WHO considers adding 'parental alienation' to new diagnostic guide
CTV National News, Avis Favaro, Medical Specialist, Saturday, March 30, 2019
An emerging mental health issue in which one parent turns a child against the other parent could be added to the international standard for diagnostics next month.
"Parental alienation" may be among an updated list of diseases and related health problems when the World Health Organization votes to accept the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in May.
The issue is a kind of psychological manipulation of a child. It occurs when one parent systemically "badmouths" the other parent. In extreme cases of high-conflict divorce and separation, the child may align with one parent and reject the other. Mental health experts and law professionals are lining up to label it as a form of emotional abuse that can damage the mental health of children.
Research in the field has labelled parental alienation an "unacknowledged form of family violence" and has found long-term mental health consequences for children who experience it, including anxiety, lowered self-esteem and general quality of life, as well as a greater risk of depression.
"Some of the stories are heartbreaking," says Barbara Fidler, clinical-developmental psychologist in Toronto who has specialized in high-conflict parenting. She says her caseload is growing. "I actually lose sleep over these families. We are losing sleep because children are suffering."
The issue has faced much debate -- what to call it and how to define it -- within the intersecting fields of health and law as parents and children become embroiled in family courts. An international meeting on the issue will take place in Toronto next month. Fidler is working on a special issue of the Family Court Review due early 2020 with Queens University law professor Nick Bala. They hope the collection of all the latest data on parental alienation will inform family lawyers, judges and therapists around the world.
"This is clearly a big problem," says Bala. "I get emails from people coast, to coast, to coast and internationally, raising concerns about being cut off from their children, being cut off from grandchildren."
Research shows that alienation doesn't happen all at once, says Fidler, but it may develop quickly. Experts should focus on the behaviours being exhibited by the children, she says.
These may include:
- Rejection and denigration of a parent for reasons that are trivial
- Rigid refusal to consider alternative views or explanations
- Repetition of the favoured parent's words
- Rehearsed (or it sounds like rehearsed script)
- Relatives are included in the rejection (even pets)
- Little or no regret or guilt regaring behavior towards the parent being rejected.
- Denigrate the other parent
- Encouraging child to denigrate parent
- Arranging conflicting activities
- Inducing guilt about visits with other parent
- Portraying other parent as dangerous
- Involving child in spying
Alienating parents may not speak positively about the other parent, support the child's relationship with them, encourage cooperation or problem solving over conflicts with them, or even have photos of them visible.
A growing body of research is illuminating the effects of parental alienation on children, says Fidler, including: Self-hatred and self-esteem issues Higher rates and risks of depression, relationship difficulties and substance abuse Loss of guidance and support of one parent Loss of relationship with extended family Inability to develop and sustain healthy relationships Fidler and Bala say there is a need for more research into how to better define alienation in its various forms, since not all cases look the same. It's not just a mental health issue, but a legal issue that should require better training for family lawyers and judges, who can put a stop to alienation early.
"We need to recognize the problem earlier so that we can provide the education and in some cases therapy early on," said Fidler.
In Canada, a proposal to reform the Divorce Act outlines the importance of a child's relationship with each parent. "It is generally important for each parent to support the child's relationship with the other parent," an overview of the objectives of Bill C-78 reads online. "If a parent actively attempts to undermine their child's relationship with the other parent, courts may need to consider this in making a parenting order."
There is at least one high profile case in the U.S. that some experts point to as a case in point for a better understanding of parental alienation: Hollywood A-listers Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. In June of 2018, court documents obtained by The Blast showed that a judge in the stars' divorce case said the couple's children "not having a relationship with their father is harmful to them" and that Jolie should help mend their relationship with their father.
TV Show about Parental Alienation
November 7, 2009
The world of divorce is scary for any child. But when a divorce becomes especially toxic, children can become the target of an unrelenting crusade by one parent to destroy the child's relationship with the other. Experts call it parental alienation.
The New York Times, New York city, U.S.A. August 8, 2004
Not too long ago, Jacqueline Scott Sheid was a pretty typical Upper East Side mother. Divorced and with a young daughter, she had quickly remarried, borne a son, and interrupted her career to stay home with the children while her husband, Xavier Sheid, worked on Wall Street.
Early last year, Mr. Sheid lost his job and saw his only career opportunity in California. But Ms. Sheid's ex-husband, who shares joint legal custody of their daughter, refused to allow the girl to move away. So Ms. Sheid has spent much of the last year using JetBlue to shuttle between her son and husband on the West Coast and her daughter (and ex) on the East.
The New York court system, which she hoped would help her family to resolve the problem, has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in fees for court-appointed experts, she said, and has helped to prolong the process by objecting to her choice of lawyers.
May 7, 2007
Many celebrities would shrink from view after a PR nightmare like Alec Baldwin's leaked voice mail in which he calls his 11-year-old daughter, Ireland, a "rude, thoughtless little pig." But Baldwin wants to use the media scrutiny to give exposure to parental alienation, the controversial "syndrome" caused by one parent's systematically damaging a child's relationship with the other parent.
