There is a large flock of parental alienation syndrome cult members that have temporarily migrated to Canada for their symposium (CSPAS). Many of these members have dubious, even criminal, backgrounds. Some of these members are unlicensed, some have been disciplined for ethical violations, and some are currently under investigation. Many of them purport to be the leaders (as in ring-leaders) in their field--a field in which their "research" cites their own "research" and/or the "research" of their comrades. Most of this "research" is based on the self-published theories of the cult leader, Richard A. Gardner. And this "research" evolves whichever way the politico-legal wind blows, whichever way the money flows.
Parental alienation syndrome "experts" claim that one parent is brainwashing the child against the other parent...as if all children are so impressionable that they have no independent thought. They frame it as the worse form of child abuse imaginable.
I don't know about you, but I think sex with children is much worse. And it was child sex abuse allegations that spurred the creation of this parental alienation syndrome, by Dr. Richard Gardner.
Dr. Gardner simultaneously viewed most child abuse reports as fictitious, and as real. He was a member of the False Memory Syndrome Society and created a Sexual Abuse Legitimacy Scale that was ridiculed by the science community. Additionally, he held non-traditional, borderline pro-pedophilia views on sex with children (see Richard A. Gardner: In His Own Words).
Coincidentally, similar views have been espoused by other parental alienation theorists such as Warren Farrell and Ralph Underwager (both men have held major positions in fathers’ organizations funded by the U.S. government). And yet supporters are constantly denying the implications and attempting to leave this history behind.
Why should we separate the origin of a theory from the theory itself? Wouldn’t we, as scientists and as consumers, be ignorant in doing so?
Dr. Gardner specified that if genuine abuse is present, parental alienation claims are invalidated. However, how can domestic and sexual violence be detected if the parental alienation players do not have dual expertise in family violence ?
Parental alienation "experts" are not called into the case as neutral experts to assess violence, they are called by one party in the case to testify in their favor--against the other parent. This is what a hired-gun is. Even "normal" child custody evaluators, appointed by the court, are suspect. They are known to come in with preconceived notions against one parent, to fail to interview all parties in person, and to disregard conflicting evidence. Judges utilize the same evaluators across family court cases and these evaluators apply the same diagnosis across a myriad of complex situations.
And where does this leave the child?
Consider this: You have a child, upset about his parents' divorce, lives with his mother, and is otherwise well-adjusted. Father wants custody. Child is stable, happy, and expresses no desire in custody change.
Do we force the child into changed custody? Are we as outsiders really the authority on telling this child that he must have a relationship with his father? If so, why?
Are children autonomous beings? Do children really have rights?
Consider this: Mother and child have been physically abused by father. Mother retains custody, maintains an environment that promotes honesty and healing, naturally invoking feelings of anger regarding family history. Father seeks a change in custody charging parental alienation. Mother and child become hostile, fueling the accusations. Change of custody is ordered and child is forced to undergo therapy with his abuser. Child is isolated from the parent with whom the original bond existed.
“Casualties of a Custody War”, Pittsburg Post Gazette.
‘While Gardner did not recommend transferring custody of the boys to Grieco at that point, he did recommend something he called ‘threat therapy.’
‘These children need coercion” to see their father, he said. If they are forced to visit him, they ‘then will most likely relax with their father.’
And the penalty for not complying, he said, should be court-enforced sanctions against the mother…. Nathan Grieco, 16, of North Huntingdon was found dead in his bedroom, a belt around his neck. His death came after years of custody disputes between his mother, Karen Scott, and his father, Louis Grieco.”
Psychology is faddish and often promotes harmful experimental therapies (not unlike the science community). Parental alienation theorists are performing a social experimentation, similar to the horrendous “rebirthing therapy” in which children were forced to undergo “treatment” in order to bond with their adoptive parents.
Stop casualties of pop therapy
Detroit News/May 2, 2001
By Martha A. Churchill
But the really chilling thing about the "rebirthing" casualty is the pop psychology, fad-of-the-day culture among many therapists, including some in Michigan. Unproven, dangerous practices spread around a national grapevine of irresponsible mental health practitioners. Certain ones latch on to a particular idea, like converts to a new religion, and won't let the facts get in the way of their beliefs.
Michigan has plenty of crusading therapists, using treatment methods just as questionable as rebirthing. Rather than testing their ideas in double-blind studies, these therapists throw around buzz words, especially "healing," "faith" and "spirituality."
Psychotherapists are not required to use only scientifically proven methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, or medications. The responsible ones choose treatments that withstand scientific scrutiny; others use whatever fad happens along.
Junk treatments are easy to spot. You hear testimonials from grateful patients who say breathlessly "My therapist saved my life!" Soon, someone is making a buck teaching the latest psycho fad. Therapists without scientific training assume that if a treatment method is taught at a seminar, it must be valid.
Some patients end up sicker on account of their therapy, but won't complain because they "believe in" the treatment.
The aforementioned article can be specifically applied to parental alienation syndrome.
How is this family therapy? How is this beneficial to the child? [It has been noted that these therapies are geared to benefiting the [target] parent, rather than the child.]
The answer is that it is truly beneficial to the parent with the large ego. The parent who knows that he can control and manipulate the family with the use of the legal system...because any other parent would make amicable negotiations. For an abuser, the court system is a kingdom in which he can reclaim his throne.
We are talking about divorce--an unpleasant situation, in general. And then we are talking about “high conflict” divorces, a term that is a mask for divorces involving a history of family violence. And on top of that, we are talking about scenarios that are a natural occurrence. People are mad, people are dealing with their pain, grief, and anger. PAS theory is trying to pathologicize normal behaviors and base things off of another's dislike of the other’s coping mechanisms. Or, it represents the abuser’s refusal to accept his own behavior as contributory to that of the others.
Science is supposed to cure pathological conditions. In psychology, there are no cures because everything is subjective. The reason that PAS theorists can claim that PAS is an epidemic, is that they are classifying normal behaviors. For example:
If I told you that 80% of people at funerals cry, does this mean that:
- Crying is an unhealthy behavior
- Crying is an epidemic.
Which this leads me to another point: PAS claims to be experienced in a select population. But can it not exist in intact families?
If the answer to this is yes, then what makes PAS so unique that it deserves treatment centers, awareness days, and government funding?
In an intact relationship, does a child not have a preference for one parent over another? Does a child not get angry with a parent and attempt to resolve that anger in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, ceasing communication with that parent? Does this child not go to school and tell their friends about the incident, perhaps ridiculing the parent and building resentment in others? Does animosity not build within the household especially as the child ages and especially if the marital relationship is dysfunctional?
Now add the dynamics of abuse into the equation.
Why doesn't anyone ever ask what dysfunction existed in the household when the relationship was intact? Why doesn’t anyone ever ask who the primary caregiver was in the intact household? The answer is constantly omitted.
If children need stability and security in order to have healthy development, why must we interfere with this in order to appease angry parents? Is all of this nonsense not out of concern for the best interest of the children?
We are destroying children's coping mechanisms, natural defenses, and the use of boundaries by this parental alienation experimentation. There are no long term studies on the results of reunification therapy, deprogramming, or forced psychotherapy. If children are so resilient, why not ask them what they want and allow them to resolve their issues on their own?
According to PAS cult members, the child must exhibit certain "symptoms" in order for him to be labeled as alienated. But are they really labeling the child, or the protective parent? In the end, both are punished. So let's call parental alienation syndrome what is really is-- a legal tactic, enmeshed in politics, ignoring intricate familial patterns, and shifting the focus to support our victim-blaming culture.