Research about PAS began for me around 2008. Beyond personal experience, I've read countless articles, books & research studies as well.
What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Co Parenting with a Toxic Ex
Parental Alienation Syndrome occurs when a mom or dad encourages a child to unjustly reject the other parent. It involves a campaign to not just divorce, but to deliberately damage the child's relationship with the spouse.
Some refer to this as 'co parenting with a toxic ex' or 'malicious parenting' and it IS about intentionally hurtful behaviors. These behaviors may likely be covert, and present challenges FAR beyond those usually involved in raising children after divorce. While these issues have become more common within divorce courts, they are rarely addressed well.
Animosity happens in most divorces with children. However, most parents do eventually get past that initial tension and figure out custody issues through mediation and/or negotiation. Parental Alienation is very complex and refers those severe cases that involve a parent who is obsessed with having a child to love them alone.
A Judges View on Parental Alienation
'Advice for Divorcing Parents' by Judge Michael Haas
Minnesota Judge has blunt words for divorcing parents with kids who are dealing with child custody issues and parental alienation syndrome.
"Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.
No matter what you think of the other party-or what your family thinks of the other party-these children are one-half of each of you. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an "idiot" his father is, or what a "fool" his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.
That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.
I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer."
Parental Alienation is Subtle Yet Abusive Brainwashing
Alienating parents will usually respond to the child in subtle ways. Most will be smart enough to avoid actually calling the kid a traitor, yet will reward them for being an ally in subtle ways. If the child mentions the other parent, subtle behaviors might include giving child the silent treatment with no interaction or else a grumpy response. Or worse, there may be blame and/or criticism possibly sugar-coated with veiled manipulation.
Conversely, if the child complains about the other parent, he or she might be rewarded with extra attention, offers of food, entertainment, money, extra privileges etc. - all quite subtle behaviors not claimed to be connected to the child's behavior, yet they ARE! Deliberate rewards & punishment may be subtle, yet are quite intentional.
This consistent encouragement as an ally is brainwashing. It's damaging to the child, who will feel confused and yet know on some level that loving the other parent will cause trouble. Healthy parents are partners, not fighting over kids as allies! Even subtle pressure on a kid to take sides is a warning of brainwash.
Over time, the child will withdraw from the other parent. The child may stop speaking of them and may begin to avoid the other parent. They might resist custody visits (and be given permission to do so). Especially when a loving relationship once existed, this reluctance is a sign of brainwashing. Children do not just begin to avoid a once loving parent for no reason. This does not happen by chance.
Books About Parental Alienation by Dr. Amy Baker
Dr. Amy Baker is a nationally recognized expert in parent child relationships, especially children of divorce, parental alienation syndrome, and emotional abuse of children. She is a PhD in Developmental Psychology and author or co-author of eight books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles. Among any search for experts who understand PAS in a deep way, Dr. Amy J. L. Baker earns primary consideration.
- “Restoring Family Connections” (program for licensed mental health professionals)
- “Co Parenting with a Toxic Ex”
- “Getting Through My Parents’ Divorce” (workbook for middle school age children)
- “Bonded to the Abuser”
- “Surviving Parental Alienation” (interviews with adults who were victims of PAS as kids)
- “The High Conflict Custody Battle”
- “Working With Alienated Children and Families”
Hear Dr. Amy Baker Discuss Parental Alienation Syndrome
The Irony of a Charming Facade VS the Selfishness Behind the Mask
..."These parents are generally articulate, resourceful, and competent in all other aspects of their lives - except in the realm of parenting. In fact, these individuals might easily be mistaken for ideal parents...because they profess love and concern for their children. What sets them apart from other dysfunctional parents is their overwhelming commitment to meeting their own needs first."
— Dr. Reena Sommer
Controversy in the Courts
Parental Alienation Syndrome is controversial for many reasons:
* PAS knows no gender. Originally PAS was under attack from female groups as a male tactic used against mothers in high conflict divorce. However, both men and women are victims of PAS just as both men and women file false charges or commit acts of abuse that result in estranged parents.
* Some accusations are false. Just as there are accusers who file false charges of abuse, accusations of parent alienation are also being used falsely against innocent parents. This only makes it even more difficult to prove.
* PAS is currently not a documented syndrome. While there are volumes of books and articles published regarding the subject, the family court system has yet to officially include Parental Alienation Syndrome in their own accepted legal resources regarding mental disorders. Efforts are currently underway to change this, however that documentation could take years to be updated (more on that below).
* Professionals involved in decisions lack training. Many (most) professionals and decision-makers involved have not been properly educated about this syndrome. Many lawyers, judges, counselors & therapists, teachers and pediatricians know little about it. Therefore, they often make the very opposite recommendation than what would actually be in the best interest of the children involved.
Controversy: Parental Alienation Syndrome Does Not Yet Appear in the DSM Manual
Critics argue that it does not exist in a large part because it does not appear in the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). However with any condition, there is always a lag period between the time it was first identified and when it is fully embraced by the community at large (and included in such legal references). It took 95 years before Tourette's syndrome was listed in the DSM!
There are many examples of this such as: schizophrenia, cancer, attention deficit disorder, anorexia, dyslexia, HIV and AIDS. ALL of these conditions existed long before they were fully acknowledged by legal authorities and listed in references such as the DSM-IV named above. Also homosexuality was once described in the DSM as a deviant condition - but no longer.
Given that modern internet technology makes it possible for the transmissions of information and publication of research to occur much faster than ever before, one might expect that PAS will be included in legal references as a mental condition much more quickly than were the other conditions named above. Efforts are underway to classify it as an official mental health syndrome in the DSM manual.
However due to controversial nature of the term Parental Alienation Syndrome and heavy resistance to change within the family court system, it could take years before that official listing and documentation is in place. Meanwhile, to discount the existence of PAS is to turn our backs on children who are being deprived of their right to love and be loved by both parents.
