Parental Alienation FAQ

This page provides refutations to commonly recycled criticisms of parental alienation.

QUESTIONS/COMPLAINTS/FALSE CLAIMS (see responses below, which can be reached by clicking on the question/complaint/false vclaim):
  1. Person X, who is involved in fighting the form of child abuse know as parental alienation, has character defects Y and Z. Therefore, parental alienation does not exist.
  2. Parental alienation is junk science
  3. Parental alienation syndrome is not in DSM-5
  4. Parental alienation is not a syndrome
  5. Parental alienation is discredited
  6. There is no empirical scientific method to determine if a child rejects a parent due to parental alienation
  7. Person X was unsuccessfully treated at program Y. Therefore, program Y is bad and parental alienation does not exist
  8. Person X charges money for parental alienation services
  9. Children have been surviving bad parenting for a long time
  10. An allegation of domestic violence trumps all, as does an allegation of sexual or physical abuse, as does an allegation of neglect
  11. What about the following? (a) children never unreasonably reject the parent with whom they spend the most time, (b) children never unreasonably reject mothers, (c) each parent contributes equally to a child’s alienation, (d) alienation is a child’s transient, short-lived response to the parents’ separation, (e) rejecting a parent is a short-term healthy coping mechanism, (f) young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention, (g) alienated adolescents’ stated preferences should dominate custody decisions, (h) children who appear to function well outside the family need no intervention, (i) severely alienated children are best treated with traditional therapy techniques while living primarily with their favored parent, and (j) separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic. 
  12. The relationship problem was caused when the erased parent asked the child to brush their teeth
  13. The relationship problem was caused when the erased parent took away the iPhone for 2 days due as a disciplinary measure
  14. Mothers (fathers) are entitled to sole contact with a child
  15. If your kids wanted to see you, they would
  16. False allegations in custody cases are rare
  17. Research shows that most children do not lie about being abused by a parent
  18. Many things can cause the insecure attachment between erased parent and child
  19. We used to blame schizophrenia on disengaged or rejecting mothers
  20. Parental alienation is simply the patriarchy attacking mothers
  21. Parental alienation happens when a batterer attacks the other parent, causing the child to recoil from the batterer
  22. Parental alienation is caused by an abuser abusing the child, and the child knows better, and therefore rejects the abuser
  23. We don't want to label any child as having mental illness
  24. Erased parents are simply trying blame someone else for your clear and obvious parenting deficits.
  25. What about pathogenic parenting (also know as attachment-based parental alienation and the trans generational transmission of attachment trauma?)
  26. These protective parents are trying to protect their child from abuse, but these batterers then take their kids away
  27. Parental alienation is a figment of gender stereotype, misogyny, and sexism
  28. Parental alienation is caused by the child being exposed to something in the environment when they were quite young
  29. Parental alienation is a construct to justify domestic violence/incest and win in court   
  30. It only makes things worse for the child by giving custody to the erased parent
  31. What about the statement "the concept of 'parental alienation' was actually invented to rebut mothers' claims of child abuse, particularly sexual abuse."
  32. What about Professor Joan Meier's pilot study
  33. What about the 2016 paper from Saunders and Faller entitled "The Need to Carefully Screen for Family Violence when Parental Alienation is Claimed"?



