welcome to parental alienation...

parental alienation


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it's just a sad statement for our world today....

An increasing number of children are experiencing the divorce of their parents or litigation over their custody some time during their minority. Some children experience the concerted, albeit often unconscious or unintended, attempt of one parent to alienate them from their other parent.
it's unfortunate that we're meeting over this topic, but if you're fighting for custody of your child(ren) & you feel as if your child(ren) are being alienated from you....
you're in the right place.
it's a tough road to journey on, but at least you'll know that you're not alone - there are others suffering as well.

click here to send me an e-mail & check back often for updated information!



the father is feeling helpless and fearful

The parents of Amy (age 10) & Kevin (age 7) are divorcing after 13 years of marriage. Their father, by temporary stipulation, has moved from the marital home. He's entitled to visit with the children on alternating weekends & one evening, during the week.
Soon, the children begin to refuse to go with him.
At first, they don't want to leave Mom; they say that they're afraid to go. When Dad comes to the house, Mom tells him that she\he will "not force the children to go."
"Visitation is up to them." & she\he will "not interfere in their decision".
The children refuse to talk with him on the phone. Mom calls him names when he telephones & complains constantly about her financial situation, blaming him, all within hearing of the children.

Dad attempts to talk with the children about the situation, then to bribe them w/movies, shopping trips, toys. They become more & more sullen with him & resistant to coming.
Anything, routine doctor visits, invitations from a friend, a visit to Aunt Beth, serves as an excuse to avoid visits.

A court appointed guardian ad litem learns from the children that "Dad is abusive & mean to us. " They don't want to go on visits.
However, when asked to give specific examples of how he's abusive, their stories aren't convincing, "He yells too loud when we make noise." "He made me climb all the way to the top of a mountain."
"He gets mad at me about my homework." "He makes me wear my bike helmet." "He pounds the wall to get us up in the morning & it makes me afraid that he'll hit me."
They say that he has never hit them, although they state that they're very afraid that he will.

These children are in the process of becoming alienated from their father.


from a personal perspective:
We all know that hindsight is 20/20. Okay, that being said, I must relay that there are very evil people in this world. We hear about them day in and day out in the news, we read about them in the newspaper and in sensationalized magazine articles - they're often murderers, rapists, child abductors or child molestors, parents who abuse their own children, and even worse - parents who murder their own children.
Sometimes those evil people are married and seem totally functional in society. Sometimes the spouse and children of the "evil person" are amazed when they find out the truth. Sometimes there are small signals or signs that people close to the "monster" chose to ignore. When this happens, an entire family is soon to realize that they never really "knew" their family member like they thought they did.
This can happen to anyone when a divorce happens. In this day and age, you can turn your television channel to "crime t.v." and hear about all the men and women who planned to murder a spounse so as to avoid a messy divorce. It was either the money involved that would have to be "shared" or the custody of the "children." It's much too often than we'd like to acknowledge that a husband or wife, kills the children and then commits suicide because it's thought to be better than letting the other parent get custody of the kids.
Parental Alienation is more a symptom of our times. People marry for the wrong reasons. They marry others to make themselves "feel better." They're miserable alone and can't live with themselves because they just don't know who that person is. It's more acceptable to tear up a child's heart than to admit that there's a problem with ones' psyche.

Before I get started with the factual information, now that I've had years to put this chapter of my life into some kind of perspective...
Who are you really? When you're looking at yourself through someone elses' eyes, who do you see? Are you struggling with just being an individual - perhaps you're not being the best parent - perhaps you're depressed or experiencing an anxiety disorder?
If this is your case and you fear that your spouse is going to get nasty with you and try this parental alienation in a custofy fight for your child(ren), you need to get yourself together. You must take confident steps, (watch the words I'm using very carefully.) to document the plan you have and the actions you are taking to eliminate your problems.
Now is not the time to make any changes in your lifestyle except for the betterment of yourself. You must take the journey backwards and begin to journal your past, right from childhood, from being born - and document your past crisis and traumas.
You must document your dating of your spouse, your marriage, your career moves, your lack of career moves or career, your educational choices, etc. You must document on a timeline any transitions made during your marriage, whether they be with you and your spouse or your families of origin.
You must think clearly so get some clarity on your whole life. This will be the worst thing that ever happened to you if you don't. If you think you'll never lose your child(ren) - you could be wrong. Never be that confident. If you live in the state of Michigan - be doubly careful. They are monsters. Their Friend of the Court system will eat you alive.

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what is parental alienation?
The Nature of Parental Alienation

There has been a lot of confusion about the definitions of parental alienation & parental alienation syndrome.

