Analysis of Parental Alienation Syndrome
Posted by madcap on August 24, 2008
JOURNAL OF DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE, Vol. 21, p 21-38 1994
The Parental Alienation Syndrome:
An Analysis of Sixteen Selected Cases
ABSTRACT. This study analyzed sixteen cases which appeared to meet Dr. Richard Gardner’s criteria for parental alienation syndrome as set forth in his 1987 book. These cases showed a wide diversity of characteristics but Gardner’s criteria were useful in differentiating these cases from other post-divorce difficulties. Traditional interventions were ineffective in altering the alienation.
Gardner (1985) has described cases of intense rejection of a parent by children after divorce which he referred to as “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS). He defined this syndrome as a disturbance occurring in children who are preoccupied with depreciation and criticism of a parent and denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated (Gardner, 1987). He describes these children as “obsessed with hatred of a parent.”
The “parental alienation syndrome” has rapidly become a focus of controversy within the mental health and the legal profession. It has been raised, as well as attacked, in cases involving allegations of domestic violence, parental substance abuse, and child sexual abuse, often strongly polarizing various mental health professionals involved in the cases. Advocacy groups for mothers, fathers, and sexual abuse victims have often been recruited into the conflict.
Very little is described in the literature about children who reject parents following marital separation. Jacobs (1988)describes a case in which five children rejected their father, apparently in response to their mother’s extreme narcissistic rage. Wallerstein (1984) noted one child at the ten year follow-up, who rejected her mother, with whom she was living, after her father’s attempt to change custody failed. Fidler (1988) also noted one case of a child who refused to see the noncustodial parent among the sample of 76 children referred to a family court clinic.
More common in the literature is the failure to mention a child’s rejection of a parent as one of the outcomes of divorce. Pearson and Thoennes (1990) noted a relatively high frequency of no or sporadic overnight visits with a non-residential parent. In 40% of the maternal sole custody and 30% of the paternal sole custody, the children had no overnight visits with a non-residential parent. In joint legal custody, 7% of the children living with their mothers and 20% of the children living with their fathers reported no overnights with the other parent. Although this is a relatively high frequency, the authors made no mention of the children’s attitudes about their parents or the reason for no visits. Kalter et al. (1989) did not report any cases of the child rejecting a parent in their sample of 56 recruited pairs of children and mothers. Similarly, Oppenheimer et al. (1990) noted no cases in their sample of 46 elementary aged children, all living with their mothers, who rejected either parent. Review articles by Zaslow (1988) and by Heatherington et at. (1989) make no reference to parent alienation or to children rejecting a parent as an outcome following divorce. FULL ARTICLE