Parental Alienation Syndrome

People say that kids will be kids but, in some families, kids are unwitting pawns in the war of parents. A condition cropped up in the 1990’s called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) that deals with the existential dynamics of parents and kids during marital breakups.

Children deal with alienation issues as orphans and victims of tragedies. In Parental Alienation Syndrome, children become the rope between two warring parents in custody disputes or internal conflicts. Kids are directly or indirectly forced into creating alliances with one parent or another, often at the expense of the child’s individual interests or well-being. Parental Alienation Syndrome is the deliberate attempt by one parent (birth/guardian/significant other) to distance his/her children from the other parent. Doing so, the parent engages the children as weapons in the process of destroying the connected affective ties and familial bonds that once existed. Children are likely to feel loss, insecurity, fear, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and despair but may be oblivious that they are being played with.

Parental Alienation Syndrome was introduced by Richard A. Gardner, a child psychiatrist and prolific author. The syndrome drew much controversy over therapeutic and legal circles. PAS was never included in the Diagnostic Statistic Manual produced by the American Psychiatric Association, so it is clinically not regarded as a condition. Yet, Gardner wrote:

“Inducing PAS in a child is a form of emotional abuse. In a way, it may be even more
detrimental than physically and/or sexually abusing a child. Although both of these forms
of abuse are abominations, they do not necessarily—although they certainly may—cause
lifelong psychiatric problems.”

Some may debate that the personality variances that may develop as a possible result of PAS may be learned or conditional responses. Divorce or parental conflict dynamics are not always explored thoroughly in most therapeutic processes. As possibly a source hypothesis, Parental Alienation Syndrome may be at the root of diabolic abuse that scars people throughout life, as a distorted act of love. The legal and psychological implications may even deliver deeper consequences.

PAS results may be akin to brainwashing. Brainwashing first came into psychological focus as a result of World War II and the Korean War. In The Manchurian Candidate was a cold-war tactic to control the mind of prisoners of war. The ease and ability of such political mind control instilled so much fear that millions of dollars in grants were allocated to brainwashing. In the Manchurian Candidate, the mother was used to control her adult child into killing a presidential candidate. Convinced otherwise, the child commits suicide.

The DSM-5 does not code PAS as a disorder itself. Instead, the editors chose to discuss it as Child Psychological Abuse. It is defined as non-accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child. The acts of PAS may be seen as that abuse.

Suicide may be an extreme scenario to what may happen to most PAS cases but we really may not know how much PAS might be an influence if suicide did occur.

A 2013 British science study examined body inflammation of adults who were products of separated parents. The results cited evidence that psychosocial inflammation indicators were present. In 2012, a Canadian study cited evidence that men with divorced parents were more likely to suffer a stroke than men from intact families. Another study examined that children of divorced parents were more likely to modify or change religious views as adults than those that came from intact families.

The future impact of a person’s life and perspectives are often results of childhood choices. When a parent “programs” a young impressionable mind to alienate another parent or group of people, the impact can be explosive through growth.

Each child is an individual and responds differently. Some might be affected academically, socially, and mentally. They may have difficulty creating lasting relationships or keeping lasting relationships. They might also use personal alienation on their children. A rising incidence in criminal behavior may emerge in a few cases.

When it comes to parental alienation syndrome, many parents may not intentionally be trying to misguide their kids into sided alliances. Yet kids are easily brainwashed with little thought or action that abuse of any kind is taking place. Mothers may play a bigger role in brainwashing kids than fathers, in a traditional setting. Children are sensitive and susceptible to the parent they are more exposed to.

Kids becoming adults who might be products of Parental Alienation Syndrome may never be conscious of its presence. Further, outside of the DSM, traditional therapists may ignore its possibility. As emotional problems develop, one really can’t pinpoint what (if any) will be exhibited.

Parental alienation must be studied further. Yet, the consequences that effect the alienated parent, in the long run, and the child, may bear ticking monsters for future generations. When love goes awry, scorn takes many prisoners and victims. Parental alienation syndrome may be the prison for many.