" ... parental alienation is any constellation of behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that could evoke a disturbance in the relationship between a child & the targeted parent."

This definition isn't the same as Dr. Richard Gardner's definition of parental alienation syndrome, which he coined in his 1987 work, "The Parental Alienation Syndrome & the Differentiation Between Fabricated & Genuine Child Sex Abuse." Gardner defined parental alienation syndrome as,

"a disturbance in which children are preoccupied with deprecation & criticism of a parent, denigration that is unjustified &/or exaggerated."

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are you divorcing a controlling or abusive spouse?

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To help you fully understand the information within the site there will be random definitions of words commonly used within the articles posted.
  1. adj. Difficult to manage or govern; stubborn. 
  2. Difficult to mold or manipulate: intractable materials.
  3. Difficult to alleviate, remedy, or cure: intractable pain.

vit·ri·ol·ic  adj.

  1. harsh or corrosive in tone

 "an acerbic tone piercing otherwise flowery prose"

 "a barrage of acid comments"

"her acrid remarks make her many enemies"

"bitter words"

"blistering criticism"

 "caustic jokes about political assassination, talk-show hosts & medical ethics"

"a sulfurous denunciation"

[syn: acerb, acerbic, acid, acrid, bitter, blistering, caustic, sulfurous, sulphurous, venomous, virulent]

     2: of a substance, especially a strong acid; capable of destroying or eating away by chemical action [syn: caustic, corrosive, erosive]

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What is "Parental Alienation Syndrome" & Why Is It So Often Used Against Mothers?

by John E. B. Myers, Professor of Law
University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
Sacramento, California

Psychological & medical syndromes play an important role in understanding behavior & providing treatment to victims of abuse.

Unfortunately, there is one so-called syndrome that, in my opinion, does tremendous harm to many children & their parents, particularly mothers seeking custody in family court.

I speak of psychiatrist Richard Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome (1987.)  Gardner writes:

"One outgrowth of this warfare (over custody) was the development in children of what I refer to as the Parental Alienation Syndrome.  

Typically, the child viciously vilifies one of the parents & idealizes the other.  This isn't caused simply by parental brainwashing of the child. Rather the children themselves contribute their own scenarios in support of the favored parent. 

My experience has been that in about 80 - 90% of cases the mother is the favored parent & the father the vilified one." (1989, p. 2)

Gardner is an outspoken critic of certain aspects of the child protection system.  Apparently, Gardner believes America is in the throes of mass hysteria over child sexual abuse.

He writes that "sex-abuse hysteria is omnipresent" (1992, p. xxv).  In his 1991 book titled Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited, Gardner is harshly critical of an unspecified portion of the mental health professionals, investigators & prosecutors trying to protect children. 

For example, Gardner accuses some prosecutors of gratifying their own sexual urges & sadistic tendencies through involvement in sexual abuse cases.  Gardner goes so far as to say that "there is a bit of pedophilia in every one of us" (p. 118).  It seem clear that Richard Gardner can't claim to be balanced or objective when it comes to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome has not, to my knowledge, been subjected to empirical study, research, or testing.  Nor to my knowledge, has the syndrome been published in peer reviewed medical or scientific journals.

Rather, the syndrome is simply Richard Gardner's opinion, based on his clinical experience.  Of course, the fact that Parental Alienation Syndrome is based on one man's experience doesn't imply there is something wrong with the syndrome.  

Nevertheless, it's clear that the syndrome isn't accepted as a scientifically reliable way of telling whether an allegation of sexual abuse is true or false.  Moreover, in my opinion, much of Gardner's writing, including his Parental Alienation Syndrome, is biased against women.  

This gender bias infects the syndrome & makes it a powerful tool to undermine the credibility of women who allege child sexual abuse. Because parental alienation perpetuates & exacerbates gender bias against women, I believe the syndrome sheds much more darkness than light on this difficult issue.

Another term coined by Richard Gardner is "Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale."  Of this scale, Lucy Berliner & Jon Conte write:

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"A specific & disturbing example of using (behavioral) indicators as determinative of true versus false cases is that of the Sexual Abuse Legitimacy (SAL) Scale. 

This "scale" claims to be able to discriminate between 'bona fide' & 'fabricated' cases by indicating the presence or absence of a series of characteristics of cases.  

There are 26 dealing with the alleged victim, 11 dealing with the accuser (usually the mother) & 13 dealing with the accused (usually the father).

The criteria are divided into those which are very valuable (worth 3 points if present), moderately valuable (2 points) & low but potentially valuable (1 point).  

Separate scores are generated for the child, the accused & accuser.  Scores in the range of 50% of the maximum or more are highly suggestive of bonafide sexual abuse & those quite low (below 10%) are fabricated.  

