Friday, July 31, 2009

Questions and Doubts Surrounding Parental Alienation Syndrome

Having come from a situation where BOTH of my parents used my brother and me as pawns in the divorce and pitted us against each other trying to turn us again the other parent, I deeply understand each element contained in Garder's and Baker's research and conclusions regarding PAS. I lived it. I experienced it. I had to overcome its devastating and damaging effects. To read that the scientific and legal legitimacy is questioned disturbs me.

First of all, regardless what LABEL is slapped on what happened to my brother and me in regard to brainwashing and manipulations by our parent to alienate the other, we underwent tremendous emotional abuse that was far stretching into four decades of our life. No matter what LABEL is attached to what happened, our parents blatantly tried to use my brother and me to hurt the other parent, and in the process, tried to turn us against the parent by telling us lies, embellishments, and scare tactics. TO THIS DAY:
  • I don't know if my mother broke all the windows in the house as my Dad lead us to believe-- or did my Dad actually do it and pin it on my mother to scare us kids?
  • I don't know if my now step-father (at the time he was just my mother's boyfriend / Dad's ex-friend) actually pulled a gun on my Dad or did my Dad make this up to scare us kids?
  • If my mother was actually violent as my Dad portrayed with testimonial tapes made by friends, private detective followings, and medical records.
So, if the scientific legitimacy is questioned, therefore the courts don't accept PAS as actual abuse to the child, then how else is the child protected and removed from the abuse? I understand that for the courts to recognize PAS as 'scientific':
  1. PAS must be based on methodology that can be or has been tested-- the courts have determined that PAS does not meet the threshold requirement to qualify as scientific. I take issue with the court's determination-- not merely on their 4 part 'test' but also for the sake of the children who are caught up in the court system's legal jargon and loop-holes. From the research I have performed, in the last 20 years the methodology of testing has been thorough and with depth & breadth.
  2. PAS must have been the subject of peer review and publication-- PAS has been the subject of peer review and publication-- simply look at Amy J. L. Baker's body of work. She is the author or co-author of 3 books and over 45 peer reviewed articles.
  3. The known or potential rate of error (reliability and validity) of PAS-- the reliability and validity of PAS is evidenced in the reality of its victims & their stories which fit perfectly into the constructs of PAS. Some of the court's comments about PAS's reliability and validity stem from the emergence of PAS into general public. The court is discrediting the findings saying that PAS is in its initial stage of discovery and, therefore, can't be determined reliable and valid. At this point, after 20 + years of more evidence, cases, and studies, PAS is as recognized as BPD (which was labeled around the same time).
  4. Does PAS enjoy general acceptance within the scientific community-- since PAS is not a 'mental disorder' and doesn't meet the criteria for a 'mental illness', the psychiatric community has shunned PAS. I don't think PAS is mental disorder or illness. I believe it's a SYMPTOM of an overlying disease, such as BPD, NPD, alcoholism, or drug addiction. In and of itself, I don't think that PAS is a stand-alone disease. I think that during times of duress, PAS manifests itself. In other words, my Dad wouldn't have a reason to turn my brother and me against my mother during happy times of their marriage. Not until my mother cheated on my Dad with his friend and he shuddered at the thought of her also getting us kids did he decide to turn us against her. Reciprocally, when my mother lost custody of us kids to my Dad, but then got us back, she waged an all out war against him to this day with a tool kit of alienating arsenal. In other words, if my parents didn't have the mental and personality disorders, they may have had a copesectic divorce. But due to the disorders, the divorce dragged on, and each parent went into a pseudo-psychotic state-- not taking any consideration of how their behavior ultimately effected the kids as they lived in a world of revenge and vengence. My mother to this day can't talk about my Dad without copping a nutty-- and my Dad continues to say that if my mother died tomorrow that he wouldn't shed a tear. So does acceptance in the scientific community REALLY matter when a child is being abused? Does this really matter when a parent is being alienated from his / her beloved children? I understand this is a prong of the court's test as evidence of legitimacy, but if the prevalence of this type of abuse is so profound as it has been discovered, don't the children need protection? So rather than ditching PAS for whatever reason, shouldn't the abuse be recognized and handled regardless?
According to the courts, alternative factors to PAS for an expert to consider are (and some of these cracked me up because they are part & parcel of PAS... they are symptoms of PAS):
  1. developmentally normal separation problems
  2. deficits in the non-custodial parent’s skills (part of PAS: most alienating parents meet the diagnostic criteria for a personality disorder, a pervasive and distorted relational style, including narcissism and borderline personality. A related finding is that many of the alienating parents appeared to have features of narcissistic and/or have a borderline personality disorders, alcoholism, drug addiction. These parents usually have deficits in parenting skills due to how the disorder is manifested)
  3. oppositional behavior (part of PAS: children become the prize to be won or lost in what often becomes an escalating conflict, being used as pawns & turned against a parent in the process.)
  4. high-conflict divorce proceedings (part of PAS: during heated child custody situation, the prevalence of PAS is heightened)
  5. other serious emotional or medical problems of one family member (part of PAS: already mentioned above, parents with personality disorders, alcoholism, and drug addition are more likely to try to alienate the child from the other parent)
  6. child abuse (part of PAS: well, actually PAS is EMOTIONAL ABUSE. Period. So, looking to see if the situation is 'child abuse' rather than 'PAS' is simply splitting hairs.)
  7. inappropriate, unpredictable, or violent behavior by one parent (part of PAS: the brainwashing, manipulations, and scare tactics are just that-- inappropriate and unpredictable)
  8. incidental causes, such as the child’s dislike of a parent’s new roommate or lover
  9. alienation by third parties
  10. the child’s unassisted manipulation of one or both parents
  11. fears for the absent parent’s welfare
"The value of an expert’s contribution to the courts’ deliberations regarding children’s welfare should be based on clinically sound reasoning formulated from empirically derived data that will serve the best interest of the child and not on unsubstantiated hyperbole"-- Parental Alienation Syndrome: Frye v Gardner. Hyperbole?? Finding all of the information and research about PAS was a HUGE revelation for me. PAS explained for what I have been searching for decade. PAS is EXACTLY what happened to me. Short term losses included a normal childhood, healthy relationships with parents, shattered attachment with parents, and more. Long term effects included but not limited to anxiety, feelings of intense guilt, fear, and confusion. For the court to take what could be so VALIDATING, so HEALING, so much of a REVELATION for a child that is in the midst of the damaging of effects of PAS is a complete shame. Where the emotional abuse could be stopped in its tracks, the court would rather not hear about PAS.