"While PAS is not in the American Psychiatric Association's manual of diagnoses (the DSM-5) it does meet the APA's definition of a syndrome. Moreover, there is virtually no disagreement that some children align with one parent against the other in response to post divorce parental conflict and that when they do, they exhibit certain unique behaviors ..." Dr. Amy Baker
While there's agreement that PAS occurs and is usually triggered by a divorce and child-custody dispute, the bitter debate is about whether the condition should be formally classified as a mental health syndrome.
What do YOU think? Vote below about these parent alienation laws.
POLL: YOUR Take on the PAS Controversy?
Parental Alienation and Child Support
Getting out of paying child support is one part of the alienating parent's personal victory, a sad shadow on divorce child custody laws. Of the many questions people tend to ask about PAS, one of the most common is something like...'but WHY would any parent DO such a thing to their own child?'
Remember that those who alienate do so out of an underlying condition, and if narcissism exists there's a strong desire for control. Often this is under the radar and obvious only to those who are closely involved or have experienced it. Parents who target the other parent tend to be pros at creating a personal facade, and will go to great lengths to impress others. Behind the facade are selfish motives.
Given this frame of mind, then the notion that a parent might make false accusations and/or secretly brainwash their own child in order to get out of paying child support fits the dire need for control and self-serving behavior. The custodial parent who pays child support will no longer have to pay it if they can convince the child to stay 100% with them.
Custody Agreements do Not Prevent Malicious Parenting
Regardless of detailed custody agreements, actions that defy them often fall through the cracks once the divorce is final. Examples of this might include: lack of communication, important decisions made regarding kids without consulting the other parent, etc.
Even when actions are clearly stated as not permitted in custody agreements, often the target parent is already financially drained and cannot afford to return to court for legal support. For one example, a parent would not buy a car for a teenager without discussion. This would obviously defy any custody agreement. Yet if they DO, unless the other parent can afford to retain an attorney, they might have little choice, and so the PAS manipulation continues.
What Action Should Courts Take?
Tensions over child custody are common in divorce. PAS is NOT about these usual tensions over custody. Instead PAS refers to situations when the issues escalate to the point where one parent is totally alienated with no logical reason and without clear evidence of wrongdoing. Yet the child (children) have begun to act very hateful toward that parent when there once was a close and loving relationship.
Given that reality, what action shall the courts and other involved legal reps take toward this controversial issue? Many claim that parent alienation is criminal, that it is child abuse. Ohers claim that evidence is not sufficient to make a custody decision at this time. What do YOU think?
"A Family's Heartbreak" and "Keeping Families Connected" by Rick Nischalke
Rick Nischalke lost his sons and suffered dearly for decades as an estranged parent. He continues to stay focused in the fight for the well-being of his sons. He co-created a supportive website about PAS with Dr. Richard Warshak called "Keeping Families Connected" and has a channel on YouTube.
"If you ever doubted Parental Alienation exists or don't understand how it could happen, you need to see this parental alienation video. It will be life-changing! It portrays the emotional brainwashing that happens to a child during the parental alienation process." - Rick Nischalke
"Children do not naturally lose interest in and become distant from their nonresidential parent simply by virtue of the absence of that parent.
Also, healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally of their own accord. They must be attacked."
— Michael Bone and Michael Walsh, Florida Bar Journal, March 1999
PAS is Best Understood by the Connection it has to Narcissism.
Narcissists must win no matter what and have no capacity for empathy. When you put those two together, you might understand their complete lack of empathy for you or their children drives them to do anything to win, even when that means damaging their own children.
What causes a parent to want to damage the relationship of their own child with the other parent at the child's expense? Intentions differ from one parent to the next, but psychologists have suggested the following as potential motivators:
An alienating parent might:
- have unresolved anger toward the other parent for perceived wrongs during the relationship and feel entitled to control and revenge.
- have unresolved issues from their childhood, particularly in how they related to their own parents, and projects this onto the other parent.
- have a personality disorder, such as narcissism or paranoia. A narcissist is unable to empathize with emotions. Needs of others will always be overshadowed by their own. Such personality disorders may also result in jealousy and/or extreme rage toward the other parent.
- be so wrapped up in their child's life that he or she has no separate identity.
- see the child's relationship with the other parent as a threat.
Common Questions about PAS
Disbelief is a common reaction...how could this BE? Get educated and spread the word, because this disbelief and denial reaction must be faced.
The basic questions most everyone ask about this controversial issue of PAS include:
How can he/she [the parent] DO that to their OWN child ? Doesn't he/she realize how badly that child is being hurt? Why can't (fill in the blank -- your attorney, the judge, the psychologist, the police) do anything to help?
These question should open up an important perspective. Consider that often these questions relate to a parent who may be highly educated, one that we'd expect to fully understand the dramatic, and even lifelong consequences of destroying the relationship of the child with the other parent.
In severe cases of parental alienation, the alienated parent may not develop any insight into what he or she is doing to the child, may not see that it is psychological abuse. Such a parent also will not see a mental health professional with a genuine desire of being helped. They will reject anyone who does not support their own views For this reason, conventional psychotherapy will not work.
Few Family Therapists are Actually PAS Experts
Training about PAS and narcissism is critical to being in a position to adequately support those who are victims. Most therapists have had little to no training.
Often what counselors see is very charming behavior from a well-spoken and professional adult. Narcissists tend to be very accomplished liars, some even to the point of being confused at the difference between truth and lies. Putting on a show of a false facade becomes a huge part of the personality. In order to recognize this condition, a therapist would need to see beyond this charming facade, which can be very difficult, especially or the untrained and inexperienced.