Sample criteria are: for the child, very hesitant to divulge the abuse or if no quality of a litany; for the accuser, appreciates importance of relationship between child & father or initially denies abuse; for the accused, allegation not in the context of divorce or career choice involving children.  

The SAL Scale suffers many of the problems that all indicator approaches suffer & a number which are unique.  It's based entirely on the author's personal observation of an unknown number of cases seen in a specialized forensic practice. 

Although reference is made to studies carried out "between 1982 & 1987" they're unpublished, not described & are of unknown value.  There are no studies which have determined if the scale can be coded reliably.

Many of the criteria are poorly defined.  There have been no scientific tests of the ability of the SAL Scale to discriminate among cases.  There's no evidence that the numerical scores have any real meaning. Indeed, to our knowledge, the entire scale & Parent Alienation Syndrome upon which it's based have never been subjected to any kind of peer review or empirical test. 

In sum, there's no demonstrated ability of this scale to make valid predictions based on the identified criteria (1993, p. 114)."

In 1988, researcher & author Jon Conte wrote that Gardner's Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale is "probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous" (Moss, 1988, p. 26).

i'll always be zachary's mother....

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on a personal note: in my specific case, there were no accusations of sexual abuse towards the child. however, the strangest thing happened once I re-established myself in another city & state; I met a man who had experienced that very thing. He had never married his baby's mother, but she suddenly accused him of sexually abusing her while he was caring for her. He had been as devastated as I had been. We made a great pair of support partners. We both knew the pain the other one was feeling.
While there wasn't any accusations of child sexual abuse in my parental alienation case, my case was different whereas the father was the accuser and I was the accussee. It was brought up in court that the man that I was having a relationship with throughout the custody fight had herpes.
I had brought this upon myself because when you lose your husband and your best friend, there's no one to talk to anymore. This fact forced me into the relationship that followed with the man I just mentioned. We had sex and he had never told me of his herpes. I had confided in my ex and ex before the custody fight had begun and they used it against me in the custody fight later on.
They brought up the fact that my son might catch the herpes should he take a shower in the same tub that someone who had herpes did. This was more a means of manipulation and intimidation on their part. He was already an abuser of my two daughters from my prior marriage and myself. He was a cop.
He was good at abuse of power, intimidation, manipulation and control. It was like a second nature to him. It was only natural that he would use parental alienation against me.

If you're a woman & you allege child sexual abuse, expect to be attacked with Richard Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome.
Gardner's writing is popular among attorney's who represent men accused of abuse & among some mental health professionals.  
Your attorney must be prepared to counteract the misleading & destructive effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome & the Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale.

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articles like the one above were the reason that Dr. Richard Gardner began to loosen the emphasis on sexual abuse claims being involved with PAS.
Although it does happen, and when it does is devastating to the wrongly accused parent.... we must all remember how inherently evil people can be when they think there is no penalty for wrong doing when we make our opinions on the validity of PAS and Parental Alienation..

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A false sex-abuse accusation is sometimes seen as a derivative or spin-off of the PAS. Such an accusation may serve as an extremely effective weapon in a child-custody dispute. Obviously, the presence of such false accusations doesn't preclude the existence of bona fide sex abuse, even in the context of a PAS.

In recent years, some examiners have been using the term PAS to refer to a false sex-abuse accusation in the context of a child-custody dispute. In some cases the terms are used synonymously. This is a significant misperception of the PAS. In the majority of cases in which a PAS is present, the sex-abuse accusation is not promulgated.

In some cases, however, especially after other exclusionary maneuvers have failed, the sex-abuse accusation will emerge. The sex-abuse accusation, then, is often a spin-off, or derivative, of the PAS but is certainly not synonymous with it. Furthermore, there are divorce situations in which the sex-abuse accusation may arise without a preexisting PAS.

Under such circumstances, of course, one must give serious consideration to the possibility that true sex abuse has occurred, especially if the accusation antedated the marital separation.

Another factor operative in the need to deny the existence of the PAS & relegate it to the level of being only a "theory," is its relationship to sex-abuse accusations.

I mention frequently throughout the course of this book that a sex-abuse accusation is a possible spin-off or derivative of the PAS. My experience has been that the sex-abuse accusation doesn't appear in the vast majority of PAS cases.

There are some, however, who equate the PAS with a sex-abuse accusation, or a false sex-abuse accusation.

My experience has been that when a sex-abuse accusation emerges in the context of a PAS - especially after the failure of a series of exclusionary maneuversthe accusation is far more likely to be false than true.