I know that I have made this all too simplistic than reality; however, that is just the point. Simply put, the abuse can be more readily identified through the tool of PAS, and therefore, simply STOPPED. By the court allowing what they think is not 'scientific', they could allow as a 'tool' to enable children to see beyond the dysfunction and toxicity of the world they're enveloped. I know that when I was going through PAS at the hands of my parents, I didn't see the full picture of what was going on. I didn't have an enlightened witness to help me to see what my parents were doing. When a child is caught up in the crazy turmoil of not only their parents' divorce but also the emotional abuse of PAS, the child most likely is unable to see the clear picture and, therefore, not able to steer clear from brainwashing. I would have been eternally grateful if the courts defined PAS for me and put a stop to the crazy circus that my parents created.

As strong willed and level headed as I was, I still had a very difficult time deciphering what was going on with my parents-- who was telling the truth, if I should be weary of one parent or the other, the realization that one of my parents was not being honest but which one was telling the truth, that no matter what I was going to upset a parent so I was always walking on eggshells, wanting to please my parents so much and having to play sick games, knowing that I can't have a relationship with both parents at the same time (it's one or the other), being legitimately SCARED of my parent, and that my parents wielded guilt as a very effective weapon (definitely a huge tool with alienation).

PAS has been cited as part of the child custody determination process in the United States. Based on the evaluation of PAS, courts in the US have awarded sole custody to some fathers. Of sixty-four precedent-bearing cases, only two decisions, both in New York State and both in criminal courts actually set precedents. Both held PAS inadmissible and one case found that PAS failed the Frye test as the appropriate professional community did not generally accept; this decision was upheld in an appellate court. One case stated that PAS passed the Frye test, but the appeal did not discuss the Frye test and actually "[threw] out the words "'parental alienation syndrome'" and focused on the "willingness and ability of each parent to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing relationship between the parents and the child." In the second case the appellate court did not discuss PAS; the third case specifically chose not to discuss the admissibility of PAS and the fourth made no decision on PAS-- Parental Alienation Syndrome Wikipedia

Funny how the PAS is PAS whether you call it PAS or write it out in its definition form. Sad that so much time, money, and headache has to be put in with these cases, taking them all the way to the appellate courts. How much precious time is lost with the child's childhood-- the time they should be laughing, carefree, loved, and feeling safe. So much time is spent on the legal gymnastics and parental battles that the true meaning behind all of parenting is lost-- to nuture and rear your child in a loving, safe, and supportive environment.

1 comment:

  1. "+" about a million to this Post.
    Everyone involved *speaks* to "the best interests of the child." When you're psychologically abusing the child(ren), when a "Parent" expropriates a childhood for what ever reason, they have stolen that which can never, ever be restored.
    I absolutely relate to every.last.word you've written here in terms of my CB "mother." I was far more fortunate than you in that Dad consistently avoided portraying my CB "mother" in a negative light-she did that to herself with out any assistance.
    This is a painful Post to read but every last word resonates. What a nightmare for you with both "parents" engaging in PAS....I'm so very sorry.