The client might hold a professional career, might be well spoken and appear successful. None of that describes parenting. Often even family therapists are not prepared to recognize signs of narcissism and PAS.
Teenagers and Parental Alienation Syndrome
While young children are quite vulnerable to manipulation, teenagers are easily manipulated too, maybe more so. A teenager might also be manipulated by the alienating parent with money and privileges that the other parent would not give. If dad will buy them a car or new phone and let them hang with his friends for extended periods of time regardless of personal responsibility, school performance, etc. this leaves an easy choice for a teenager wanting to escape the entire mess in the first place. Teens tend not to desire emotional closeness with their parents so much anymore, but money and privileges will almost always matter highly.
Teenagers who are tangled inside this web may present an intense challenge. They might be particularly prone to a sense of entitlement as an adolescent, and at the same time want escape more than a close emotional relationship with either parent. The alienating parent will often deliver a regular flow of money, gifts, privileges and an inordinate level of freedom. What teenager wouldn't choose the parent who gives them money and freedom to do whatever they choose?
Dr. Craig Childress advises mental health professionals about parental alienation and refers to these guidelines to determine whether parent alienation exists.
Where to Learn More about Parent Alienation Syndrome
Suggested Searches to learn more:
Dr. Craig Childress * Dr. Richard Warshak * Dr. Richard Gardinar * Dr. Kathleen Reay * Rick Nishalke * Dr. Amy Baker * Dr. Jayne Major (Breakthrough Parenting) * Michael Jeffries * J. Michael Bone, PhD * Robert A. Evans, PhD
More Recommended Books:
“Divorce Poison” by Dr. Richard Warshak - What makes this particular book so valuable is that Dr. Warshak takes each example of alienation and then gives you a TAKE ACTION assignment on how to best combat the attempts by your ex. "Divorce Poison" is a classic that must be read by anyone who truly cares about the impact that divorce has on children.
"A Kidnapped Mind" by Pamela Richardson - one mother's efforts to stop her ex husband from alienating her son from her, and his ultimate death through suicide. She does everything she thinks is the right thing to do, but ultimately it did not work. She shares her painful hindsight advice to all parents who are going through this trauma.
“A Family's Heartbreak” by Michael Jeffries describes the trauma and tragedy of his own personal nightmare to show how what would seem unbelievable CAN actually occur.
Videos: The Gregory Mandell Show has a 2 part video on YouTube which is a good overview about PAS. Several guests provide their perspectives including a PhD psychologist, a police officer, parents & the director of the film 'Jake's Closet'.
"Welcome Back Pluto" As the first ever film program designed for parents and children to watch together, this is considered an essential resource for rejected, alienated, and estranged parents. "This moving DVD is an indispensable and welcome addition to the growing field of information about parental alienation of children. 'Pluto' should be a standard part of the curriculum of co-parenting classes, parent education workshops, and anger management groups. Lawyers and therapists will want to hand out copies to clients to prevent children from becoming casualties of divorce and to help those at various stages of alienation to restore positive relationships with their parents." - from the American Journal of Family Therapy
PAS Organizations, Networks & Associations
National Association of Parental Alienation Specialists (NAPAS) * Family Access - Fighting for Children's Rights * Keeping Families Connected * Alienated Grandparents Anonymous (AGA)
Sources of Professional Research
Empathy, the Family, and the Core of Social Justice. Paper presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association. Chicago, Il. Childress, C.A. and Pruter, D. (2019, August 8).
Identifying pathways linking child abuse to psychological outcome: The mediating role of perceived parental failure of empathy. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 6, 91-112. Moor, A. and Silvern, L. (2006).
The Attachment-Related Pathology of “Parental Alienation” (Childress, 2017)
Narcissistic Personality in Divorce and the Origins of Parental Alienation Processes (Childress, 2011)
Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: A Research Review (Joan S. Meier, 2013) VAWnet, NRCDV
“Parental Alienation as a form of psychological maltreatment: Review of Theory and Research” (Baker, 2014) Maltratamento e abuso all’infanzia, Vol. 16, p. 37-55
“Feeling Caught Between Parents” (Amato & Afifi, 2006) Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 222-235.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2010 Carolan Ross
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on September 15, 2014:
Thanks Nick. Very complicated yet very crucial to reveal PAS. Yes the video called "No Way Out" is related yet not exactly same, abduction as protection from PAS and abuse. This could be consider a reverse of PAS, yes. Kangaroo court made things worse. Sad beyond words.
Nick Child on September 12, 2014:
A full and useful resource. Thanks.
But the video No Way Out But One is not about PAS. Sometimes an abducting parent (for no good enough reason) is also an alienating parent. But this film is not presented as an abducting parent who is an alienating parent. It is about an important reverse of PAS - abduction as a way to protect your children from what was apparently openly and clearly a physically abusive parent.
PAS is known to be emotional abuse of the child by the alienating parent but this is a much more subtle process of influence than outright abuse and threats than those presented in this film as what the father would have been using on his children. The courts apparently had evidence of his abuse before them but the father and his lawyers perhaps kept custody of the children by portraying that evidence as the mother alienating them from him.
Complicated, isn't it?! The children and mother now (in the film) do not look as if they are other than genuine in their stories and evidence. That is that no PAS was happening. It was a desperate abduction in the service of protecting her children.
Lorelei Cohen from Canada on November 05, 2013:
There really are so very many emotions at play in divorce that I can easily see this happening all too often.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on October 23, 2013:
@Gypzeerose: Thanks Rose. It's a level of pain so deep...words can't describe really. yet those who've been there often DO try, too important an issue to ignore.
