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Parental Alienation Syndrome in Court Referred Custody Cases - Part II

Updated: Apr 15

Continuation from Part I...

Previously we finished with a paragraph how children have a diminished ability to maintain healthy boundaries and relationships when brought into conflict in a custody battle.

Now, let's have a closer look how susceptible children are to alienation according to Dr. Stahl and clinical observations from the referred court cases.

Dr. Stahl (1999) suggests children are most susceptible to alienation when they are passive and dependant and feel a strong need to psychologically care for the alienating parent. In both the child and the alienating parent, there is a sense of moral outrage at the alienated parent and there is typically a fusion of feeling between the alienating parent and the child such that they talk about the alienated parent as having hurt "us" (Stahl, P., 1999, p.4).

It is believed children in such families are likely to develop a variety of pathological symptoms which can include:

Splitting in their relationships;
Difficulties in forming intimate relationships;
A lack of ability to tolerate anger in other relationships;
Psychosomatic symptoms;
Conflicts with authority figures;
Unhealthy sense of entitlement that leads to social alienation in general.

It is important for the evaluator to make an attempt to divide children with manifestation of PAS into mild, moderate, and sever categories. As is true of all psychiatric disorders, thee is a continue from the mildest through the moderate, to the most severe.

Mild PAS

The children in this category may develop their own scenarios about the alienated parent with only slight prodding by the alienating parent. Here, the children's primary motive is to strengthen the alienating parent's position in the custody dispute in order to maintain the psychological bond they have with that parent. These children present as ambivalent about visitation, but are the most free to express affection for the alienated parent even in the alienating parent's presence.

Moderate PAS

The children in this category are less fanatic in their vilification of the alienated parent than those children in the severe category. However, these children do have campaigns of depreciation of the alienated parent, but are much more "likely to give up their own scenarios" when alone with the alienated parent, especially for long periods. When these children are removed entirely from the alienating parent's purview, they quiet down, relax, and involve with the alienated parent. The primary motive of the child's scenario is to maintain the psychological bond with the alienating parent.

Severe PAS

These children are easy to recognise. When the therapist or evaluator invites everyone for a family interview or for an interview of the children with each parent separately, the alienating parent was sitting on one side of the waiting room with the children acting as if the alienated parent was not present in the waiting room. Typically, the child sits next to the alienating parent, who tries to find a position most remote from the alienated parent.

"The profession of hatred are most intense when the child and the alienating parent are in the presence of the alienated parent." (Gardner, 1992;1998;1999).

However, when the child is alone with alienated parent, he or she may exhibit feelings, which range from:

  1. Hatred;

  2. Neutrality;

  3. Inhibited expressions of affection.

Children provide the most frivolous excuses for not visiting which are supported by the alienating parent. Visitation is strongly resisted by these children. In pre-adolescents and adolescents, visitation frequently stops.

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