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Parental Alienation Syndrome in Court Referred Custody Cases - Part IV

Updated: Apr 26

Continuation from Part III...

Overprotective Parents

Parental overprotection and PAS can overlap. An overprotective parent communicates to the child this message:

"The world is a dangerous place and calamity may befall you at anytime. Stick by my side and I will protect you from these catastrophes" (Gardner, 1992, p.129).

Overprotection can result in fear and anxiety in the child, but does not result in fear of and hatred of that child's other parent unless PAS is present. Gardner (1992, p.122; 1985) states:

"One factor operative in maternal overprotection is anger."

Another operative factor in the development of overprotection is the parent's need for gratification of their own infantile dependancy needs. Additionally, overprotection of a child can serve to compensate for feelings of low self-worth. The alienating parent comes to view herself and or himself as a 'super parent'.

An overprotective parent is a "high risk candidate for providing the kind of programming that may result in parental alienation syndrome" (Gardner, 1992, p131).

Preexisting anxieties and phobias can become intensified at the time of separation which exacerbate the alienating parent's need for the child's companionship and even protection from the child.

Alienated Parent

Frequently, the alienated parent is passive, dismayed, and befuddled. The alienated parent is in the midst of the PAS process before he or she begins to there is a serious problem in their parent - child relationship. In the mild to moderate PAS, behaviour of the alienated parent may contribute significantly to the PAS process. "Blush and Ross observed that falsely accused fathers tended to display passive or dependant features as compared with their more historic spouses". (Rand, 1997, p.57).

However, in severe PAS, the alienated parent may be relatively healthy and contribute minimally to the PAS, compared to the alienating parent (Rand, 1997).


PAS remains distinctive to intractable conflict in divorce and or custody disputes in which the child becomes aligned with one parent and preoccupied with unjustified and or exaggerated denigration of the alienated parent.

Detection of PAS and an understanding of appropriate remedial treatment to restore the child's relationship with the alienated parent has not occurred (Rand, 1997).

Prior to the 1920's, custody of minor children was automatically given to fathers.

However, the "tender - years presumption" presumed mothers were intrinsically preferable to fathers as child rearers "unless a father could prove the mother grossly unfit" (Gardner, 1992, p.51;1998).

In other words, the judge must "presume that the mother is the preferable parent" .

The divorce rate was relatively low until the mid 1940's; however, since WWII, there has been a "progressive increase in the divorce rate" as well as an increase in custody litigation. Divorce laws were mostly predicted on concepts of guilt and innocence within the context of punishment and restitution.
Divorce was granted when the petitioner proved he or she had been "wronged or injured" by the responded.
In the 1960's, the traditional grounds for divorce were no longer viewed as simply a "wrong perpetrated by one party," but that "both parties" contributed to the marital breakdown (Rand, 1997)
By the late 1970's and early 1980's joint custody gained in popularity, rather than one parent designated as the sole custodial parent and the other parent just a "visitor", it was now considered possible that both parents could "share" in the parenting of their child.
Ideally, for the joint custodial concept to work, both parents must be able to communicate and cooperate well with each other and to be equally capable of assuming child-rearing responsibilities.
The main drawback of granting joint custody, frequently and automatically, is that the children are used as pawns in the parental conflicts!
Such use of children is likely because there are no restraints placed on non-cooperating parents and conflicts becomes continuous!

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