Rose Jones on October 21, 2013:
An incredible and so, so needed lens. I have seen this played out in others lives and tried to make sure it did not in my own - although it is extremely hard to be nice to someone who has betrayed you and you hate. Divorce takes a lot of strength - and realizing that we need to dig deep inside ourselves to make sure that our most precious children are safe.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on September 09, 2013:
@Demaw: Ouch! Yes that such pain might actually carry on to future generations - to prevent contact with a grandchild. It is hard to find words to describe that level of pain. Pray. And know that karma will somehow catch up with such intentional evil behavior from the parent who started such inexusable ugliness.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on September 09, 2013:
@Othercatt: SO sorry, Cat! I doubt that he actually believes your children cannot love both of you - more that he's afraid that they CAN. It's a desperate need to feel superior in their eyes fueled by carefully hidden personal issues like narcissism, a level of selfishness that is beyond belief. No one who really knows unconditional love would load up their own kids with such heavy baggage to carry through life. I also hope they someday are able to see the truth, it is very tough for these kids to grow up inside such a battlefield.
Othercatt on September 09, 2013:
I've been dealing with this for years. Even though my ex has custody of the kids, he still insists on lying to them about me and trying to get them to hate me. The worst part is when my kids ask me about something their Dad said, I refuse to refute it or defend myself because calling their Dad a liar would upset them even more. It took him 9 years to wear down my 15 year old son (who, much to my exes delight, has refused to speak to me for the last 2 months). Thankfully my daughter hasn't given in yet. I just don't understand. It's like he thinks they can't love the both of us. My only hope is that someday when they're older, they'll be able to see the truth.
Demaw on September 09, 2013:
The alienation can cause problems for the next generation too, the alienated adult child alienates his/her kids from the victimized grandparent.
anonymous on August 08, 2013:
@carolinarobin: This is the truly sick twisted thing. After a child becomes an adult and realizes the horror their alienating parent put them through, they still remain forever loyal to the manipulating parent while just allowing the hurt parent to fall by the wayside. I am an alienated mom who is refusing to see my now adult children because they are still loyal to their dad. He is still pulling their strings and I cannot emotionally deal with the nightmare again.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on May 03, 2013:
@BigRedDomino: You are welcome. Best to you and your little girl. Stay strong.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on May 03, 2013:
@SusannaDuffy: Yep, I totally agree. Same goes for lawyers, etc. who know exactly what they are doing and let them get away with it.
BigRedDomino on May 03, 2013:
My daughter is a victim. I do what I can EVERY DAY to keep her emotionally sound. She is only 6 years old. Since she was 2 she has had to deal with the heartache he inflicts. Thank you for this very informative lens!
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on April 02, 2013:
This is just dreadful - the parent who brainwashes a child into hate should be charged as a criminal
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on April 02, 2013:
@anonymous: Of course you are discouraged, surely that word puts your reaction to such mildly! Keep learning, for responding to such without 'awareness' can lead down paths that are not helpful. I understand that you are completely appalled, having been in similar situations. That emotion is completely understandable, and yet is not helpful at all within the court system, with attorneys, etc. Get it out with those who 'get' it, because it is real. Finding anyone within the courts or family services who will listen is tough, still no reason to give up. Too many people are hurt by this issue daily to ignore it.
anonymous on April 02, 2013:
Thought maybe this is what my ex-son-in-law was doing with our oldest grandchildren and now am sure. The sad thing in all of this is not only is our daughter being alienated from her children with a judge sitting on a temporary custody order and no ruling after 120 days but we have been alienated as well. This was tried five years ago with similar charges and the same judge in Alabama. I tried to notify Child Protection Services before our granddaughter went in and testified against her mother and stepfather but they wouldn't listen to me saying "emotional abuse is hard to prove." I asked that the children be put in a neutral environment until this could be ironed out in court and the social worked was appalled that I would even consider foster care for these children. Now we are living a nightmare along with our daughter who hasn't had visitation rights now for almost five months. Her ex-husband was over twenty-two thousand dollars behind in child support. Don't judges see a motivation factor there or is this just the society we live in. Discouraged.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on November 05, 2012:
@Cari Kay 11: Thanks so much, Cari. Yes it IS evil. People who do this to their own children are sick, and part of the evilness is that our society lets them get away with it. Very sad.
Kay on November 03, 2012:
I absolutely believe this is abuse! I had friends whose parents did this to them growing up and it was just evil. You've put together an amazing page. Blessed!
Danielle from Australia on October 03, 2012:
Sadly this happens to adult children as well. My friend's parents got divorced when she was nearly 18 and experienced the same guilt trip for loving both her parents. You'd think at that age it wouldn't affect you as much but I remember she was put through hell. I can't imagine what it would do to young children!
carolinarobin on September 12, 2012:
Wow, this is a great lens and I can relate. My mother did this to some degree when my parents split whan I was in my teens. She laid in bed depressed and crying all the time and led me to believe it was all my dad's fault. Years and years went by before I realized some truths and to this day, I still do not have a close relationship with my dad. I have forgiven my mom and we are close as ever but the damage is done. I am now 50 and my dad's health is failing and I can't seem to reach him anymore.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on August 16, 2012:
@Men-After-Divorce: I hope you will accept that PAS knows no gender, that both males and females are guilty of this crime against children.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on August 14, 2012:
@anonymous: Yes, and it is so true that PAS negatively effects relationships with extended family, not just the targeted parent. The heartbreak affects grandparents, aunts & uncles, cousins, etc.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on August 14, 2012:
@JJNW: Right on target that the absolute cruelty of PAS grows from issues of control and manipulation AND that it is way more widespread than most people have any idea. It is a selfish sickness usually hidden behind a charming facade.
inex-genki on June 24, 2012:
Surely this post is over the top, My ex told me my children hated my guts and couldn't stand to even stomach being around me anymore.They were 4,5 and 7.This makes me feel sick could. he have been lying, I thought that's why he changed the locks and kicked me out , they are crying when I ring he says its cause they hate it when I ring.He said I am a bad mother for so many reason.I love and miss my little children.
anonymous on May 14, 2012:
PAS is very real. I am witnessing this happen to my son by his ex wife, it is sad to see what is happening to formally loving grandchildren. these children used to hug me, call me, tell me they loved me, laugh with me want to visit me and now they say don"t touch me you are not my family my mother is my family
Ruthi on May 10, 2012:
Excellent albeit heartbraking information on PAS. I believe the term should be more child-focused; Child Alienation seems to me to be the ultimate abuse here. My spirit cries for the pain the children suffer, as well as for the parent who is subjected to undeserved alienation. Of course, my heart goes out to you, as I am touched by your pain too. Thank you for bringing PAS to the attention of others in the battle against all forms of abuse. You have my blessings and a bit o' sunshine.