ANSWERS/RESPONSES:
  1. "Person X, who is involved in fighting the form of child abuse know as parental alienation, has character defects Y and Z. Therefore, parental alienation does not exist." Answer: These complaints are common, for example, "so and so is a pedophile" or "Mary gets angry" or "someone else charges too much money." However, it is a well known logic error know as Ad hominem. For some reason, people who say there is no such thing as parental alienation gravitate towards this type of logic error. Alienators use this logic error frequently, when they convince children that the other parent has no value or is abusive.  Back to top
  2. "Parental alienation is junk science." Answer: Severe parental alienation is simply a manifestation of well understood pathologyParental Alienation is in DSM-5The American Academy of Pediatrics tells doctors how to treat it. It is the beta draft of ICD-11. ICD-10 has a very accurate description of it under shared delusional disorder. It is in the APSAC 2017  guidelines to detect emotional abuse.  ABC 2020 Exposed Parental Alienation,  as did the BBC, 60 minutes, CNN, and Canadian TV , and the Marshall Project.   Formerly Alienated Teens and Formerly Alienated Adults have spoken out, telling how it happens, how they were fooled and manipulated. Dr. Childress provides the deep science underneath it. Back to top
  3. "Parental Alienation Syndrome is not in DSM-5" Answer: The relevant authors of DSM-5 say it is DSM-5, that that it is important and real. It is in as Child Psychological Abuse, Parent Child Relationship Problem, and Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress. Back to top
  4. "Parental alienation not a syndrome" Answer: When DSM-5 came out, the group decided that syndromes are limited to one person. That's fine. They are saying that parental alienation takes a child abuser and a child victim. That's perfect. So yes, it is not a syndrome. But that is irrelevant. Significantly, the relevant authors of DSM-5 say it is in DSM-5 as child psychological abuse, which is defined as "significant psychological harm to the child."  Should that make us happy? Should anyone argue "oh don't worry, it is only child abuse?" The APA issued a press release, based on multiple studies, that child psychological abuse is as harmful as sexual abuse. Back to top
  5. "Parental Alienation is Discredited"  Answer: Parental alienation is in DSM-5 and the beta draft of ICD-11. ICD-10 has a very accurate description of it under shared delusional disorder. The attachment-based model of parental alienation firmly grounds it as a manifestation of well understood pathology. See also "parental alienation is junk science." Back to top
  6. "There is no empirical scientific method to determine if a child rejects his parent due to parental alienation"   Answer: First, let's be fair in comparison. There is rarely a scientific method to determine if someone has been sexually abused unless there is a rape kit, and there is no scientific method to determine if a child rejects a parent due to DV against their other parent, so there is a large element of mere rhetoric here. Secondly, Dr. Childress has a rigorous, scientific, differential diagnosis for severe parental alienation. See also the Parental Acceptance Rejection Questionnaire (PARQ). Finally, this rhetoric moves attention away from the harmful parenting practices (pathogenic parenting) of the child abusing parent. Back to top
  7. "Person X was unsuccessfully treated at program Y. Therefore, program Y is bad and parental alienation does not exist."   Because one child who was treated by Family Bridges was not adequately protected after returning home and relapsed, the very successful treatment program should not be used and erased parents are abusers.  See the NPO responses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Family Bridges as a very high peer reviewed success rate, as does Family Reflections. Any reasonable evaluation should look at more than one child. Back to top
  8. "Person X charges money for parental alienation services" Answer: We live in a free market society. The president gets paid. The trash collector gets paid. You (or maybe your SO) gets paid. See also the discussion of ad hominen argumentsBack to top
  9. "Children Have Been Surviving Bad Parenting for a long time. " Answer: This comment was made in a paper by someone defending protecting parents and who is hostile to parental alienation. Th exact quote is "Children are resilient" ..... "Courts and evaluators should operate from a healthy appreciation for the range of imperfect parenting that children everywhere survive," -Professor Joan Meier, page 15   Sigh. The APA has determined that child psychological abuse is just as harmful as child sexual abuse. Even more ironically, alienators and their lawyers crawl all over erased parents, making mountains out of mole hills. (See brushing teeth above and iPhones) And now that say the children are resilient? Back to top
