Amy J. Baker and Parental Alienation: Behind the Veil of Ignorance

part two of The Ever Expanding Parental Alienation Theory: Amy J. Baker's Research Revisited

Amy J. Baker got some publicity in a March 2008 with David Van Nuys, Ph.D. The following excerpts come from the transcript from the Wise Counsel interview (emphasis mine):

Amy: We only consider PAS when there is no other reason. In other words, if a parent is abusive or neglectful or moves away or is a poor parent in some ways that results in the child saying, "You know Dad (or Mom), I really need to step back from this relationship", that's not PAS. It's only PAS when the child is being manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent in the absence of a good reason for rejecting that parent.
Wait a minute, that's not what Baker said in her study! The interviewer should have asked her how can she tell if the parent is abusive or neglectful if he/she is the target parent who is reporting the alienation. What motivation does this person have to tell the truth? On the other hand, considering PAS "when there is no other reason" or "in the absence of a good reason" is not evidence that it exists. This is not scientific. (Think of it this way: you report to the doctor with severe headaches with blurred vision and nausea. The doctor tells you that you it isn't a migraine, you don't have allergies or sinus problems, and your vision seems fine. So, you must have a brain tumor. Let's operate!)
Amy: The DSM is going through another round of revisions, I think it's due out at some time in 2012 or something and at that point, PAS may be included. It really depends on how much empirical research and the lobbying and behind the scenes sort of pressures to include it and not include it that are going on.
So, the DSM is about politics, not scientific evidence? The interviewer should have asked her what parental alienation empirical research looks like.
Amy: It's 100 percent on research and theory. I'm actually not a clinician...

I only do research and the book is based primarily on interviews, in depth interviews with 40 adults who believe that when they were children they were turned against one parent by the other parent and then I used those case studies to explicate various aspects of PAS theory that I'm interested in writing about. The book is solely based on that. I don't have a clinical practice.
Hmmm. So Baker has not seen clinical evidence of parental alienation. Her method is word of mouth. Let's do a recap of the subjects she interviewed:

40 people= 25 women, 15 men

age range 19-67, with a mode of about 40 years of age

29 people reported that their parents divorced during their childhood
Average age during said divorce= 5.76 years, with a mode of 2.

So, just in case you didn't figure this all out in the last post, the participants who volunteered for Baker's study were mostly middle aged with a majority of them reflecting on a divorce, and actions thereafter, that occurred between their parents during or before kindergarten. (And some of the parents never divorced.)

The interviewer should have asked Baker how she gets paid. (Constant self-promotion = books sales, speaking engagements. Research = grant money.) Oh, wait, the answer is below:
Amy: Well, a researcher's dream is to find a topic that is both rich and fascinating and which there is human drama and a relatively understudied area where there is a significant need to be filled so that there's a kind of "ready made" audience for your findings. The opposite of that is to do a study and you write a book or an article and it just sits on a shelf and it doesn't help anybody.
Perhaps psych researchers are bottom feeders preying on people's suffering and offering them solutions just to make a dollar. Opportunists. Where's that cash cow?
Amy: But in this other category, there were father alienators and mother alienators. Basically, rather than being narcissistic and seducing the children into their camp, so to speak, they were abusive. The parents seemed to have a more anti-social personality disorder rather than a narcissistic or borderline. They really pull the kids to them through fear of rejection, fear of abandonment and more kind of controlling, even physically and sexually abusive style.
But Amy is not a clinician. She only "saw" these things via a relayed and delayed message from her participants. And didn't she just say that this wasn't considered alienation?
Amy: So, the way in which it's like a cult is first of all, alienating parents use many of the same strategies that cult leaders use. The same youth control, they create dependency, they use the same black/white thinking. If you break it down on a point by point basis, alienating parents and cult leaders use essentially the same thought reform and emotional manipulation techniques.
Maligning motherhood or parenthood. There are probably lots of parallels that could be made between parents and cult leaders in general...or parents and military leaders...or parents and anything bad or good. Seriously, this isn't science. It is opinion. I wouldn't be surprised if Baker weren't a biological parent. As an anecdote, I've worked with research psychologists. They love to study other folks, especially people of color and women. They are very vested in their research and often have no life outside of it. On another note, from personal experience and observation, I haven't seen any single mother that purposefully created dependent children--ESPECIALLY those mothers that were once partnered with the biological father. In fact, fostering this type of relationship would be counterproductive because often times, these single mother families have less resources; and so the children are "forced" to grow up faster and become independent sooner than their intact family peers.
Amy: ...based on my research with both targeted parents and these adult children and now I've kind of provided consultations with maybe 100 targeted parents just talking to people on the phone.
But Amy isn't a clinician. Why is she doing this?