JJNW from USA on April 16, 2012:
It seems to me that any parent who would act in such a cruel way has got to have other issues of control and manipulation. So sad. We do need to shed light all all types of family violence. It is way more widespread than many people think.
anonymous on March 30, 2012:
The major victim of a divorce case is none other than the child itself.The couple get into the scene of divorce without paying any heed to the child.If the mother wants money she can get from her spouse and love from her child,but what about the child.He doesn't want any money and cannot get all the love from one parent.Both the sides are equally important,.
sousababy on March 11, 2012:
This is just soooo important in our society. Whether divorced or not, this can occur in children. Sometimes witnessing spousal abuse has the same effect when parents also 'stay together' when really divorce would be healthier for all involved. Good to see a purple star and LotD on this one.
My sister is going through divorce and I have tried to tell her to love your child more than you hate your ex. Do NOT speak badly about your ex - for your son will internalize that - and fear he is also unlovable. Children derive half of their esteem from each parent, so do not poison them by speaking badly about your ex (even if it is well-deserved). For the child, they internalize that hate and blame themselves . . I know that isn't fair, but this is what children 'feel inside.' Somehow kids feel responsible for their parents' actions, even though they are not.
NYtoSCimjustme on February 17, 2012:
Never knew there was an actual name for this behavior - I am sure just about every 'angry' divorce situation has some elements of it, due to the nature of the breakup each parent looks to vindicate themselves from any wrongdoing by pointing the finger at the other. It's pathetic when a grown up has to stoop to this level to make themselves feel that they are in the right and the other parent was in the wrong. The kids are the biggest losers in the entire situation. Thanks for the enlightenment and the in depth look at a much more common issue than you would like to think exists.
Heather B on February 17, 2012:
I am a nursery school teacher and there are so many parents in my class who do this. I too didn't know it had a name. Sometimes, the dominant parent will even go to the extreme of trying to receive support from us, the teachers. It's so sad when this happens.
spinninfree on February 17, 2012:
Excellent and informative lens. As one who has experienced this unfortunate scenario - it is truly insidious. Being erased from your children's lives and having every attempt to rebuild what was always a loving relationship is a battle against a powerful and unknown force which is as omnipotent and controlling as a puppet master. There is a point at which you have to surrender and hope for a realization to come naturally. As the trusting non-custodial, non-court ordered child visitation parent, my standing and inclusion in my children's lives has been a textbook case of perpetual erosion of my ties, connections, bonds, relationship or for my children's innate desire to have any connection with their father. Even the time that I would finally have (a couple hours) with my children ended up being interrupted by texts and phone calls from their mother. It boils down to control, allegiance and desire to have an exclusive bond with the children. As the outsider, you have no clue how things are being twisted or manipulated against you, while being told that (the custodial parent) is doing everything they can to facilitate the children's inclusion of you in their lives, only to find yourself questioning why your children don't call or make any attempt whatsoever to interact or engage in a natural way. This particular syndrome is real and unfortunately not easily thwarted. The hope I have is that common sense and eventual separation from the custodial parent will allow for clarity to set in and a realization may come which allows for the destructive and carefully constructed chasm to be spanned with love. A love that was always there - just deflected, clouded and shrouded by the PAS methodology of manipulation, control and self absorption.
Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on February 16, 2012:
This type of "parenting" is one of the ultimate horrors of divorce. And the biggest losers in this are the most innocent, the children. Excellent and informative article on a very unfortunate and troubling aspect of divorce and parenting.
curious0927 on February 16, 2012:
Powerful stuff, got me thinking. Glad I left the man who alienated his children and his wife. It was a downward spiral that forced me to take my children and run. I had to save them, no one helped but my friend who is a Lawyer by treating the Divorce and my X with extreme caution to save the children. Someone ought to take a stand and help the women or men that have to save the kids....alone....due to a toxic home environment.
JesPiddlin on February 16, 2012:
So many of us are taught to take sides. It always helps one feel better, if there is someone else who understands your side. I suppose maybe parents expect their children to take their sides, too. It's sad, when they push it, though.
SteveKaye on February 16, 2012:
This is a very complex and difficult issue. Most versions of parent alienation occur within the privacy of the home. Thus no one knows that it's happening. In fact, even the adults and children involved don't realize that it's happening. Perhaps more publicity might help. On the other hand, waring parents care little about the damage that they're causing. Thank you for making this lens.
JesPiddlin on February 16, 2012:
I also think the name should not include the word "syndrome" which indicates it is a disease. It is not a disease. It is a situation which could often be avoided with the proper help and training. Legal COUNSEL should include COUNSELLING toward the goal of a happier end for all parties involved. (Sometimes, that even means keeping a marriage/family together!!) How many COUNSELLORS take their position *that* seriously? If they did, a lot of folks might not be so quick to complain about how much they cost! (I did know one who took it this seriously, which is why it is such a visible issue to me.)
reasonablerobby on February 16, 2012:
This is an excellent lens on a difficult subject. I wonder though about defining simply adversarial and belligerent behaviour as a syndrome. This smacks of reification to me, the sort of things that generates the responses 'oh I didn't realise we could have that', which in turn creates a PAS industry that is self fuelling.