  10. "An allegation of domestic violence trumps all, as does an allegation of sexual or physical abuse, as does an allegation of neglect." Answer: Children deserve protection from all forms of abuse. For parental alienation, these children are a special population with experience in each of these areas. Parental alienation is child abuse also. Child psychological abuse is as harmful as child sexual abuse. Finally, parental alienation is also domestic violence. Also, see notes on false allegations. Back to top
  11. What about the following? (a) children never unreasonably reject the parent with whom they spend the most time, (b) children never unreasonably reject mothers, (c) each parent contributes equally to a child’s alienation, (d) alienation is a child’s transient, short-lived response to the parents’ separation, (e) rejecting a parent is a short-term healthy coping mechanism, (f) young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention, (g) alienated adolescents’ stated preferences should dominate custody decisions, (h) children who appear to function well outside the family need no intervention, (i) severely alienated children are best treated with traditional therapy techniques while living primarily with their favored parent, and (j) separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic.  Answer: these ten fallacies are all refuted in Dr. Warshak's 2016 paper, which was published in a peer-reviewed APA journal (and note that the APA holds the copyright). Here is one fair-use excerpt on fallacies i and j, where the concern is commonly stated "it only makes things worse for the child by giving custody to the erased parent" ... in the words of Dr. Warshak, which are now copyrighted by the APA ...  "Despite repeated reports that alienation abates when children are required to spend time with the parent they claim to hate or fear, some experts predict dire consequences to children if the court fails to endorse their strong preferences to avoid a parent. Usually such predictions are vulnerable to reliability challenges because the experts cite undocumented anecdotes, irrelevant research, and discredited interpretations of attachment theory. No peer-reviewed study has documented harm to severely alienated children from the reversal of custody. No study has reported that adults, who as children complied with expectations to repair a damaged relationship with a parent, later regretted having been obliged to do so. On the other hand, studies of adults who were allowed to disown a parent find that they regretted that decision and reported long-term problems with guilt and depression that they attributed to having been allowed to reject one of their parents (Baker, 2005)." Back to top
  12. "The relationship problem was caused when the erased parent asked the child brush their teeth"   This is addressed on Dr. Warshak's blog (see point 3) and by other counselors. In all likelihood, it has become difficult for the erased parent to get the children to brush their teeth because of the active resistance of the alienator, letting the children "know" that it is "ridiculous" for a parent to ask a child to brush there teeth. Back to top
  13. "The relationship problem was caused when the erased parent took away the iPhone for 2 days due as a disciplinary measure"  Dr. Childress addresses this at length in his blog.  Here is a small excerpt: "Of note, also, is how we define “abusive.” Taking the child’s iphone away as punishment for a disrespectful attitude is called discipline, not “abuse.” Making the child stop playing video games in order to attend a family event is not “abusive.” Asking the child to tidy his or her room, or empty the dishwasher, or show an appropriate attitude of respect and kindness does not represent “abusive” parenting." Back to top
  14. "Mothers (fathers) are entitled to sole contact with a childSee a response from Judge Judy on this."  Also, extensive research on shared parenting shows that it is generally in the best interest of children to have access to both parents, which is also part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children. Back to top
  15. "If your kids wanted to see you, they would." Answer: this is typical of an alienator hiding behind the child. In most states, custody determination favors the parent who can depended on to help the child foster a relationship with the other parent.  As noted by Foundations, this complaint is selective parental incompetence. There is an implicit complaint here about "do not force the child" in here, so see also Dr Childress' notes on the use of the word "forced" in Foundations and in his extended diagnostic checklist, where use of the word "forced" is an associated clinical sign. This entire complaint is intended to humiliate the erased parent, reinforcing the delusion that the erased parent is inadequate. Back to top
  16. False allegations in custody cases are rare.  This incorrect statement comes only muddying the water on what intentionally false allegation means, by not addressing the tendency of those afflicted by  narcissistic or borderline disorders to decompensate into persecutory delusions under the pressure of divorce and by putting a social worker in charge of determining what "intentional means."  For an answer with extensive depth, click on the preceeding hyperlink. Back to top
