Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is behavioral pattern of unjust dislike or hatred toward one parent. PAS
is typically linked to child custody disputes during divorce. PAS was
first observed by Dr. Richard A. Gardner, a forensic psychiatrist who
noticed the syndrome in the 1980s. According to Gardner, PAS includes
the following factors:
- Almost always occurs in the context of a child custody dispute between parents
- Is manifested by the child, who promotes his/her undue dislike of one parent
- May be caused by the child's motivations or intentions of the non-targeted parent
Identifying Parental Alienation Syndrome in Children
Parental alienation is not difficult to identify. Generally, it involves
the outspoken and obvious estrangement of one parent. This could include
hateful or foul language against the parent, hurtful actions, and more.
Characteristics of PAS in children:
- The child seeks opportunities to degrade and ostracize the targeted parent
with words and actions.
- The child expresses extreme support and protection of the non-targeted
parent, especially if this parent initiated the alienation.
- The child demonstrates little or no reason to dislike the parent, such
as frivolous anger and unfounded hatred.
- The child is confident in his/her behavior and does not show a mixture
of emotions toward the targeted parent, only anger.
- The child shows no guilt regarding his/her unfair treatment of the targeted parent.
- The child does not attribute his/her anger to "brainwashing"
from either parent. The child believes it was his/her independent idea.
- The child often borrows hypothetical scenarios or scenes to validate his/her
anger, even though they are impossible.
- The child attempts to spread his/her animosity toward the parent to close
friends and other family members.
What are the parents' contributions to alienation?
Few parties are blameless during divorce. In the case of parental alienation
though, the targeted parent is not responsible for the child's anger
or behavior. Extreme cases of PAS may involve brainwashing by the opposing
While this is unfair, it is also difficult to substantiate in court. In
most cases, the non-targeted parent will simply claim that he/she can't
fix the problem since he/she is not actually keeping the child from spending
time with the targeted parent.
Strategies for Combating Parental Alienation Syndrome
Parental alienation is difficult but not impossible to remedy. According
to researchers, the following strategies can help parents work with their
children to overcome PAS.
- Consider taking a comprehensive parenting course to develop better skills
and tactics to improve your relationship with your child.
- Do not allow your emotions to dictate your actions. Stay even-tempered
and loving. Reacting with anger will only provoke the child to continue
- Be persistent. Many PAS cases go to court, so it is important to demonstrate
that you are rational and have the child's best interest in mind.
- Don't play the victim. Instead, maintain a positive attitude and enjoy
spending time with your child. Do not discuss the custody case with your child.
Spend Quality Time with Your Child
Parental alienation is serious. In fact, some experts consider it a form
of abuse. If you are the targeted parent in a PAS situation, understand
that combating alienation is a personal
and legal issue. First, discuss your case with an attorney. It may be helpful
to jot down specific instances of alienation so that you can talk to your
lawyer about when and where they occurred.
The best strategy to combat PAS is
quality time with your child. Avoid comments that demean the other parent, even if your former spouse
/ significant other encourages PAS in your child. Instead, think of creative
ways to show that you enjoy time with your child. Children do not like
to hear negative things about their parents, so refrain from comments
that seem like an attack against the other parent.
Dealing with parental alienation? Contact Our Washington family lawyers.
If your ex-partner is using PAS to manipulate your child custody agreement,
speak with an attorney from McKinley Irvin today. Child custody cases
are some of the most involved, complicated, and taxing family law issues.
At McKinley Irvin, we are committed to providing the skilled and caring
legal guidance that our clients need to reach a successful case outcome.
To learn more, contact our office to schedule your first case evaluation.