There are always lobbyists for parental alienation syndrome, but they did not win out this time either.
PAS is not making it into the DSM-5, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Great news for Protective Parents!!
PAS, or parental alienation syndrome, is the idea that one parent (usually the mother) poisons the mind of the child(ren) against the other parent. It was created by Richard Gardner who blamed “hysterical” women for making false allegations of child sexual abuse against fathers. He was misogynist, didn’t publish in a peer-review journal, defended child molesters, and this mental health expert stabbed himself in the chest, committing suicide.
The biggest concern about PAS is that it masks child abuse (see work by Jay Silverman at Harvard). Is the parent “alienating” the child or has the other parent abused the kid, creating hostility and fear? It also serves to scapegoat women. Children experiencing divorce can be depressed or angry for many reasons – not just because Mom tells them bad things about Dad. Then, there are the “reunification centers” where they reunite children with the estranged parent (potential abuser) and cut off ties with the parent that had the closer relationship.
Now, why is it that PAS – if it’s truly a mental health condition – works on changing children’s attitudes and not the parent’s? Wouldn’t that be working on changing the “cause” of the problem? And, is PAS a mental health condition or a legal strategy for gaining access or custody?
I refer to PAS as Pedophile Acting as Scientist. There’s no doubt in my mind that this so-called syndrome is in the best interest of the abuser. It also fails to meet scientific standards. I have no doubt parents bad-mouth each other, but it is not a mental health disorder. It is not a blanket cause for relationship break-downs or failures – sometimes, it’s because the parent can’t or won’t take accountability for their past or current actions. Sometimes it’s because there’s been abuse and it’s more common for abusers to deny abuse than it is for people to make false allegations.