The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder
that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.
Its primary manifestation is the childs campaign of denigration
against a good, loving parent, a campaign that has no justification.
It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing)
parents indoctrinations and the childs own contributions
to the vilification of the target parent. When true parental abuse
and/or neglect is present the childs animosity may be justified,
and so the parental alienation syndrome diagnosis is not applicable.
The childs alienation has less to do with bona fide
animosity or even hatred of the alienated parent, but more to do
with the fear that if such acrimony is not exhibited, the alienating
parent will reject the child.
Gardner. R. (2002). Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome
Also Harms Women. American Journal of Family Therapy 30(3):191-202
The consensus that a childs unreasonable
alienation from a parent is a problem does not extend to the issue
of how to conceptualize the problem. Wallerstein finds the term
PAS unnecessary and believes that the problem is subsumed under
her concept of overburdened children who must
attend to the needs of disturbed parents at the expense of their
own psychological development (2, 21). She does, however, introduce
the term Medea Syndrome to refer to vindictive
parents who destroy their childs relationship with the
ex-spouse (21). Other authors conceptualize the phenomenon as a
vulnerable childs maladaptive reaction to a high conflict
divorce (22). This high conflict model accepts the utility
of a separate classification for alienated children. It uses
terms such as unholy alliances and extreme forms
of parent alienation in place of PAS (23; pp. 174, 202). The
high conflict model differs from Gardners conceptualization
in that greater emphasis is placed on the childs psychological
vulnerabilities and the contributions of the entire family system
to the childs alienation. By contrast, some authors place
greater emphasis on the behavior of alienating parents and distinguish
their destructive behavior (labeled parent alienation)
from PAS which is one possible outcome of such behavior (24).
Kelly and Johnston expressed concern that PAS
oversimplifies the causes of alienation and that Gardners
formulation leads to confusion and misuse in litigation (25). To
remedy these flaws, they drew on their considerable clinical and
mediation experience with divorced families to propose a reformulation
of PAS which they call the alienated child
(hereinafter referred to as the AC model).
Given the volume of published references to PAS, we can expect that
it will continue to be raised in custody and access litigation.
Future empirical research should help resolve some of the current
controversies by providing data on the reliability and validity
of PAS, the effectiveness of various interventions, and the long-term
course of parental alienation.
Warshak, R. (2001
Current controversies regarding parental alienation syndrome. American
Journal of Forensic Psychology, 19, 3, p. 29-59.
Alternative Models of the Problem of Alienated Children