Claiming that a sex-abuse accusation may be false also has potentially been politically risky in recent years & not "politically correct." Those of us who have stood up & made such claims, both within & outside of the realm of the PAS, have subjected ourselves to enormous criticismoften impassioned & irrational.

My experience has been that sex-abuse accusations that arise within the context of PAS situations are more likely to be directed toward men than women. Accordingly, in sex-abuse cases in the context of custody disputes I'm more likely to testify in support of the man.

This somehow proves me "sexist." The fact that I've most often testified in support of women to be designated the primary custodial parent - even when there has been a sex-abuse accusationdoes not seem to dispel this myth.

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Is your spouse leaving you for a new relationship?
Is that person controlling & deceptive?

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Usage Note: The first and fully accepted meaning of deprecate is to express disapproval of. But the word has steadily encroached on the meaning of depreciate. It is now used, almost to the exclusion of depreciate, in the sense to belittle or mildly disparage, as in He deprecated his own contribution. In an earlier survey, this newer sense was approved by a majority of the Usage Panel.

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If you are divorcing your spouse, has that spouse voiced concerns about your abilities to take care of your children?
Has your spouse made statements concerning not paying child support?

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  1. a belittling comment

tr.v. den·i·grat·ed, den·i·grat·ing, den·i·grates

  1. To attack the character or reputation of; speak ill of; defame.
  2. To disparage; belittle: The critics have denigrated our efforts.

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has your spouse voiced innuendoes concerning your mental capacity, your abuse of drugs or alcohol or your lack of parental responsibility?

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  1. teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically

doc·trine   n.

  1. A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma.
  2. A rule or principle of law, especially when established by precedent.
  3. A statement of official government policy, especially in foreign affairs and military strategy.
  4. Archaic. Something taught; a teaching.

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Parental alienation is the creation of a singular relationship between a child & one parent, to the exclusion of the other parent. The fully alienated child is a child who doesn't wish to have any contact whatsoever with one parent & who expresses only negative feelings for that parent & only positive feelings for the other parent. This child has lost the range of feelings for both parents that is normal for any child.

There are significant disputes between the experts as to the theoretical framework for this phenomenon & as to the appropriate terminology to apply to understand it, which disputes are beyond the scope of this article. We've tried to adopt language w/common sense meaning for our discussion & use the term "alienation" in its non-technical sense.
We also call the parent who acts to create such a singular relationship between the child and himself the "alienating parent". The parent who is excluded from the singular relationship is "the target parent".

Information provided by:
Dr. Peggie Ward located at

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by Jerome H. Poliacoff, Ph.D., P.A., Cynthia L. Greene, Esq., & Laura Smith, Esq.*

Click here to read the entire article

Marriage & Divorce

In 1990 the marriage rate was just double the divorce rate (approx. 2.4 million marriages & 1.2 million divorces). Following the literally millions of divorces during the preceding decade, approximately 35% of the minor children in the US were affected by the divorce of their parents.

Despite the spousal conflicts leading to divorce, almost 90% of divorcing parents are able to reach a mutual agreement regarding custody & visitation w/little or no intervention from the Court.

Because the other 10% of the divorcing parents can't agree on custody & visitation issues initially, they are likely not to be able to agree on parenting issues in the future. Courts strive to help these families by creating flexible arrangements that will hopefully work as families grow & change.

Unfortunately the adversarial nature of the system that is supposed to provide relief serves only to become an alternate forum for the expression of conflict.

For instance, Sullivan (FN1) studied 61 divorcing families w/children over a 5 year period. After 5 years many of the parents were still fighting & nearly 1/3 of the children continued to be subject to intense bitterness between the parents.

Children become the prize to be won or lost in what often becomes an escalating conflict. And the courts, often at a loss as to what determination to make for which children, turn to mental health experts for advice.

With increasing caseloads & limited time to assess a divorcing parents claim for designation as either residential or responsible parent the courts have responded to simplistic accusations which cast blame on one parent in order to make it easier for the other parent to prevail.

Notable among the allegations made by counsel in representing their clients claim for "sole ownership" of the "prize" is that of "parental alienation syndrome." 

The popularity of such a claim has been enhanced by the prolific writing & public appearances of Richard Gardner, M.D. as originator of this "syndrome" (FN2).

In this article we will challenge both the scientific & legal legitimacy of this syndrome.  After first defining "parental alienation syndrome" (PAS) we will review the criteria by which expert testimony may be accepted into evidence & explore the shortcomings of PAS under Frye & Daubert

We will then delineate the mental health experts ethical obligation when serving as an expert before the court as it relates to PAS.  We will review the relevant case law as it pertains to the admissibility of PAS before the courts.  