  17. "Research shows that most children do not lie about being abused by a parent." One place where this appears is in the book "Winning in Family Court," and another is a newsletter. When asked for their reference, they cite a "coaching children" pilot study, and also "limited disclosure."  First of all, the book is about winning in court, not best interests of the child, or "gee let's try to protect children from abuse." Secondly, "coaching children" is only a pilot study, and reflects a bias against erased mothers, in that it does not reflect that more recent findings of Dr. Jennifer Harmon that there are approximately equal numbers of male and female alienators. Finally, "limited disclosure" is mostly off topic, because it is a paper about what kids say about actual abuse that was filmed being done by a perpetrator, not about victims of pathogenic parenting. The relevant takeaway is that when kids are abused, they try to protect the abuser, understate what happened, and seek to preserve the relationship with the abuser, due to an insecure attachment (see Bonded to the Abuser). This is in stark contrast to pathogenic parenting, where, by definition, the children adopt an attitude of haughty arrogance, grandiosity, lack of empathy, and entitlement towards the erased parent, but protect the alienator (their abuser). Overall, this is all at odds with Dr. Quas' research summary that "During the past several decades, hundreds of studies have tested children's eyewitness memory capabilities and suggestibility. Results demonstrate that children can be manipulated into making all sorts of errors, including claiming that entirely false events occurred."  Back to top
  18. "Many things can cause the insecure attachment between erased parent and child" Answer: In parental alienation, the insecure attachment is between the alienator and erased parent. Refer to Foundations and to Bonded to the Abuser. Back to top
  19. "We used to blame schizophrenia on disengaged or rejecting mothers"  Answer: That is tragic. Fortunately, the attachment-based model of parental alienation grounds pathogenic parenting as simply a manifestation of well understood pathology, so this is not something new. Advances and research on any of the underlying pathology increases our understanding of pathogenic parenting. Back to top
  20. "Parental alienation is simply the patriarchy attacking mothers" Answer: Multiple studies show that the number of male and female alienators is approximately equal. So to ignore this type of abuse, is to ignore the suffering of half of the child victims (females), half of the erased parents (mothers), and half of the suffering grandparents. Dr. Kopetski has discussed of both sexes of alienators to appeal to currently popular social causes to defend their child abuse. Back to top
  21. "Parental alienation happens when a batterer attacks the other parent, causing the child to recoil from the batterer." Answer:It goes without saying that children need to be protected from all forms of abuse. Dr. Childress has identified a rigorous differential diagnosis for pathogenic parenting versus other types of abuse. Besides it being necessary for the allegation of battering to be a delusion, children have a noted tendency to Bond with the Abuser, because is where the insecure attachment is, as discussed in "Bonded to the Abuser." Finally, yes, these children deserve to be declared a special population, so they can be evaluated by experts in all forms of abuse. Finally, note, parental alienation is a form of domestic violence in itself. Back to top
  22. "Parental alienation is caused by an abuser abusing the child, and the child knows better, and therefore rejects the abuser" Answer: Same answer as "erased parent is a batterer." Back to top
  23. "We don't want to label any child as having mental illness." Answer: For years, this sentiment rocked social media, way back in the days when parental alienation was proposed as a disorder for DSM-5. Since that time, DSM-5 switched to excluding anything involving two people from being a possible disorder, saying anything involving multiple people to be placed in the relationship section. In brief, needs an abuser/alienator and a child victim for parental alienation. The relevant authors of DSM-5 wrote a paper assuring us that parental alienation is indeed in DSM-5 as Child Psychological Abuse, and the APA came out with a press release saying that research shows that child psychological abuse is as harmful as child sexual abuse. So this concern cleared itself up. Surely, no one wants to say "I am not going to admit you are being psychologically abused because I don't want to say you are an abuse victim," because that would violate the Duty to Protect. Surely, no one would say the same thing for DSM-5 diagnosis Child sexual abuse, for similar reasons. Back to top