As an academic I know only too well how sociological and social psychological classifications of observed behaviours that are merely intended as helpful explanations suddenly become something more than intended.
How about PBB 'parental bad behaviour' or DAR 'divorce aggression recalcitrance'. Could well end up being a harvest for the legal industry who clock up hours determining wether the situation fits the definition of PAS.
JesPiddlin on February 16, 2012:
I was a child of divorce. "Tell your father..." "Tell your mother..." Those were common words on my phone. Being a teen and having just a little rebellion in me, I finally stood up for myself and told them if they had something to say to each other, then say it to them, not me. I didn't need the crap they were putting me through to try to control my opinions and feelings. I've also heard a mother tell her child (who was trying to reschedule a weekend with his mom due to a special field trip which had been rescheduled for HER weekend) that if he didn't come on the the weekend he was scheduled to come, then, he didn't love her. I believe it was also turned around and said that she wouldn't love him, either. It broke the little boy's heart! I've also heard a different child tell his mother that she didn't love him, because she wasn't fighting for him in court, like his friend's parents were doing. She felt it was so much more important to get along with his dad and grandparents so they could all raise the boy without the fighting and heartbreak, but the boy interpreted it differently. It broke the mother's heart. She explained it was because she LOVED him that she wasn't in court over custody. The boy had a good home where he was and the mother was allowed to see him any time she wanted. There was no reason to try to wreck that. That boy grew up with some misinterpreted ideas and now seems to resent his mother for pain she did not cause. She had hoped he would grow up and see and try to understand the sacrifice she made for him, but that was not to be. Children should never be the pawns in a game. Their welfare and happiness should ALWAYS come first. However, I have also seen authorities interfere in a good situation and make it bad, "in the best interest of the child." There is no perfect answer. You just do the best you can and pray...
anonymous on February 16, 2012:
Oh I have seen this happen, and even adult children continue to suffer! Congratulations on a very informative Lens of the Day!
anonymous on February 16, 2012:
Good for you for bringing this out into the open. It isn't anything new, and in fact probably happens less in these days of mental health professionals and family counselors brought into divorce cases, and more awareness of the fact that mental and emotional abuse are abuse. Is it a mental illness? In the same way that abuse leaves scars, this must also leave scars. On the "hated" parent as well as on the child. In my case, it was simply a continuation of the abuse I had been subjected to since birth - my Mother simply could not rest until she took anything (or anyone)I loved away from me - and yes, the courts are manipulated by money verses no money. It is a many faceted issue that cannot be addressed except in a case by case situation, and I really don't know what could be done to remedy it.
sherioz on February 16, 2012:
I have worked with families in which there was the claim of PAS and I have done consultations for the courts. In some cases, it really was PAS and in other cases it involved a concerned and caring parent claiming abuse when there was in fact abuse. It is so complex and difficult to sort out. There do need to be better ways to train professionals to assess each and every case that comes to the courts in order to give the court valid and useful recommendations.
June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on February 16, 2012:
To add another element to this, the grandparents and other members of the extended family are also alienated when one parent poisons the child against the other parent. The children involve end up deprived of an entire extended family. This happens more often than you might think.
Diana Grant from United Kingdom on February 16, 2012:
This is a subject very dear to my heart, as I have seen the distress it causes - in two cases I have seen the mental breakdown of the alienated parent, and in one case when the children sought me out to find their father when they turned 18, I learned of the sadness and despair they suffered at the hands of their stepfather, who was the instigator of their weak mother's spiteful treatment of the father.
Here are some Angel Blessings for an excellent article.
anonymous on February 16, 2012:
The child has a right to a relationship with both parents, it is not either parents right to anything. I try my best to cushion my kids from their fathers plain evil treatment of them, I beg them to keep in contact with him so that they don't grow up not knowing their roots. (also I would love a break from them at weekends, I'm constantly parenting and while he has had lots of relationships I haven't been able to have one, because the kids are here most of the time, I have no life now!) They dislike their father as he has always let them down, he gets his mum to care for them on his weekends, he refuses to buy them things they need at his house (like sanitary towels for my eldest daughter) and he puts girlfriends needs before theirs. Now he is accusing me of PAS because his kids don't like him!!! PAS...maybe in some situations, but sorry dad's if your kids don't like you , maybe you should look at your behaviour first! Calling PAS is just dumping yet more rubbish on single mums, we are demonised at every turn yet most of us are just trying to shield the kids we love from irresponsible fathers.
gypsyman27 lm on February 16, 2012:
BTW, the custodial parent does not pay child support, they have the kids! Trust me, child support usually does not cover the cost of raising a child. It is helpful, but not the main source of this child's cost of living. I only paid child support when my ex-wife was the custodial parent, she paid when I got the boys. She opposed paying because I was the man in the relationship and she said a real man wouldn't ask a woman for child support! That one still ranks among the most amazing things I've ever heard. I had to take her to court to get her to pay. When we first divorced she had the boys and I paid child support without a court order, so we never had to fight over that issue. See you around the galaxy...
gypsyman27 lm on February 16, 2012:
This is a very emotional issue, I note that the author of this page is a lady. I am sorry for what happened to her and her children. At some point the courts considered her ex-husband to be the better custodial parent. That is what happened in our case, I was the more responsible parent. I didn't have to 'bad mouth' my children's mother. My sons are not emotionally scarred from living with me, (which still amazes even me) but they do harbor bad feelings for their mother which had nothing to do with anything I may have said to them. They decided on their own what was right and what was wrong. My oldest son still weeps when reminded of his mother. I thought another male point of view in this discussion was needed. See you around the galaxy...