Finally we will offer alternative areas for inquiry into the source of impaired parent child relationships occurring in the context of child custody litigation.

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Philip M. Stahl, Ph.D.
Prior to 1970, it was rare that parents disputed custody of their children. Beginning in the early 1970's, parents began litigating over child custody as a result of changes in societal factors & custody laws.
With this increase in litigation, Gardner (1987) observed & outlined a concept that he referred to as "Parental Alienation Syndrome".
Currently, there is a significant dispute among experts whether parental alienation is a "syndrome", as well as the causes & remedies of parental alienation.

There is little research on the effects of alienation on children, either the long-term impact on a child being alienated from a parent, the long-term impact of a change of custody to remedy alienation, or which qualities w/in the child might help to mitigate against the alienating behaviors of both parents.

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According to Gardner (1992), "The concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome includes much more than brainwashing. It includes not only conscious but subconscious & unconscious factors w/in the preferred parent that contribute to the parent's influencing the child's alienation.
...He notes that the child becomes obsessed w/hatred of the alienated parent.
He also suggests that the hatred takes on a life of its own in which the child may justify the alienation as a result of "minor altercations experienced in the relationship w/the hated parent."

you can continue reading excerpts from this article by clicking here & moving over to the children page or you can read the article in its entirety by clicking on the title above.

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research suggested at one time that parental alienation was primarily used against the father in divorce proceedings, but now the researchers claim that the use of parental alienation is spread 50/50 between mothers & fathers.
in my case, the mother was alienated - the father & his girlfriend (now his wife) were the alienators....

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guardian ad litem

 n. 1. One who guards, preserves, or secures; one to whom any person or thing is committed for protection, security, or preservation from injury; a warden.

    2. (Law) One who has, or is entitled to, the custody of the person or property of an infant, a minor without living parents, or a person incapable of managing his own affairs.


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getting to know the key researchers
who is dr. richard gardner?
Dr. Richard Gardner - controversial psychoanalyst

New York Times Monday, June 9, 2003

Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who developed a theory about parental alienation syndrome, which he said could lead children in high-conflict custody cases to falsely accuse a parent of abuse, died on May 25 at his home in Tenafly, N.J. He was 72.

Dr. Gardner committed suicide, said Gardner's son, Andrew, who added that his father had been distraught over the advancing symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a painful neurological syndrome.

Dr. Gardner, who testified in more than 400 child custody cases, maintained that children who suffered from parental alienation syndrome had been indoctrinated by a vindictive parent and obsessively denigrated the other parent without cause.

In severe cases, he recommended that courts remove children from the homes of the alienating parents and place them in the custody of the parents accused of abuse.

His theory has provoked vehement opposition from some mental health professionals, child abuse experts and lawyers. Critics argue that it lacks a scientific basis, noting that the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association have not recognized it as a syndrome.

They also say that the theory is biased against women, as allegations of abuse are usually directed at fathers, and that it is used as a weapon by lawyers seeking to undermine a mother's credibility in court.

Dr. Gardner was a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University & a fellow of the American Psychiatric Assoc., the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, & the American Academy of Psychoanalysis.

While Gardner was the first to coin the phrase "Parental Alienation Syndrome," Wallerstein & Kelly (1980) first wrote about a process which they termed "alignment with one parent." In their break-through book, Surviving the Breakup, they wrote:

"a very important aspect of the response of the youngsters in this age group (ages 9 to 12) was the dramatic change in the relationship between parents & children.

These young people were vulnerable to being swept up into the anger of one parent against the other. They were faithful & valuable battle allies in efforts to hurt the other parent.

Not infrequently, they turned on the parent they had (previously) loved & been very close to prior to the marital separation."

dr. richard gardner - author
Parental Alienation Syndrome
by Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

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Dr. Jane Major, Ph.D.
Dr. Major is the author of six books on family issues & a nationally recognized parent educator & custody expert who over the last 20 years has helped 15,000 divorce parents save their children & their sanity. She has provided serious training classes for divorcing parents since 1983. Dr. Majors did her Ph.D. research at UCLA in the field of parent education.
Books by Dr. Majors include:
Creating a Successful Parent Plan: A Step by Step Guide For The Care of Children of Divided Families
Breakthrough Parenting: A Revolutionary New Way to Raise Children.

on a personal note:
You can't scream loud enough, you can't ever fill the void that's been inflicted upon your heart, and you can never feel better. Being alienated from your child is an irrepairable injury. It's just a shame that the courts don't impose jail time upon those who alienate children from a parent. I've read that the pain is described as similar to that of a parent who has experienced the loss of a child thru abduction - the child is just always missing.... it's much worse. The invisable wall that has been built between you and your most precious child is higher than heaven & you can't see through it. 