And here's the parental alienation is abuse trope that is flooding the current literature:
Amy: I do indeed because although there are many definitions of emotional abuse and I just picked one, you could take any definition and compare on a point by point basis and you would see that PAS really lines up. Even if you didn't do it on a sort of systematic basis, just intuitively, it makes sense to say, "Well, a parent who makes a child lose a relationship with the other parent is abusive in and of itself." Even if you didn't also conclude, as I do, that these very strategies that the parent uses are abusive.
Intuitively? Is that science?
Amy: Well, the people that I interviewed talked at length about self-esteem problems. They said they hated themselves and thought that they were horrible, horrible people. Part of this is the guilt they felt when they finally had the realization that they had been manipulated to treat one parent very badly.
The interviewer should have asked if the target parent later turned out to be the wonderful parent that they had so hoped for. We often hear the wonderful stories of people reuniting with their biological parents, rarely do we publicly hear of the tragedies and disappointments. No one wants to be wrong. He should have also asked how the participants came to this realization and if the self-esteem problems could have been related to other issues.
Amy: Let me just say that children who have gone through this really treat the targeted parent very shabbily. They're rude, ungrateful, nasty, hostile and cold. They really put the targeted parent through the ringer and if they ever do figure out, "Gee, I was really manipulated by Dad to treat Mom really badly." They grow up and they feel badly about themselves.
Teenagers in intact one and two parent families can act the same way and the idea of considering them mentally ill or brainwashed would be laughable. Children that have been physically abused by their parents, especially in cases of sexual abuse, often grow up to feel badly about themselves, too. How would Baker know the difference?
Amy: But they also have self-esteem problems because they've been told their whole life that one of their parents doesn't love them. They've become too dependent on the approval of the alienating parent. This is another way in which it's like a cult. Good parents aim to promote the self-efficiency and independence of their children but like cult leaders, alienating parents really want to maintain that dependency of their children on them and that in turn does lead to a low self-esteem. They don't feel they can take care of themselves and make good choices in the world.
Or maybe one of their parents didn't love them or love them in a way in which they could understand as a child. Or maybe the child wasn't an independent child, or the child was slow, or needed more time to form an attachment to one parent and that process was disrupted. Correlation doesn't equal causation. This stuff cannot be proven. It is absolute conjecture.
Amy: Yes, I have a lot of advice, and again, I'm not going to have time now. Maybe at the end, I can give my email address so people can contact me if they want.
But Amy is not a clinician. Why is she doing this?
Amy: So I advise, unless your lawyer or therapist tells you otherwise -- and always do what your lawyer or therapist tells you -- you should be having some contact with your kid every week, every month, whatever it is.
Because you can't do this without them! You cannot foster, maintain, develop, etc a relationship with your children without someone else telling you how to do it. Oh, and you must pay them. This doesn't sound healthy. It sounds like parental dependency...and I thought we were supposed to foster independent relationships!!
Amy: I invite people who reach out to me. I'm not a clinician. I can give one shot advice or direct you to maybe to a therapist or support groups or some kind of help of support groups who start in my county...
Oh yes, she is not a clinician. She'll refer you to her friends or get you to buy her book (or gift it to you, which works out really well if she gets a kickback)
Amy: Well, I do recommend a particular website. I have no vested interest in it. It's just a website I think is good. It's called Parental Alienation Awareness Organization.

1. Baker promotes the theory of PAS and so does Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO).

3. Her book is on their site http://www.paawareness.org/books.asp.

4. Her article is on their site http://www.paawareness.org/awarness-articles.asp.

5. Her name is mentioned on their pamphlet that they suggest people distribute http://www.paawareness.org/Brochure/Brochure_ChildHelp_US.pdf.

6. She is listed on their pages of experts twice http://www.paawareness.org/experts.asp

Dr. Amy Baker

Email: [email protected]

Dr. Amy J.L. Baker

Email: [email protected]
Website: www.amyjlbaker.com

Is this what we call a non-vested interest?

Or is this a collaboration of disease mongering (emphasis mine):
“Disease mongering” is the effort by pharmaceutical companies (or others with similar financial interests) to enlarge the market for a treatment by convincing people that they are sick and need medical intervention [2]. Typically, the disease is vague, with nonspecific symptoms spanning a broad spectrum of severity—from everyday experiences many people would not even call “symptoms,” to profound suffering. The market for treatment gets enlarged in two ways: by narrowing the definition of health so normal experiences get labeled as pathologic, and by expanding the definition of disease to include earlier, milder, and presymptomatic forms (e.g., regarding a risk factor such as high cholesterol as a disease in itself).
Do not forget what Amy J. L. Baker does for a living. Via her website,
Dr. Baker has a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Teachers College of Columbia University.

Her areas of research include parental alienation, child welfare, parent involvement in their children's education, early intervention, and attachment. She is the Director of Research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child Protection.

She is the author or co-author of 3 books and over 45 peer reviewed articles.

Dr. Baker is available as an expert witness and for print, radio, and television interviews.
This is about the late Vincent J. Fontana.

This is about The New York Foundling's Vincent J. Fontana
Center for Child Protection.

Also, in Amy Baker's own words (December 2009):

>> 4) I have been hired to train New York child protection workers about
>> parental alienation and to help develop the North Dakota custody
>> investigation manual.
>> 5) I have been invited to participate in a plenary panel discussion
>> about parental alienation at the upcoming Association of Family and
>> Conciliation Courts conference in Denver.

If you have ever had any question as to why children are being hurt by the system and in the system, look at the players...the organizations, the members, and the collaborations. Family violence is profitable because it is human drama ("high conflict divorce") where there is a significant need to be filled (by the perpetrators of violence and by the victims) and a ready made audience (the family court system's judges and lawyers, Child Protective Services, Court Whores, the police force). All funded by monies from the Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children and Families DHHS/ACF.

See also:

Amy Baker and Parental Alienation Syndrome: Is This What Scientific Research Looks Like?

Psychology and Parental Alienation: Closer to Science?

The Ever Expanding Parental Alienation Theory: Amy J. Baker's Research Revisited

Parental Alienation in The Hochs' Rachel House: This is How They Get Down in Texas, Legally

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