assessment of personality disorders), describes the overlap of personality disorder traits for the narcissistic personality;
“Several personality disorders often covary with the narcissistic spectrum. Most notable among these are the antisocial and histrionic spectrum variants. Also listed are covariations seen with the sadistic, paranoid, negativistic personality spectra, as well as borderlines.” (Millon, 2011, p. 406)
The renowned expert in personality disorders, Otto Kernberg, identified the core structure of the narcissistic personality as representing a “subgroup of borderline patients,”
“One subgroup of borderline patients, namely, the narcissistic personalities…” (Kernberg, 1975, p. xiii)
In addition, both narcissistic and borderline personalities have been prominently associated with the collapse of thinking into delusional belief systems when under stress. The label of “borderline” personality was given to this personality style in the 1930s because this personality structure was considered to be on the “borderline” between neurotic and psychotic, and Theodore Millon has specifically described the collapse of the narcissistic personality disorders into delusional beliefs:
“Under conditions of unrelieved adversity and failure, narcissists may decompensate into paranoid disorders. Owing to their excessive use of fantasy mechanisms, they are disposed to misinterpret events and to construct delusional beliefs. Unwilling to accept constraints on their independence and unable to accept the viewpoints of others, narcissists may isolate themselves from the corrective effects of shared thinking. Alone, they may ruminate and weave their beliefs into a network of fanciful and totally invalid suspicions. Among narcissists, delusions often take form after a serious challenge or setback has upset their image of superiority and omnipotence. They tend to exhibit compensatory grandiosity and jealousy delusions in which they reconstruct reality to match the image they are unable or unwilling to give up.
Delusional systems may also develop as a result of having felt betrayed and humiliated. Here we may see the rapid unfolding of persecutory delusions and an arrogant grandiosity characterized by verbal attacks and bombast. Rarely physically abusive, anger among narcissists usually takes the form of oral vituperation and argumentativeness. This may be seen in a flow of irrational and caustic comments in which others are upbraided and denounced as stupid and beneath contempt. These onslaughts usually have little objective justification, are often colored by delusions, and may be directed in a wild, hit-or-miss fashion in which the narcissist lashes out at those who have failed to acknowledge the exalted status in which he or she demands to be seen.” (Millon, 2011, pp. 407-408; emphasis added)
A delusion is an intransigently held, fixed and false belief that is maintained despite contrary evidence. The shared belief by the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent and child that the targeted-rejected parent is an emotionally or psychologically “abusive parent,” whose parenting practices present a risk to the child, represents an intransigently held, fixed and false belief which is held despite contrary evidence that the parenting practices of the targeted parent are entirely normal-range. The belief that the targeted parent is an “abusive parent” who presents a danger to the child is delusional. It is not true.
This intransigently held, fixed and false belief (i.e., a delusion) is created by the collapse of the organized cognitive structures of the narcissistic/borderline personality into delusional beliefs, as specifically described by Millon (2011), in response to the psychological stresses triggered by the “unrelieved adversity and failure” surrounding the divorce experience (i.e., the public rejection and abandonment of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent by the attachment figure of the other spouse).
The pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” is extraordinarily severe. To miss making the diagnosis of this extremely severe psychopathology is, to me, stunningly incompetent. I can only attribute this level of professional incompetence to professional ignorance regarding the nature of personality disorder pathology, which would then likely represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence if the mental health professional is then diagnosing and treating personality disorder pathology.
If a patient has the characteristic symptoms of cancer, the physician diagnoses cancer.
If a patient has the characteristic symptoms of heart disease, the physician diagnoses heart disease.
The physician does not say, “Cancer is such a serious disorder, why do we need to label the patient as having cancer? Can’t we just say the patient has some “uncomfortable pains”?
According to the DSM-5, if the patient has hallucinations and delusions, then the patient is diagnosed with schizophrenia. If the patient has mania and depression, the patient is diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Personality disorder pathology exists within the DSM diagnostic structure. Delusional disorders exist within the DSM diagnostic structure.
The purpose of identifying the nature of the parental personality pathology in attachment-based “parental alienation” is NOT to diagnose the parent. The diagnosis of attachment-based “parental alienation” is made SOLELY on the CHILD’s symptom display, not the parent’s.