Throughout this website, I'll add my own personal notes so you can get a different perspective on this thing...

Who discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
In association with this growing child-custody litigation, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner first identified Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1985. He noticed a dramatic increase in the frequency of a disorder rarely observed before, that of programming or brainwashing of a child by one parent to denigrate the other parent. 

However, the disorder wasn't just brainwashing or programming by a parent. It was confounded by what Dr. Gardner calls self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent's campaign of denigration against the targeted parent.

He called this disorder Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a new term that includes the contribution to the problem made by both the parent & the child.


What is PAS?

Gardner's definition of PAS is:

  • The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.

  • Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.

  • It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent's indoctrinations & the child's own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.

Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

Translation: Gardner is saying is that in the course of the animosity that arises between divorcing spouses over the children, one parent can inadvertently or purposely begin conditioning the children against the other parent. 

At the same time the children, dealing with their own anger, hurt & insecurities amplify their own feelings & begin directing them at the targeted parent. 

This state of confusion creates the perfect atmosphere for manipulation

In his book "Parental Alienation Syndrome", Dr. Richard Gardner states,
"Many of these children proudly state their decision to reject their fathers as their own. They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognize the importance of such involvement, yet such a mother's every act indicates otherwise."
 Dr. Richard Gardner (1985), Parental Alienation Syndrome, p.74


this is an article explaining parental alientation syndrome written by Dr. Jane Major....
Parental Alienation Syndrome

Nothing stirs up passions more than the controversy generated when parents are at war over the custody of a child. A controversy is an issue where evidence on both sides can make a compelling case. Child custody & divorce is never black & white.

When people have their emotions aroused, issues quickly migrate to polar opposites. Fear overtakes reason. Incomplete facts become evidence. Court calendars become jammed with repeat visits to a judge to try to bring sanity to a situation that's likely never to be sane. Courthouses become your family's second home. 

What can you do when one parent is intractable & vitriolic? What can you do when the child becomes caught up in the fight & starts taking sides?

To begin with you need to understand the dynamics of Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS

PAS abuse is manipulation by one parent used to turn the child against the other parent.  Neglect or abuse from the parent being alienated (made out as the villain) doesn't exist. When emotional, physical or sexual abuse exists, the childs anger is justified

Justified anger isn't PAS.

Likewise PAS doesn't exist if the child enjoys a positive relationship with both parents despite the fact one parent is attempting to alienate the child from the other. The determining factor of PAS is the childs part, his or her reaction & behavior to the situation.

Understanding gives you the ability to see the scope of the situation & what you're up against. Once you know what is causing the problem, you can begin to solve it.


If you find yourself in this situation & live in Southern California, Dr. Jayne's company Breakthrough Parenting teaches courses specifically geared at men & women caught within a PAS situation. 


If you live outside of Southern California, she may be able to provide you with resources in your part of the country.  Visit her web site for more information by clicking here:

Dr. Douglas Darnell
A nationally renown parental alienation expert, Dr. Douglas Darnell, PhD who resides in Ohio, is the author of the book, "Divorce Causalities; Protecting your children from parental alienation."
Dr. Darnall is a licensed psychologist. Welcome to the Concerned Counseling website &  Dr. Darnall. worked the last 16 years at Trumbull County court, has conducted over 700 custody evaluations & does consultation for court cases.

Parental Alienation Conference
February 1999
When asked about Parental Alienation at this conference, Dr. Darnell responded:
Parental alienation is any behaviors or conveyance of an attitude, whether conscious or unconscious, that evokes a disturbance in the relationship between a child & the other parent.
For the most part, it happens in divorces or with couples who never married & are splitting up & are trying to jockey for a better position with their child. Parental alienation often starts before the couple separates & when one parent knows that they're going to leave the relationship.
There are many reasons for this type of behavior:
  1. They're angry & bitter.
  2. They're afraid of losing custody of the child.
  3. They may have paranoid delusions that cause them to be fearful of the ex.
  4. They're feeling protective of the child, without justification.

If a child is fearful of a parent because of actual abuse, that's not parental alienation.

Dr. Gardner coined the words "parental alienation syndrome". I'm talking about "parental alienation". Parental Alienation Syndrome occurs when the child has been brainwashed & is an active participant in vilifying the targetted parent.

Parental Alienation is the process that leads up to Parental Alienation Syndrome. To prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome you must begin by knowing how to prevent Parental Alienation.

There are studies now being conducted on Parental Alienation Syndrome & Parental Alienation. Courts are increasingly recognizing Parental Alienation Syndrome & Parental Alienation.

