Parental Alienation in Children as a Mental Illness?
It would seem from a recent article from USA Today (online) that many experts are beginning to see the tragic consequences of parental alienation in children potentially as a mental illness.
The article discusses one woman’s experience and a childhood lost due to her mother’s premeditated efforts to train her child, Anne, to hate her father in the aftermath of a divorce and child custody situation. The effort of Anne’s mother was so heinous that she was persuaded to lie in court, claim her father was abusive towards her and her mother, and the mother gained custody. Worse – Anne lost much of her childhood and a large part of her adulthood estranged from her father.
It’s a common story played out in court rooms all across the United States and beyond. What’s worse, misguided “special interest groups” have now shifted their tactics, replete with unsupported “statistics” which serve to allow parental alienation efforts to continue unabated. Their claims? Well, their claims are that abusive parents are using parental alienation syndrome falsely as a court room tactic and are highly successful in obtaining custody as a result. They support their allegations with bogus statistics that are completely without foundation and cannot be reasonably supported. This is easily seen with only a minimum of scrutiny. Unfortunately, the livelihoods of these special interests are predicated on keeping the family court system clogged with adversarial cases and the easiest way to do it is via parental alienation, false allegations of child abuse and domestic violence, all in an effort to win child custody. In their minds – an allegation = conviction of the targeted parent. No proof necessary here, folks. Scare tactics help keep the money flowing.
From the article:
What’s more, concern has grown that “PAS” could be invoked by an abusive parent to gain rights to a child who has good reason to refuse contact, says Janet Johnston, a clinical sociologist and justice studies professor at San Jose State University who has studied parental alienation. In teens, she notes, parental rejection might be a developmentally normal response.
Oddly enough, not only is this claim completely unsupported by any meaningful evidence, the experts never broach the subject of why so many of the alienated parents are fathers. While many would agree that in the teens, parental rejection can be a developmentally normal response – it’s not a gender-specific response according to any of the information we’ve read on the subject.
We know that the debate and discussion on whether or not parental alienation rises to the level of a mental illness or “syndrome.” Frankly, when it comes to child custody matters – it doesn’t matter to us one way or the other. One thing that we do know for sure is that children can be taught to hate just as well as they can be taught to love, to read, to do math, to play sports, to learn to dance, to speak a language, and so many other things in life. So, while the special interests can argue over whether or not this is a mental illness or not – we’ll focus on reality. The reality is that in the heat of a custody battle, a vindictive, malicious parent can teach children to hate the target parent – with tragic consequences.
From the article:
“It’s heartbreaking,” says William Bernet, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, “to have your 10-year-old suddenly, in a matter of weeks, go from loving you and hiking with you…to saying you’re a horrible, ugly person.” These aren’t kids who simply prefer one parent over the other, he says. That’s normal. These kids doggedly resist contact with a parent, sometimes permanently, out of an irrational hate or fear.
The impact of the systematic alienation of children from the targeted parent can last well into adulthood.
To read more about the efforts of experts like William Bernet to have parental alienation added to the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the horrible outcomes for children who are used as weapons against loving parents, see the full article here: Parental Alienation – A Mental Disorder?
Click here to see: Our 10 Top Ways to Fight Parental Alienation