The purpose of identifying the nature of the parental psychopathology is to gain an accurate conceptual understanding for the nature of the pathology being displayed by the child in attachment-based “parental alienation.” The key feature of this conceptual understanding is that the pathology of the parent is being TRANSFERRED TO THE CHILD through the distorting influence on the child’s belief systems of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s pathology. As a result of this transfer of pathology from the parent to the child, we will see evidence in the child’s symptom display of the distorted parental influence from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s psychopathology.
The pathology of the parent is creating the child’s pathology, and as a result, features of the parental pathology will be evident in the child’s symptom display (I refer to these symptom features as “psychological fingerprints” of parental influence by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent).
This “psychological fingerprint” evidence in the child’s symptom display represents Diagnostic Indicator 2 for an attachment-based model of “parental alienation,” i.e., the presence of five specific a-priori predicted narcissistic/(borderline) personality traits in THE CHILD’S symptom display (I’ll defer discussion of the anxiety variant).
Q: How does a child acquire this specific set of narcissistic/(borderline) personality characteristics that are being expressed selectively just toward the targeted-rejected parent?
A: Through the psychological influence on the child’s symptom formation from the pathology of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
Failure to acknowledge the nature of the pathology will lead to a MISDIAGNOSIS of the personality disorder pathology displayed in the child’s symptoms as falsely representing diagnostic indicators of either oppositional-defiant behavior by the child, or problematic parenting by the targeted-rejected parent.
No. This is the wrong diagnosis.
Let me be abundantly clear… this would be the WRONG diagnosis.
The child’s symptom display is NOT oppositional-defiant behavior and is NOT the result of problematic parenting from the targeted-rejected parent. The child’s symptom display directed toward the targeted parent represents a set of specific narcissistic and borderline personality traits that are being acquired by the child through the distorted pathogenic parenting practices of the allied and supposedly favored parent. The source for this child symptom set is the narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology of the parent that is creating the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” as expressed by the child.
If a mental health professional makes the WRONG diagnosis as a consequence of the personal discomfort of this mental health professional with the correct diagnosis, it would be analogous to a medical doctor making an incorrect diagnosis of cancer as instead representing high blood pressure because the physician was personally uncomfortable with the seriousness of the cancer diagnosis. The physician would then treat the patient for high blood pressure, and the patient would die from cancer.
When mental health professionals make the WRONG diagnosis concerning the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” as incorrectly being the product of the child’s oppositional-defiant behavior or as being caused by the problematic parenting of the targeted-rejected parent, this leads to incorrect and entirely ineffective treatment, and the patient (i.e., the child’s healthy development and the child’s healthy loving relationship with a normal-range and affectionally available parent) dies as a direct consequence of the misdiagnosis by the mental health professional.
If a physician were to ignore the symptom indicators of cancer and instead misdiagnose a patient’s cancer as being high blood pressure because of a motivated desire by the physician to avoid the correct diagnosis of cancer, and as a result of this motivated misdiagnosis the patient dies from untreated cancer, this would seemingly represent professional malpractice.
So why doesn’t the same apply to mental health? Actually, it does.
The central defining role for the mental health professional is to correctly identify psychological psychopathology.
The central defining role for the medical professional is to correctly identify the nature of physical pathology.
The central defining role for the legal professional is to correctly identify violations of the law.
Failure in any of these areas represents a fundamental failure in the primary professional obligation of the mental health, medical, or legal professional.
Personality disorder pathology exists. Delusional pathology exists, particularly in association with specific types of personality disorder pathology. It is the central professional obligation of mental health professionals to CORRECTLY identify the nature of the pathology in every single case.
Failure to do so would represent a foundational failure in the professional’s “duty of care”for the patient.
To then also assert a professional reluctance to correctly diagnose the nature of the psychopathology because of an unwillingness to apply a professionally established and defined professional label regarding the nature of the pathology runs perilously close to amotivated misdiagnosis of the psychopathology, which may then represent professionally negligent practice rather than simple incompetence.
The issue is NOT diagnosing the parent. An attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” DOES NOT diagnose the parent.
The diagnosis of the pathology associated with an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” remains solely and completely focused on the symptom indicators in the child’s symptom display.
The correct clinical term for “parental alienation” is “pathogenic parenting” (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation). Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant pathology in the child through highly aberrant and distorted parenting practices.
