How Does Parental Alienation Syndrome Affect a Child?

Parental alienation is any behavior by a parent, a child’s mother or father, whether conscious or unconscious, that could create alienation in the relationship between a child and the other parent. Parental alienation can be mild and temporary or extreme and ongoing. Most researchers believe that any alienation of a child against (the child’s) other parent is harmful to the child and to the target parent. Extreme, obsessive, and ongoing parental alienation can cause terrible psychological damage to children extending well into adulthood. Parental Alienation focuses on the alienating parents behaviour as opposed to the alienated parent’s and alienated children’s conditions..

This definition is different from Parental Alienation Syndrome as originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1987: “a disturbance in which children are preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration that is unjustified and/or exaggerated.” Parental Alienation Syndrome symptoms describe the child’s behaviours and attitude towards the targeted parent after the child has been effectively programmed and severely alienated from the targeted parent. Parental alienation, on the other hand, describes the alienating parent’s or parents’ conduct which induces parental alienation syndrome in children.

Parental alienation can all be mild, moderate, or extreme. Parental alienation often forces children to choose sides and become allies against the other parent. Children caught in the middle of such conflicts suffer severe losses of love, respect and peace during their formative years. They also often lose their alienated parent forever. These consequences and a host of others cause terrible traumas to children.

Parents so alienated often suffer heartbreaking loss of their children through no fault of their own. In addition, they often face false accusations from their alienated children that they cannot counter with the facts. Finally, they often find themselves powerless to show that this little-known form of cruel, covert, and cunning aggression is occurring or has occurred.

Brainwashing children — a new custody controversy

Southam Newspapers Ottawa

For years. Richard Fortin has felt helpless as his relationship with his daughter ebbed toward estrangement.

Fortin, 42, a land surveyor living in Wakefield, Que., north of Ottawa was divorced in 1985 after nine years of marriage. He has struggled ever since to keep in contact with his daughter, now 15, who has told court officials she doesn’t want to see him.

Fortin recently asked a judge to order his daughter into therapy contending she suffers from a form of brainwashing described by an American psychiatrist as parental alienation syndrome [PAS].
The judge turned down his request, but Fortin will ask the Ontario Court of Appeal in June to rule on his case—and the merits of the controversial syndrome.

“How would you feel losing your daughter” replies Fortin when asked what motivates him to pursue the appeal.

“I’m doing it for me, but for all the other fathers, too. It has to change, this situation, since clearly we’re being exploited. We don’t have any say in the rearing of our children except to pay support.”

Parental alienation syndrome has generated considerable controversy across North America—opponents call it junk psychology—while gaining influence with family court judges.

In Alberta, a judge transferred custody of a four-year-old to a woman who complained her ex-husband and his mother had turned the boy against her and “alienated” the child.

In B.C., a woman who cut off her husband’s access for two years lost custody of a nine-year-old girl, who called her father “the devil.”
Parental alienation syndrome is a theory developed by Dr. Richard Gardner, a Columbia University psychiatrist.

He says children can be brainwashed by a custodial parent into developing an irrational hatred for the other parent. Women, Gardner claims, are responsible for 90 per cent of the serious alienation cases.

Access disputes, already among the most difficult cases faced by family courts, have been made more complicated by the syndrome.
Judges are now being asked to decide if children who don’t want to visit their father or mother suffer from “clinical alienation” or if they’re simply expressing a reasonable desire to avoid contact.

The growing influence of the alienation theory has raised concern among lawyers like Dan Goldberg, senior counsel with the Office of the Children’s Lawyers of Ontario. The office represents the interests of children who are the subject of custody battles.

“He (Gardner) attaches the label of syndrome to something that has not had a lot of empirical research associated with it,” says Goldberg “And as a result, some lawyers and some judges attach greater weigh to it than it perhaps deserves.”

Gardner recommends that courts take strong action when confronted with an alienated child. He equates the syndrome with child abuse and contends that affected children will suffer long-term psychological damage unless they’re “de-programmed.” He says judges should change custody orders, put children into a neutral home or force them into therapy.

“That makes me uncomfortable,” says Goldberg, “because some 14 year-olds, genuinely, for their own reasons, don’t want any contact with a non-custodial parent.”

In Fortin’s case, Ontario Court Judge Robert Desmarais concluded there was not enough evidence to support the notion that the man’s daughter suffers from parental alienation syndrome.

The judge was presented with conflicting evidence. A court appointed psychologist’s report said the girl was not brainwashed, but Gardner, called as an expert witness by Fortin, testified that the case presented all the symptoms of PAS.

In his decision last October, the judge noted the 15-year-old girl is a well-balanced child who excels in school, athletics and music.

“Given time and pause in the adversarial system in which she has been thrust? A reconciliation may well take place,” Desmarais said. “I am firmly convinced that if both parents truly have her best interests in mind, then they will set aside the negative feelings they have with regards to each other and do whatever is necessary to encourage reconciliation between her and her father.”

Fortin was unsatisfied with the judgment. He says the law has to progress and actively support a father’s right to foster a relationship with his children.

Fortin, who has remarried and has two young sons, pays $725 a month in child support. He says “there’s something wrong” with a daughter who doesn’t return his calls or thank him for presents or want to see her half-brothers. He wants her in therapy.

“This is not finished. It may last years, but I don’t care.”

Marketing Targets:

New areas which the Psychology Industry is targetting for its services.  This page provides some of the cur-rent activities and promotions of the Psychology Industry.  It is updated frequently and further information or comment is available from Dr. Tana Dineen.  Click on any topic for more information.












  • SOCIAL WORKERS TRAUMATIZED BY INVESTIGATION [This item provides an especially juicy plum.]

Trauma teams get ready

The Gove inquiry report into the death of a five-year-old boy at the hands of his mother is considered so explosive the government has prepared trauma counselling for social workers once it is made public.
The teams will be assisted by counsellors specializing in conflict resolution, team building and trauma counselling. Even families of staff involved in the case will be eligible for support from the local response teams.

Times-Colonist, Nov. 28, 1996, p.1”