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Parental Alienation Syndrome: Real Issue or Fallacy?

 Posted on February 05, 2016 in Child Custody

parental alienation syndrome, DuPage County Family Law LawyerParental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a theory that was introduced in the 1980's to describe the emotional behavior of a child whose parents have split up. According to those who believe in the theory, PAS occurs when one parent either consciously or unconsciously alienates the child from the other parent, through such actions as criticism, belittling, or lying to the child about the other parent. For example, the custodial parent may tell the child that the non-custodial parent does not want to see him or her. However, the truth is that the non-custodial parent is sick. In extreme cases, false accusations of child abuse may occur in an attempt to keep the child away from the other parent.

PAS is not recognized as a medical disorder at this time. In its latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the American Psychiatric Association refers to the issues as a relationship dysfunction, but not a mental disorder, because there are no mental health issues involved.

PAS is also not legally recognized, although some courts do allow alleged evidence to be admitted in child custody battles. Although many children have a hard time adjusting to their parents breaking up, these courts are open to the idea that one parent may be trying to manipulate a child to reject the other parent.

However, a recent paper, published in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, says that the medical and legal communities have adopted false assumptions about the syndrome, and have therefore failed to meet the emotional needs of children dealing with their family breaking up. The paper points out that in order to accept that PAS actually exists, one has to also assume the following ideas—ideas of which the paper's author points out are mistaken ones:

  • Children never reject the parent whom they are with the most without a reasonable explanation;
  • Children never reject their mothers without a reasonable explanation;
  • Each parent shares equal blame for the child's feelings of alienation;
  • A child uses the rejection of a parent as a healthy, short-term way to cope;
  • There does not need to be any intervention when a child lives with a parent who is actively alienating the child against the other;
  • A teen who is alienated from one parent should have say in a custody decision;
  • If a child is functioning and performing well outside of the family environment, there should be no intervention;
  • Removing a child from an alienating parent will be very traumatic; and
  • A child who has been severely alienated from a parent will function better if he or she remains living with the alienating parent and undergoes therapy.

If you are dealing with custody issues, either as the custodial parent or the non-custodial one, please contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorney. Contact Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC at 630-665-2500 today.


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