The issue is NOT the parent’s pathology. It is the transfer of this parental psychopathology to the child through highly aberrant and distorted pathogenic parenting practices, as evidenced in the specific features of the child’s symptom display.
The reason for identifying the nature of the parental psychopathology is to ground the diagnosis in an underlying theoretical understanding regarding the nature of the psychopathology, which then allows us to identify specific diagnostic indicators in THE CHILD’s symptom display that represent definitive diagnostic evidence of the psychopathology.
At its fundamental core, attachment-based “parental alienation” represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships. This trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma is mediated by the distorted personality pathology of the parent. The personality pathology of the parent is, in turn, the consequent product of the attachment trauma (i.e., of disorganized attachment patterns) from the childhood of the allied and supposedly favored narcissistic/(borderline) parent.
The professional issue is NOT labeling the parent, the issue is correctly identifying the nature of the psychopathology being expressed in the child’s symptom display.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857
Beck, A.T., Freeman, A., Davis, D.D., & Associates (2004). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. (2nd edition). New York: Guilford.
Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York, NY: Guilford
Millon. T. (2011). Disorders of personality: introducing a DSM/ICD spectrum from normal to abnormal. Hoboken: Wiley.
Widiger, T.A. and Trull, T.J. (2007). Plate tectonics in the classification of personality disorder: Shifting to a dimensional model. American Psychologist, 62, 71-83.
I recently heard (secondhand) a critique by a mental health professional about an attachment-based model of “parental alienation.” This mental health professional was apparently concerned about “labeling” the alienating parent’s pathology as being related to personality disorder processes (“Why do we need to “label” the parent as having a personality disorder?”)
I wish to take this opportunity to address this concern for “labeling” the pathology of the allied and supposedly favored parent.
Identifying pathology is the central and primary function of mental health professionals.
To say that we shouldn’t identify the nature and severity of psychological pathology is like saying the legal system shouldn’t identify the nature and severity of the violations of the law.
Judge: “I really feel uncomfortable labeling someone as a murderer. Can’t we just say they’re a doer of bad things?”
Psychologist: “I know the person has prominent hallucinations, delusions, and conceptual disorganization, but why do…
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How do you put a face on what it means to have an equal opportunity for access to civil justice?
That’s difficult — but the Feb. 15 edition of The Florida Bar News attempts to do just that in their article…
“Putting a human face on the civil legal access gap:
Access Commission learns how the system is broken”
Look no further than the story of Miami’s Maria Garcia, said Commission member and Third DCA Clerk of Court Mary Cay Blanks during a recent January Commission meeting. Garcia was fired from her job of 15 years, denied benefits and didn’t know where to turn. When she visited Blanks’ office to file an appeal, the attendant simply handed her forms and wasn’t permitted — by law — to give her any legal advice. Unable to afford a lawyer, Ms. Garcia left feeling frustrated and unsure of what step to take next, as if the system had failed her. That has to change, said Blanks.
“The challenge we face in my office is being able to assist them in a meaningful way without crossing that line of giving out too much information and worrying about the unauthorized practice of law,” Blanks told the Commission. “So we err on the side of giving less information because we don’t want to cross that line. The perception is that we’re unhelpful; it causes a lot of people leaving the office disgruntled, and feeling like they are not getting their day in court, or we’re not going to help them get their day in court.”
IT’S TIME TO BRING ACCOUNTABILITY TO THE FAMILY COURT SYSTEM!
It’s time to stand up and be counted. Just look around you.
There is an enhanced appreciation for the vital role both parents play in rearing healthy, happy, well – adjusted children. It makes good sense for our Family Courts in accounting for our children’s needs to consider also any benefits associated with the maximizing the time each parent spends with the child, as well as the detriment of limiting the child’s time with either parent.
Until we stop reducing the richly textured experience of parenting children to fights about time, we won’t recognize the variety of ways in which unique and meaningful parent – child relationships can be maximized in shared parenting, not just in a two week rotating schedule, but over a lifetime.
KEEP THE FAITH!
Been experiencing a lot of stress lately about the children, and honestly at the point of considering walking away. Sometimes you get to that point.I woke up early from sleep Thursday morning because I had gone to bed early on Wednesday night.That is when I found this text from our daughter. Just two words. . Love you.
