Updated Dec. 29, 2021
As I mentioned in one of my other posts about Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Parental Alienation (PA), not everyone is onboard with whether or not these two forms of child abuse are recognized mental disorders or a syndrome as defined by clinical professionals. In fact, there is strong and ongoing rivalry between the various camps of those who accept PAS as a bonafide psychological disorder and those who do not.
My own personal research on PAS/PA extends into almost 20 years and I am continually learning more and more on this vast, complicated subject. Though I am not a trained psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, etc., I have experienced first hand the devastating effects of PAS/PA on my own family ripped asunder by divorce. Whether or not it can be officially recognized by clinical professionals, I’m convinced there is hard evidence for the destructive effects of PAS/PA.
I yearn to be a critical thinker (examples here and here), desiring to know the truth of things and not be swayed by rumor, prejudices, pre-conceived beliefs, other people’s opinions, a “jump to conclusion” method of reacting to things instead of rationally and unemotionally weighing the pro’s and con’s of each argument, etc. Since there is controversy surrounding PAS/PA, I want to give the “other side” their day in court, so to speak, and determine if they have valid arguments for why they reject this particular construct.
In a nutshell, those who deny either the existence of PAS or PA appear to be people or groups associated with highlighting and preventing child abuse and domestic violence. Their claim is that abusive fathers, pedophiles, and other criminals in child custody cases are alleging that mothers are using PSA/PA as a ruse against innocent fathers to keep the court from giving the fathers custody of the children. These mothers, the fathers say, are using this “theory” of PSA/PA to falsely claim the fathers are abusing the children when in fact no abuse is occurring.
Such concerns, of course, are well founded. No one wishes to see a child who has been sexually abused by a criminal parent returned to this parent to suffer further abuse. If an abusive parent is using PAS/PA as a ruse against the other parent making the claim against him/her in order to regain custody and put the child back in an environment of abuse, all of us know this is wrong and must not be allowed to happen.
Fortunately, there are safeguards already in place against such an abuse of the system. If a parent is accused by the other parent of sexually or physically abusing their child, a thorough investigation is made by Child Protective Services (CPS) to ascertain whether or not these claims are true or false.
In other words, if a parent accused of sexually abusing their child tries to falsely use the claim against the other parent that this parent is using false allegations of PSA/PA to make the claim of abuse against that parent, the abusing parent would not re-gain custody based on a mere allegation of PAS/PA by this parent. There would first be an investigation by the courts through the parties attorneys, with CPS and other experts to validate, verify, or rebut such allegations.
Better put, no parent loses or gains custody of a child based on any allegations unless and until a thorough investigation is made of whether the allegations are determined to be true or false. This is the very purpose of “law courts”: to determine truth from lies and apply the appropriate laws.
And in Family Court where these cases are heard, the job of the judges is to ascertain truth from error/falsehoods, listen to witness/expert testimony, apply the law, and make wise and just rulings and decisions which is in the best interests of the children.
To believe that a parent can make accusations against the other parent without the other parent being able to refute those accusations through evidence, testimony, and evaluation by experts to determine their guilt or innocence which can then cause the accused parent to lose all contact with their child is to fail to understand the reasons why we have law courts. No professional, seasoned judge would rule that a parent lose their rights to their children based on a mere allegation by the other parent. “Due process” is enshrined in our constitution and forms the bedrock of our justice system.
In the spirit of wanting to know truth and discern possible error, my research has led to psychologist Craig Childress, Psy.D., who offers his opinions on PAS/PA based on his professional training and experience. His blog provides much information on his views.
There are several articles he links to on his blog that I believe people who are interested in delving deeper into PAS will find helpful:
These three articles, I believe, will point my readers in the right direction and will provide them sufficient information to help them in their quest for truth and guidance in dealing with the issues of PAS. From these articles, you can then read additional articles on Dr. Childress’ blog that will further your education.
Childress’ articles are peppered with professional jargon (i.e., “attachment-based,” “pathogenic parenting,” “splitting,” etc.) that can be challenging to immediately grasp and understand; his writings can be daunting and do not make for easy reading. But there is gold in what he is offering, and for those willing to take the time and mental effort required to bring enlightenment and understanding in becoming educated concerning this terrible pathology, your efforts will not leave you unrewarded.
Professionals who believe in and do extensive research into the existence of PSA/PA know of the controversy surrounding this topic. Significant research has gone into investigating the claims put forth by those who allege PAS/PA is mere fiction.
My takeaway on this controversy is that there is truth in both camps and I can see both sides. While professionals like Dr. Childress have valid points in some of their criticisms, both camps have more in common with each other than their particular disagreements. Each acknowledge and recognize that children from high conflict divorces are being routinely wounded and psychologically traumatized—often for life—by unbalanced parents who are themselves psychologically wounded and traumatized because of their own traumatic and dysfunctional childhoods.
Like what has become commonplace in America today, people from divergent backgrounds, political and religious beliefs, with differing world views, have been reduced to warring tribes, each talking and often yelling past each other instead of seeking to resolve their differences through respectful dialogue.
It is unfortunate that our society has adopted this adversarial approach when faced with dealing with others who do not share their individual perspectives and belief systems. In the best of societies, differences between people are dealt with in an atmosphere of mutual respect, the ability to respectfully listen to the opinions of the other side, and to value the other person as a fellow “image bearer of the divine,” or someone worthy of respect and dignity, even though we may abhor their viewpoints. Such tolerance for others is not easy to develop.
But such tolerance is critical; without such, we are reduced to warring tribes, to conquering those who disagree with us by threats or acts of violence, as seen so often today in the streets of the United States. How much better would it be for all of us, indeed, for society as a whole, if we would return to the “old paths” of mutual respect and valuing those who we find ourselves in disagreement with.
I will look for common ground in both camps because there is, in fact, much common ground to be found in each. And we must keep the end goal always foremost in our minds, which is to bring healing and restoration to families that have been torn asunder by the devastating forces of harm unleashed by divorce.