B.C. judge bars mother from seeing daughter
Court orders one-year ban after 'unfounded' abuse allegations made about teenager's father
THE CANADIAN PRESS
March 10, 2009
VANCOUVER - In a case of extreme parental alienation, a mother has been banned by a B.C. Supreme Court judge from seeing her teenage daughter for more than a year.
Because of the urgency of the matter, Justice Donna Martinson issued the terse, two-page ruling outlining 15 conditions the parents must follow, including that the mother, known only as Ms. A, not see her daughter until at least March 31, 2010.
The decision came after the mother alleged extreme emotional abuse by the father, which she claimed was putting the teenager's safety at risk.
"I am satisfied that Ms. A's allegations are unfounded," Martinson wrote.
"I am further satisfied that she has continued to undermine the relationship between M and her father and has acted in ways that are detrimental to M's psychological healing."
Names have been stripped from the court ruling to protect the girl's identity.
The judge has ordered that both the mother and maternal grandmother have no contact with the girl, which would be enforced by police if necessary.
PSYCHOLOGY: MIND GAMES
Some victims of parental alienation syndrome don't realize until adulthood that one parent turned them against the other
The Globe and Mail
March 24, 2009
After Joe Rabiega's parents divorced, when he was an adolescent, his father repeatedly told him his mother had abandoned him. The boy had to return any gifts that came from his mother's side of the family and, twice daily, he had to pledge his allegiance to his father.
"I was never allowed to have anything to do with her," he says from his home in Raleigh, N.C. "The consequences were dire if I did. He said I would have nobody."
Even though Mr. Rabiega, now 33, had witnessed ugly behaviour by his father toward his mother and knew his dad to be an erratic alcoholic, it wasn't until he sought counselling for personal problems in his early 20s that his past snapped into focus: He had been the victim of parental alienation syndrome - his father had systematically turned him against his mother.
The phenomenon, coined by psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner in 1985, has gained traction recently due to a number of recent high-profile divorce cases in Canada - not to mention the very public case of movie star Alec Baldwin, who accused his former wife, Kim Basinger, of parental alienation. Read More ..
WHAT IS IT?
The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is the systematic denigration by one parent by the other with the intent of alienating the child against the other parent. The purpose of alienation is usually to gain or retain custody without the involvement of the non-custodial parent (NCP) The alienation usually extends to the NCP's family and friends as well. Though this document is written with the father in mind, it must be clear that there are many cases of PAS where the NCP is the mother, and PAS from the non-custodial mothers' viewpoint will be discussed later.
Dr. Richard Gardner in his book 'The Parental Alienation Syndrome' states (p. 74) "Many of these children proudly state that their decision to reject their fathers is their own.";
They deny any contribution from their mothers. And the mothers often support this vehemently. In fact, the mothers will often state that they want the child to visit with the father and recognise the importance of such involvement, yet such a mothers every act indicates otherwise.
Such children appreciate that, by stating the decision is their own, they assuage mother's guilt and protect her from criticism. Such professions of independent thinking are supported by the mother who will often praise these children for being the kind of people who have minds of their own and are forthright and brave enough to express overtly their opinions.
Frequently, such mothers will exhort their children to tell them the truth regarding whether or not they really want to see their fathers. The child will usually appreciate that "the truth" is the profession that they hate the father and do not want to see him ever again. They thereby provide that answer - couched as "the truth" - which will protect them from their mother's anger if they were to state what they really wanted to do, which is to see their fathers.
It is important for the reader to appreciate that after a period of programming the child may not know what is the truth any Read More ..d come to actually believe that the father deserves the vilification being directed against him. The end point of the brainwashing process has then been achieved. Read More ..
Rick James Lohstroh, a doctor at UTMB, was fatally shot this summer, apparently by his 10-year-old son.
ABC13 Eyewitness News, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Dec. 29, 2004
The 10-year-old Katy boy accused of murdering his father this summer is now the face of an unofficial psychiatric disorder that may have lead to his father's death.
Some psychiatrists call it Parental Alienation Syndrome and they say that's why the son killed Doctor Rick Lohstroh last summer. The syndrome is basically caused by a bitter parent who poisons a child against the other parent, usually in cases of divorce.
THE CANADIAN BAR ASSOCIATION
L'ASSOCIATION DU BARREAU CANADIEN
Study says such cases should be moved out of court system, handled by individual judges
The Globe and Mail
May 13, 2009
An escalation in parental alienation allegations is draining valuable courtroom resources, a major study of 145 alienation cases between 1989-2008 concludes.
"Access problems and alienation cases - especially those which are more severe - take up a disproportionate amount of judicial time and energy," said the study, conducted by Queen's University law professor Nicholas Bala, a respected family law expert.
"One can ask whether the courts should even be trying to deal with these very challenging cases." Read More ..