I waited until daybreak and replied with a meme using an image of both of us with a side inscription. ..”I know, I earned it. It has been worth it since. Love U 2. Dad.” Have a great day. She replied two hours later saying “You too.”
I don’t know the particulars behind her timing, but it was as if she could feel my frustrations. But the bigger picture points toward a child that is being alienated from a parent reaching out to that parent, saying; Love you.
Petition for Family Law Reform, each year parents both mothers and fathers are denied contact to their children by an unjust system, we thank you for your continued support and hope that one day we will achieve a fairer family law system in which the best interests of the children are taken into consideration, where we hope to end the rulings on false allegations, where we hope parental alienation will be acknowledged and a system is put into place so that this can no longer take place unpunished, where contempt of court is stamped out in the first instance, please support, like and share this page and together we can make a difference.
The Time is Now for Change!
We need stronger legislation that protects the rights of our most precious and vulnerable resources: Our children.
The Family Court System is failing to protect our children. Each year, countless children are sent into unsupervised visitation, or worse, with an abusive or personality disordered parent. The most tragic cases involve situations where the protective parent is demonized and custody is awarded to the offender.
How do we know unequivocally that this happens? Each year, more and more children are coming forward to report about how the system has failed to protect them. The Courageous Kids Network is but one of the groups that offers a voice to these victims. Some studies have estimates as many as 58,000 children each year suffer due to our broken family court system.
In a recent Tn Appellate Court Decision, state Judges have ruled that a “trial court is not obligated to consider all of the (best interest) factors” when making an initial determination of child custody. They also went on to say that it is okay for the trial court to consider a parent’s right to a relationship with the child as being more important than any other factor. This is true, even when there is irrefutable evidence of abuse and mental illness.
This is a call to our legislature to enact bills that will protect our children. It is a call for disambiguation of the law and Justice!
1. Judges and Attorney’s need mandatory education about personality disorders and a child’s age appropriate developmental needs- particularly Antisocial and Narcissistic since these are the most damaging to children.
2. A Trial court should be mandated to consider ALL statutory factors in weighing a child’s best interests.
3. A trial court must place child welfare above parental rights.
4. The law should require that a judge must articulate how he weighed each factor in determining custody. It is not just protective parents who take an issue with this- many attorney’s and appellate court judges would like to see this happen.Family courts often take on dark undertones when a protective parent is accused of being a parental alienator.
What makes the United States a harbinger of freedom that has beckoned millions of immigrants and continues to summon millions more? It is our system of government, which is fundamentally based on our Bill of Rights and our Constitution.
Which is why I am deeply concerned about an international treaty called the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. If this treaty is ratified, all children younger than 18 would not be allowed to participate in political activities. It is, therefore, an abridgement to their First Amendment right!
This fact was illustrated recently in a speech made during World Children’s Day and Child Rights Week 2009 by Sheikh Hasina, prime minister of Bangladesh, in which she said, “Children would be aware of politics but should not be used in political activities.” Bangladesh is a country that has already embraced this seemingly harmless treaty, which when looked at more closely, actually supersedes the political freedom of anyone 18 and younger. Whether that’s attending a political rally or a city council meeting, American children’s right to political free speech would be stymied if this treaty is passed. The only way to prevent this from happening is by passing the Parental Rights amendment to our Constitution. This amendment already has 120 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives! I would like to encourage all of you to investigate this issue for yourselves and find out more about the Parental Rights amendment because political freedom does not have an age limit!
communication studies department,
Colorado State University
FILED UNDER – Opinion Letters at http://www.coloradoan.com/article/20091012/OPINION03/910120306/1014/OPINION/Political+freedom+does+not+have+age+limit
Over the years I have been most inspired by the work of Omar and David Inguanzo from their group Children’s Rights and would call o all like mined folk to join us and make the break through 3000th member by this Easter!
Along with other campaigners such as Donald Tenn, David Carlin, Anthony Lemons, Second Class Citizen.org and many more who know the massive challenges that still lie ahead through out the USA. Here in the UK there seems a modest groundswell towards reform and feel I would like to see this hope extended to other associated fighting for justice in Family Courts and reforming child welfare organisations to start acting as they are expected to !
Along with everyone throughout the USA I would call on those in Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Greece…….and beyond to use this group as an umbrella organisation to promote our causes generate information not only among ourselves but that can be lobbied through the media , local and national press and radio ,and onto our reluctant political masters!