OrganicHealth3 on February 16, 2012:
I grew up in a broken home. My parents got divorced when I was 5. They both had joint custody of me. I would be with my dad during the school year and my mom on weekends and summers. However, they didn't get along very well. Really they confused me. Each of them would down talk each other to me frequently when I was with them. I grew up not liking either of them very much because of this. I have sense had some Godly counciling that has helped me deal with the issues, and started restoring the relationship with my dad. He was the one I didn't like the most and cut off all contacts with as an adult. For other reasons including his down talking of my mom. I don't think people should get divorced unless there is some sort of abuse taking place or someone is cheating. I guess in my parents case they did have a legitamate reason to get divorced after all. But its never an ideal situation for a child to grow up in. Divorce is hard enough on a child without PAS. To turn a child on their parent is down right cruel.
bead at home mom on February 16, 2012:
This is certainly a deserving page for LOTD! Very, very sad subject but far to true to ignore. No doubt there are more out there that have been touched by this than we can imagine. My prayer is that adults would be adults and not suffer the children who are the innocent by standers. Thx for sharing and bringing awareness.
Renaissance Woman from Colorado on February 16, 2012:
This is a truly important topic about which to start meaningful conversations. Thank you for increasing awareness regarding something that is all too common today. It is more than time to address PAS in a manner that will do something to defuse, in a preventative way, a syndrome that is causing children great stress and damage. We owe it to all children. Congrats on LotD. Very sorry for what you had to experience as the precursor to publishing this web page. All the very best to you and your family.
anonymous on February 16, 2012:
"Amputated Mom", that is such a powerful statement with the grieving never going away. When love turns to hate and children are used as pawns, there is no winner...everyone loses. I pray that many will read this and work toward positive changes in the lives of children. LotD is more than well deserved.
Cusper on February 16, 2012:
The difficulty with PAS is that you have to establish that the process of Alienation is distinctly different from the normal emotional turmoil associated with a divorce. What complicates matters more is that during the period leading up to the divorce, if the custodial spouse has constructive control of the minor children and refuses communication with the non-custodial parent a very disturbing narrative can be impressed upon the childrenâs mind prior to there even being a hearing. A qualified therapist, or experienced specialist can, with a lot of work, surface some of these issues. But unlike the ranting and denigrating commentary that parents engage in before and after divorce, the unconscious narrative is hard to bring document, much less prove.
One last observation, DO NOT view a PAS claim as something you WIN. In all issues of divorce, custody, joint parenting, etc, remember you donât win. There is no WIN. If it is necessary to pursue a PAS claim, change custody arrangements or anything else remember it can only be pursued if it is in the interest of the children. Even then, remember that it will still mean trauma and you will need to be prepared for addressing that trauma, regardless of the outcome..
Cusper Lynn, author, Facebook Ate My Marriage. www.squidoo.com/facebook-ate-my-marriage
writerkath on February 16, 2012:
I could go on for an encyclopedia's length on this topic. But I will do my best to contain myself. As I read this, I am struggling with emotions. Although I rarely discuss this these days or even write about it in public because my own stepdaughter is now an adult, she was alienated from her father for years.
Her maternal grandmother once wrote an email when she was 9 years old vilifying my husband in language and terrible accusations I could not believe a professional adult is capable of (I remember my stepdaughter coming down the stairs with the email in hand, and she was crying over the horrid things her grandmother said. I had to call my husband home from work so that he could comfort her and respond to the charges this person put down.).
So she heard terrible things from even beyond her mother. Her stepfather joined in as well. We went nearly 7 years without seeing her as a result of how much she hated her father.
Later, a person from a neighboring town once approached John and me in a parking lot, and said, "Please, I need to talk with you. I owe you a huge apology. When (stepdaughter's mother) and I were friends, we would spend a lot of time just bashing you in front of your daughter. It was so wrong, and I hope you can forgive me...)"
I am not sure that a child ever fully recovers from this without a great deal of work. We do communicate with her now, thankfully. The happy part of this story is that my husband never gave up. He always sent cards - no matter that they weren't acknowledged, and always said, "I love you..." He always left the door open... And now John has a beautiful grandson whom we adore and cannot wait to see when we get home in May.
That's about all I can say without getting emotional... Congratulations on lens of the day... Blessed.
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on February 16, 2012:
God has a special punishment for anyone who abuses children in any way, I'm sure of it. It's just unfathomable to think how people can hurt their children this way. I am so sorry it has happened to you. Thanks for sharing this wonderful resource. I'm sure you will touch many people's lives in a positive way. Blessings to you, and congratulations on your well-deserved Lens of the Day!
nuestraherencia on February 16, 2012:
Great job! This happens more than many care to acknowledge...My husband has dealt with this from his ex...sadly, the ex's need to do this, has hurt her own daughter more than anyone else. Very sad. My husband also dealt with this from his mom. He couldn't see it for years. It wasn't until he was 30 that he met his bio-dad. He loves him dearly. His mom, 40yrs AFTER a divorce, is still bad mouthing his father, even in front of her husband of 39yrs...and our child as well. We no longer visit her at all. If she cannot stop the constant bad mouthing of my husband's father, my husband has decided he will no longer be able to see her. And our son also should not be subjected to her constant bashing of his grandfather.
Chris-H LM on February 16, 2012:
Of the thousands of hours I've spent on Squidoo, both enjoying other lenses and creating my own I am most grateful for THIS hour and for THIS lens.
I was a child victim of PAS, however after years of separation I mended bridges with my father and a great weight was lifted from me. Still, there were 10 plus years lost, and a lot of pain and anguish.
But what really breaks my heart is that years later I am again experiencing the numbing pain of PAS abuse--only now as an amputated parent. My kids have no idea the extent to which they were manipulated by my ex. It was machiavellian and sadly continues to this day.