Most recently, the Vermont Supreme Court removed a child from the mother because of Parental Alienation & Parental Alienation Syndrome. If anybody truly recognizes how one parent can vilify another parent during the divorce process, they can't deny the existence of Parental Alienation.

To understand the symptoms of Parental Alienation you need to look at the parents' behavior. To understand the symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome, you look at the child's behavior. The more common symptoms of Parental Alienation are:

  1. Interfering with visits.
  2. Making disparaging comments to the child about the other parent.
  3. Becoming excessively rigid with parenting time.
  4. Blaming the other parent in front of the child about not having enough money because of the divorce.
  5. Reminding the child of reasons why they should be angry at the other parent.
  6. Asking the child to spy or gather information for you.
  7. Asking the child about your ex-spouses personal life.
  8. Scheduling activities that interfere with visits.
  9. Suggesting to the child that the other parent is dangerous.
  10. And then making false allegations of abuse.

These are just a few of the more common symptoms of Parental Alienation.

To begin with it can be difficult to prove unless the child is already showing symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome. If the parent is behaving similar to what I described above, you can assume that Parental Alienation is occurring.

It must be remembered that usually both parents will get into an alienatiing cycle that must be stopped.

The obsessed alienator not only doesn't recognize the damage, but they believe they are saving the child from destruction. The naive & active alienator are not always aware of their alienating behavior, but once they become aware of their behavior they usually can control themselves. The purpose of my book is to educate parents on how to avoid alienating behavior.

Children of different ages & personalities will react differently to Parental Alienation. Some children can brush it off or let it go in one ear & out the other & w/others it can cause tremendous emotional anguish.

The children that it seems to hurt most are between 4 & 12.

Children want to be unhampered in their expression of love to both parents. If they are, in effect, told that one parent is undesirable & unworthy of their love, this causes the child tremendous confusion & conflict.

Children in high conflicts have poor esteem, are often depressed, & become very anxious when both parents are together in their presence. In other words, children exposed to highly conflicted parents will often have the symptoms described above.

The group of kids that have been shown to have the greatest difficulty adjusting to divorce & alienation are boys during the latency (8-11) years.

Older children & females tend to adjust better because they usually have more social supports & girls usually stay w/their mothers while boys frequently lose much of their relationship w/their father.

Parental Alienation Syndrome children who have learned to hate the targetted parent will often live their life w/out the targetted parent's love & support. In fact, they often lose the whole extended family.

Yes, it does happen that the children return, but unfortunately there are too many examples when it doesn't happen. I can't give you a percentage of those children that will seek out the targeted parent, but usually this occurs after the child leaves the custodial home.

If they are still in the custodial home & the child displays symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome, the chances are less than 5% that the child will re-establish a relationship w/the targeted parent.

Remember, the child would have to be doing this behind the alienating parent's back. After they leave home, the odds improve. That is why understanding Parental Alienation is so important...so a parent can prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome.

As the courts become more knowledgeable & intervene sooner, the percentage should improve.

How do you get the courts to recognize Parental Alienation?

Dr. Darnall: I hate to say it, but they need to read my book & Dr. Gardner's book & visit my web site at www.parentalalienation.com.

On the site, I have different court citations from Ohio. Also, I have been asked to write an article for the North Dakota law review which will help promote recognition of Parental Alienation. The bottom line is we must educate, educate, educate & that's the purpose of my book & my being here tonight.

Bob M: My guess is & you tell me if I'm wrong on this Dr., but if you're going to court, plan to spend some money bringing in experts who can educate the judge and/or jury.

Unfortunately that is often true, but many parents have bought many copies of my book to give to attorneys which have made their way to the judges so they can get educated about Parental Alienation. I'm not just trying to sell books, but, books have a way of offering credibility to something that is new and just beginning to get recognized.

barth: Dr. Darnall, what is the best way for the "targeted parent" to handle it all w/integrity & patience?

Dr. Darnall: It's painful, but they must resist the temptation to retaliate with their own alienating behavior. Instead, focus on strengthening the relationship with your children rather than getting defensive & angry.

If you are having problems with visitation, you may need to see a counselor who is familiar with Parental Alienation & Parental Alienation Syndrome & working with high-conflict parents.

Remember, the children will follow the lead of their parents. If the parents can talk & work together calmly, the children will do OK. If you have high-conflict parents, it is usually unrealistic to put the child in counseling because they will never have the power to change their parents' behaviors.

You have to work with the parents.

Bob M: That's good for the "targeted parent", but as we all know, you can't control another person's behavior, no matter how hurtful or disruptive it is to someone else, like your own child. So, what are your suggestions for dealing w/the "alienator"?