Fighting to preserve Parent–Child relationships to improve the lives of children and strengthen society by protecting the child’s right to the love and care of both parents after separation/divorce… See MoreFew social policies seem to do as much universal good as paid paternity leave: Study after study has shown that when a father plays an active role in a child’s early years, he or she will end up healthier, achieve greater academic success, and even make more…Read MoreAn estimated 24.7 million children (33%) live absent their biological father. We asked Democratic and Republican Primary Candidates ~ How can you address the fatherlessness epidemic? ~ Of students in grades 1 through 12, 39 percent (17.7 million) live in…Read MoreThe Family Court System in our country is failing our children at an alarming rate, children are being ripped from the arms of fit and loving parents every minute of every day, all to fill the pockets of the “system!” Judicial Kidnapping is rapid, CPS has…Read More
Someday Family Court Systems will be free of gender bias and free of the financial corruption inherent in Title IV-DBias and abuse of discretion cannot be tolerated when it comes to the “Best Interest” of our children. More eyes are needed on the Judges to ensure they are doing the work of the Court, any nothing more. Reform is needed on many levels, especially in the…Read More1. Judges and Attorney’s need mandatory education about personality disorders and a child’s age appropriate developmental needs- particularly Antisocial and Narcissistic since these are the most damaging to children. 2. A Trial Court should be mandated to…Read More
Make Family Justice Reform a Key Election Issue throughout the United States using the media to win public opinion and to lobby the politicians.Why do we remove fit parents from the lives of children every day? Is it because the Courts have remained stuck in outmoded thoughts or is it because we have a current system of law that punishes fit parents for no wrong doing? A single question that has…Read More
Most alienated parents are non-custodial fathers, and engaging these fathers is a significant challenge, as clinical and research literature has described the lack of “fit” between fathers and therapeutic agents as emanating from two sources: the characteristics of men and fathers themselves (their resistance to counseling and therapy), and aspects of the therapeutic process (which have failed to successfully engage fathers).
Patterns of traditional gender-role socialization directing men toward self-sufficiency and control, independent problem-solving and emotional restraint have largely worked against fathers being able to acknowledge personal difficulties and request help.
A fear of self-disclosure and a feeling of disloyalty to one’s family in exposing family problems are not uncommon; a fear of losing control over one’s life and the need to present an image of control or a “facade of coping” in the form of exterior calm, strength, and rationality, despite considerable inner turmoil, characterize many fathers.
Professional service providers do not always consider such psychological obstacles to therapy and thus do not address fathers’ unique needs. The research on divorced fathers is clear about their most pressing need: their continued meaningful involvement with their children, as active parents. The lack of recognition of this primary need is the main reason for therapists’ lack of success in engaging alienated fathers.
Above all, the key to engaging alienated parents is to validate their parental identity, and combine advocacy efforts with counseling focused on enhancing their role as active and responsible parents. Human service professionals have been notably absent in the politics of reform with respect to the issue of legal child custody, yet they are desperately needed as allies in policy reform efforts.
An important role of human service professionals in supporting alienated parents is through such advocacy and activism, challenging the custodial/non-custodial and residential/non-residential parent dichotomy and advancing the cause of co-parenting.
An active program of outreach is essential as alienated parents report a lack of effective support services, and they remain a highly vulnerable population. Service providers need to be persistent and proactive, as it takes time to build and sustain engagement in the context of these parents’ feelings of isolation, helplessness, and their tendency to wait until there is a crisis before accessing support. Parents who were highly involved with and attached to their children and suddenly find themselves forcefully removed from their children’s lives experience profound woundedness.
The experience of being removed as a loving parent from the life of one’s child via a sole custody order strikes at the heart of one’s being. Suicide rates are reported to be of epidemic proportions among parents, fathers in particular, who are struggling to maintain a parenting relationship with their children (Kposowa, 2000; Kposowa, 2003); and legal abuse has been noted as a key factor in these cases. Being vigilant regarding symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation among non-custodial and alienated fathers and mothers is an essential role for service providers.
A strengths-based approach, recognizing alienated parents’ aspirations to their children’s well being and the experience, knowledge and skills that they can contribute to this well being, while maintaining the high road in addressing the alienation, is vital.