I gave up everything so they wouldn't have to spend all of their time with someone who tries to control every aspect of their lives. They were all that mattered to me. I was lured into moving out on the false promise of my ex that we would share custody. Sadly, they were soon cut off from me, both via legal deceit and more insidiously through Parental Alienation. My daughter will not even speak to me now, and we were once so close.
I grieve for my kids. It never seems to stop. They are missing out on a great dad, and there are memories that might have been but sadly now will never be. I love them.
Sometimes the only way I can bear it is the thought that at least they exist. I had some time with them and there is yet the possibility that one day there will be more. I can only hope. I do not want to spend the rest of my life with that thought as my only comfort.
I miss them. And it's a hole so big I cannot see the other side. I sometimes wonder if it mirrors something they too feel, but cannot yet face.
hsschulte on February 15, 2012:
I strongly suspect that most parents who are guilty of this have abusive personalities. In my favorite book about abuse, "Why Does He Do That?" it describes similar behaviors during divorce, not only to alienate the kids, but family and friends as well.
priscillab on February 15, 2012:
Wow. This happened to my husband and I hope that someday his boys will make the choice to find out the truth. It is painful to see a parent punished when they are actually the parent who cares. I feel for you and I am grateful that you made this lens to educate others. I will share it with others that I know who are in the midst of ugly disputes.
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on February 10, 2012:
@Nancy Hardin: Mostly the people who are aware of PAS are those it happened to, and often even therapists and counselors don't have a clue about it. Hope your daughter find solace at least to know there are others, and she might click the link to the partner page which is more about SUPPORT for victims of PAS.
Nancy Carol Brown Hardin from Las Vegas, NV on February 10, 2012:
I'm forwarding this link to my daughter. She needs to know this really exists, not just with her family, but throughout the world of divorces. Thanks for sharing.
LetLoveBe on October 10, 2011:
God bless you for putting this page together. What an amazing amount of work. Anyone who would do this is obviously hurting. I can relate to your sense of "amputation"--that is excactly how I have felt since my ex has alienated my daughter from me. His 5th wife is assisting him, but I know she is just being manipulated. I am wondering if I should create and upload a video on YouTube of photos and a song. I think she might come across it. I love my daughter, Elizabeth "Izzy" Hickman, and nothing can ever change that.
TapIn2U on March 31, 2011:
This is just sad. It's common to many parents who are going through a divorce. Sometimes we get too preoccupied with our own emotions and relationship issues that we forget the most important thing and should be top priority: our children. It's bad enough that they have to witness their parents fight and being encouraged by one to hate the other is torture for them. Fantastic lens! Sundae ;-)
anonymous on March 30, 2011:
Unfortunately, abusers are screaming "parental alienation" in the courts to cover their abuse of innocent children. My ex-husband perjured himself on the stand for five days and the judge accepted all of his lies and overlooked the testimony of two counselors and two 15 and 16 year old children as well as their pediatrician who all testified that the reason the children did not want to spend time with their father is that they were afraid of him; that he himself had alienated them with his negative behavior towards me and his complete disregard for their well being. Not only did the judge continue visitation, which had been requested to be suspended until my ex underwent psychological evaluation, he gave primary physical custody of my three youngest children to my ex. It is often the parent making the accusations who has alienated the children all on their own. My children have subsequently suffered emotional and physical abuse for the past nine months while this has gone through appeals court - Please be cautious in your accusations and judges in your decisions!!
Carolan Ross (author) from St. Louis, MO on January 12, 2011:
@MargoPArrowsmith: Thanks SO much, Margo. Pieces of my heart are invested here and awareness of PAS is critical to healing and healthy solutions for those affected by it.
MargoPArrowsmith on January 12, 2011:
In my professional career, I have seen so much of this and I have lived it personally. You did a great job here and I am nominating this for a purple star. Its an amazing and vitally important lens
darciefrench lm on December 25, 2010:
I could write another lens in response- the timing is impeccable as PAS issues are rampant in my family- not just parent to child but grandparent to grandchild. I was officially amputated on FB by my middle daughter this morning in part for speaking to this truth.(FYI your pics are rotating different sizes and making the lens jump)
grannysage on October 08, 2010:
The words you used to describe yourself, "amputated mom" really hit home. That is exactly how I feel. A whole part of me was cut off and probably will never grow back. The issue revolved around religion and that I "abandoned" my children, something they still believe. I was very, very naïve and believed that we would be like many divorced couples and share custody. I was ever so wrong. The pain is always there, but I have learned to let go of the guilt. Thank you for sharing this.
Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 08, 2010:
I'm in the same situation, I guess you could say. I was alienated from my two oldest daughters who lived with their father and his girlfriend. I wasn't allowed to have a normal relationship with them and was lied about by my ex in family court. He said, "All's fair in love and war," and really meant it. He also told me I would never get my children back because he didn't want to pay child support. I don't know what they did or said to make my daughters turn against me. Crazy lies like telling them I never washed or brushed their hair... and the girls believed it! I guess kids are easily brainwashed. Anyhow, they're much older now.
My oldest daughter started speaking to me again when she was 18 and she's been on good terms with me ever since. The younger sister, however, still won't speak to me and won't even tell me why. Never has. I guess she just thinks I'm evil or bad... and of course it breaks my heart and the pain never goes away. She's 29 now... and it's been long past time for her to recover. I wonder if she ever will. Oh, and these two girls are no longer on speaking terms.
I have three other children who weren't involved in all that... so I feel very fortunate to have four children that love me; still I worry about the one who doesn't.
Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on October 08, 2010:
I am so sorry you are having to deal with PAS. I think the kids will see truth. it just might take time. virtual hugs to you!