Dr. Darnall: Let's begin with the naive & active alienator. This is described in greater detail in our web site, but for now these parents can often benefit with education.

With the obsessed alienator, which is probably what you are talking about, you will need to intervene as soon as possible by getting the court to recognize what is happening to the children & ordering the obsessed alienator into conjoint counseling with a high-conflict counselor.

You must also be very persistent in maintaining your visitation. Some courts will stop visitation with the idea that the child & the mother will calm down & visits will resume later. This rarely works because children then learn that it is more comfortable to avoid visits which makes the Parental Alienation Syndrome more severe.

Some courts are now beginning, like in the Vermont case, to remove the alienated child from the alienating parent's home & placing them w/the targeted parent. Unfortunately, we don't have data to show how effective this approach is, so consequently the courts hesitate in taking this action.

Whatever you do, don't give up & be persistent in trying to exercise your rights as a parent.

Bob M: I just want to clarify one term you used earlier: "naive alienator". Would that be a person who may not be purposefully trying to harm the parental relationship, but is. For instance: "you wait til your father/mother gets home, then you'll really get it".

Dr. Darnall: Yes. It's a parent who has no intention of alienating, but at times alienates. All parents, to some degree, will alienate. An example is the statement: "You're just like your father." Kids, for the most part, can brush this off. The parent, when educated, has sufficient self-control that they can monitor their behavior accordingly.

The active alienator is similar to the naive alienator except they get triggered & lose control of their behavior. After losing control, they may feel guilty or remorseful. Sometimes the active alienator may need counseling to help resolve their own personal issues such as betrayal & anger. They can also respond well to education because they know better than to alienate.

Biodad: What about the almost innocent 'parentifying' of a child in conveying the emotional perception of the 'other'? How do you deal with that?

Dr. Darnall: I'm not sure if I understand your question, but I'll try to answer. Sometimes a parent may try to cast the child into a parenting or adult role. This can cause the child a lot of confusion because they lose all sense of the boundaries between being a child & being an adult or parent.

When this occurs, it is usually caused by some emotional need of the parent, rather than the parent truly understanding what is best for the child. Children need a parent & not a buddy. They get their buddies at school or with their friends.

barth: My sons are 19 & 20. How about the silent manipulative alienator who uses money, buys them cars, etc?

Dr. Darnall: Yes, that happens, but hopefully the children will eventually have the maturity to see thru this. Many kids see the manipulation, won't say anything & take the money & run.

How are they different than anybody else? Again, focus on strengthening your relationship with them by praising them, letting them know how you value them & by just wanting to be with you because you're a very nice, loving person. Don't retaliate.

Chauncey: More importantly, how can one PREVENT this tragedy BEFORE it happens? Is seeking a change of custody a viable remedy?

Dr. Darnall: I don't know how to respond to all of these comments, but let me try to make a few points. First, a change of custody can help with alienation, but the rules for changing custody are often stacked against the targeted parent.

You would really need an honest attorney to appraise your situation. You may not like what you hear. Remember, with an involuntary change of custody, the decision isn't based on who is the best parent. The court has a bias to leave well enough alone unless your reasons outweigh the advantage of leaving the child with their current residential parent.

I'm touched by the woman, who for many years tried to reestablish a relationship with their alienated father. You're very much emphasizing the point that I was making in that a child may look for the targeted parent, but only after they have left the influences of the alienating parent.

 I sincerely hope that all worked out well for you.

Dr. Darnall: Yes. First educate everyone about Parental Alienation. Secondly, accept the fact that both parents will be actively involved with their children for the rest of their lives & your ex will be in your face for the rest of your life.

For your children's sake, regardless of your anger & hurt you must find a way to have peace with that other parent. That has to be your goal for your children.

When you fight, there are no winners. Just a lot of bruises from the battle.

Rich1955: My son is in the Parental Alienation Syndrome stages. What can I do to turn him around.

Dr. Darnall: To begin with you've got to find somebody who is familiar with Parental Alienation Syndrome to work with you & your ex. You'ill probably have to get a court order. Even with the yelling & screaming or the silent treatment, you must be patient & nurturing.

I realize that this is very painful to watch. At some point, you'll hopefully break thru that wall that your child has put up. The difficulty is that all of the work you do can be destroyed by the alienating parent.

That's why the alienating parent must be forced to participate in this process. Even with that, success is very hard to come by. That's why you have to focus on preventing Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Don't give up because I have seen cases where unexpectedly things turn around. Judge Judy made a good point when she said "You must love your child more than you hate your ex-spouse."

click here to read the entire transcript


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