And finally, what about the alienating parent, who uses a combination of fear, lies, flattery and gratification of material desires to win over their child, and whose sense of entitlement and desire to control the child is greater than the desire to nurture and care for the child?
As Amy Baker writes, parents who try to alienate their child from the other parent subtlely or overtly convey a three-part message to the child: I am the only parent who loves you and you need me to feel good about yourself; the other parent is dangerous and unavailable; and pursuing a relationship with the other parent jeopardizes your relationship with me.
Alienating parents are themselves emotionally fragile, often enmeshed with the child, with a “sense of entitlement, needing control, knowing only how to take” (Richardson, 2006).
Yet although it is easy to pathologize and blame such parents, it must be remembered that alienating behavior is encouraged in the context of a legal adversarial forum where the goal is to “win” the custody or residence of one’s child. And although some would recommend a solution of removing child custody from alienating parents and placing children in the care of non-alienating parents, it is often very difficult to adjudicate who actually is the alienating and who is the targeted parent.
Family law judges are not trained in the finer points of child development and family dynamics, and can be easily swayed by legal arguments made on behalf of disputing parents, including alienating parents.
On the matter of parental alienation, I have come to see that the problem is systemic in nature; that is, the problem lies primarily in the adversarial nature of legal determination of parenting after divorce. Parents are set up to fight in an effort to win “primary residence” or “custody” of their children, and the system tends to reward those skilled in adversarial combat. Parents often win their case by disparaging the other parent as a parent, in effect engaging in alienating behaviors, and the system thereby encourages and produces alienating behavior.
A legal presumption of co-parenting, rebuttable in established cases of child abuse and family violence, may in fact be the most effective means of combating parental alienation and curtailing its damaging consequences, while at the same time protecting the safety and well-being of children at risk of abuse.
The final installment of our three-part series on parental alienation will examine programs, services and interventions that combat alienation, and seek to reunite estranged parents and their children while addressing the significant clinical challenges in working with alienating parents.
Kposowa, A. (2000). “Marital Status and Suicide in the National Longitudinal Mortality Study.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 54, 254-261.
Kposowa, A. (2003). “Divorce and Suicide Risk.” Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 993-995.
Richardson, P. (2006). A Kidnapped Mind. Toronto: Dundurn Press.
Source: Psychology Today
In this second installment of our three-part series on parental alienation, we turn our attention to alienated (targeted) and alienating parents. Parental alienation is the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other (targeted) parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with that parent, and most often occurs within the context of a child custody conflict. This includes the “legal abuse” of parents who have been disenfranchised from their children’s lives subsequent to sole custody and primary residence judgments. Within an adversarial legal process, non-custodial parents are often subjected to shame and stigma, lack of access to their children, and devaluation of their role as parents. And those who speak about the pain and woundedness in their lives are subjected to a mean-spirited cultural response, where their talk of woundedness is mocked.
Most alienated parents are non-custodial fathers, and engaging these fathers…
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This type of behavior by the courts is by definition tyranny.
Abuse of the people by the court system is why many left England for America. History is repeating itself. The courts are hurting families for the financial gain of states, lawyers, judges and a spiraling government bureaucracy. Basically it is run for the “insiders” not for the benefits of citizens and families Today men are treated like criminals in these courts, and not even believed, so that the judge can do whatever they want. You are guilty until proven innocent as a man, and innocent until proven guilty as a woman.
I think the problem is that they have named it wrong. All this time they are trying to get it set up as a psychological diagnosis for the child. For the longest time I thought it was applicable to the alienated parent. Now I have a different take on it. Think about it. Perhaps it should be called Systematic Parental Alienation and iit should be more of a phenomenon rather than any kind of diagnosis. Yet shouldn’t it relate to the parent who is causing the alienation since that person is the source of the problem.Don’t we try to attack a problem at it’s source?
How much could we accomplish by addressing parental re-patriation between the alienated parent and the child who has been affected if the child continues to remain with the parent who continues to practice an on going practice of systematize parental alienation on the child and typically against the non-custodial parent.
There are so many takes on this subject that it needs to be addressed. No matter how you look at it, it is a problem, it is a destroyer of families and of relationships between parents and children and it is problem created almost always by a custodial parent with issues of their own.
What are your thoughts?
**** Links About Divorce and Family Law Practice in RI to Help You