  24. "You are simply trying to blame someone else for your clear and obvious parenting deficits" Answer: an erased parent trying to defend against the accusation of being a blamer soon finds that it is inherently circular, because if they say anything, it sounds like blaming. Truth be told, the alienator has taught the child to blame the erased parent for all that might ail the child. The pathology involved in the alienator and displayed by the child is real. Back to top
  25. "What about pathogenic parenting (also know as attachment-based parental alienation and the trans generational transmission of attachment trauma?)"  Answer: See the frequently asked questions for pathogenic parenting (FAQ). Back to top
  26. "These protective parents are trying to protect their child from abuse, but these batterers then take their kids away". Answer: Same answer as "erased parent is an abuser." Back to top
  27. "Parental alienation is a figment of gender, stereotype, misogyny, and sexism"   Answer: Multiple studies show that the number of male and female alienators are approximately equal. So to ignore this type of abuse, is to ignore the suffering of half of the child victims (girls), half of the erased parents (mothers), and half of the suffering grandparents. That is bad for women. Back to top
  28. "Parental alienation is caused by the child being exposed to something in the environment when they were quite young." Answer: Although some kids have attachment issues towards one sex or the other, in parental alienation, the relationship between the child and future erased parent is fine right up until the parental relationship distress. The attachment problem then magically disappears when the child attends Family bridges or Family reflections. It is simply not plausible for an environmental contaminant to cause that. Back to top
  29. "Parental alienation is a construct to justify domestic violence/incest and win in court"   Sexual abuse and incest are horrible crimes and forms of child abuse, and children deserve better. According to the United Nation Convention on the rights of children, they have the right to be free from all forms of abuse. Although Richard Gardner did have abhorrent views on pedophilia, the underlying valid clinical construct of parental alienation was observed long before him and by many other since. His model has now been replaced by the pathogenic parenting model. Just because someone who robs banks observes the law of gravity, the law of gravity is not invalidated.  In other words, unfortunately, this false claim is one of ad hominem, a logical fallacy of attacker the character of someone rather than their views. And parental alienation is in DSM-5 as child psychological abuse according to the authors of DSM-5, who say that it is both real and important. Parental alienation, better known as pathogenic parenting, is grounded in standard psychology because it is a manifestation of well understood pathology. Parental alienation is in the beta draft copy of ICD-11. ICD-10 has a very accurate description of it under shared delusional disorder. The American Academy of Pediatrics tells doctors how to treat parental alienation. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children includes parental alienation in its guidelines for detecting child psychological abuse. A peer reviewed paper in an APA journal says that parental alienation is child abuse. Shared delusional disorder (F24) in in ICD-10. Landmark research trumpeted by the APA, also corroborated by research in Canada, shows that child psychological abuse is as harmful as sexual abuse. Finally, because the reported rates of parental alienation (13.8% in the most recent research) are higher than reported or estimated rates of incest, the argument is prima facia incorrect, and furthermore, the latest research also shows that there are roughly equal numbers of male and female alienators, and since the rate of sexual abuse from women is lower than from men, this false claim cannot be true. See also frequently made false complaints erased parents are batterers and erased parents are molesters. See also Formerly Alienated Teens and Formerly Alienated Adults have spoken out, telling how it happens, how they were fooled and manipulated. Back to top
  30. "It only makes things worse for the child by giving custody to the erased parent."  Answer: this is one of the ten fallacies are refuted in Dr. Warshak's 2016 paper, which was published in a peer-reviewed APA journal (and note that the APA holds the copyright). See also above for all ten. In the words of Dr. Warshak, which are now copyrighted by the APA ...  "Despite repeated reports that alienation abates when children are required to spend time with the parent they claim to hate or fear, some experts predict dire consequences to children if the court fails to endorse their strong preferences to avoid a parent. Usually such predictions are vulnerable to reliability challenges because the experts cite undocumented anecdotes, irrelevant research, and discredited interpretations of attachment theory. No peer-reviewed study has documented harm to severely alienated children from the reversal of custody. No study has reported that adults, who as children complied with expectations to repair a damaged relationship with a parent, later regretted having been obliged to do so. On the other hand, studies of adults who were allowed to disown a parent find that they regretted that decision and reported long-term problems with guilt and depression that they attributed to having been allowed to reject one of their parents (Baker, 2005)." Back to top
  31. "What about the statement 'the concept of parental alienation was actually invented to rebut mothers' claims of child abuse, particularly sexual abuse." This argument goes on as "Thus, despite the contrary assumptions of many courts that accept "parental alienation" claims, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this theory is only a thinly veiled instrument for denying paternal abuse and furthering a bias against mothers." The first person to use phrase parental alienation syndrome did see more female alienators in a small initial sample, though he did amend the statement later when he had access to a larger sample population. We are not aware of any references or proof for justify this allegation of a sinister motive. The larger reality is that he identified a valid underlying clinical construct that was observed by many, both earlier and later. The most important reality is that multiple studies show that number of male and female alienators for this form of psychological child abuse are approximately equal. Furthermore, the best model of parental alienation are based on simple identification of existing, well understood pathology and completely bypass the person being identified in this controversy. Parental alienation is not "invented" but simply a manifestation of well understood pathology, a valid clinical phenomenon observed documented by many researchers. Significantly, parental alienation is also child abuse, a significant problem in the subtle rhetoric of this false complaint. For a complete treatment, see also the false claim "parental alienation is a construct to justify domestic violence/incest and win in court."   Back to top
  32. What about Professor Joan Meier's pilot study?   See the related NPO article. Further, the full study has not appeared despite a half million dollar grant from the DoJ, that promised a presentation at the AFCC Conference in Boston in 2017.  Back to top
  33. What about the 2016 paper from Saunders and Faller entitled "The Need to Carefully Screen for Family Violence when Parental Alienation is Claimed"?  The paper is available online. I) Agreed, care should always be taken to screen for family violence. We denounce domestic violence. These children form a special population who deserve to be evaluated by people skilled in all forms of abuse and who have backgrounds in personality disorders with decompensation into persecutory delusions, attachment, and family systesm. II.) However, the key issue is that the paper is filled with innuendo about parental alienation. III.) The paper discusses child abuse extensively but never identifies that parental alienation is child abuse according to the relevant authors of DSM-5, and the paper does not discuss the risks to leaving a child with a psychological abuser. The paper discusses IPV at length but never identifies that parental alienation is domestic violence. The paper discusses coercive control but never mentions that coercive control is the fabric of parental alienation.  The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children state that children have the right to be free of all forms of abuse. The authors did not respond to an inquiry about their reasons for leaving out information that PA is DV and is child abuse. Children of divorce must also be screened for parental alienation, whether or not an erased parent has any idea that there is such a thing as parental alienation so that they can "claim it." III.) The paper discusses the relative number of children exposed to domestic violence and the number of alienated children, but fails to cite the most recent study, which concludes that 13.4% of parents have an alienated child. IV.) The paper disparages effective treatment plans such as Family Bridges saying they have "very weak scientific back" by citing "Parenting Plan and Child Custody Evaluations," but the only relevant thing we could find was on page 102 saying that "they are helpful for families who are willing to engage in them." Further, this citation doesn't use the term parental alienation, but rather gate keeping or exposure to high conflict, instead of speaking about psychological abuse. This seems to contrast that both Family Bridges and Family Reflections have peer reviewed papers on them documenting high success, and the Joan Kelly wrote a paper on Family Bridges that was positive. V.) The paper mentions several questionnaires or diagnostic tools for non-parental-alienation DV but fails to note diagnostic tools or questionnaires for parental alienation, such as pathogenic parenting or the PARQ tool or the BSQ. See also Parental alienation happens when a batterer attacks the other parent, causing the child to recoil from the batterer.   Back to top



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