Friday, December 14, 2012



Written by: Ronald Anthony Sarno

Litigation Lawyer

Posted over 2 years ago. 2 helpful votes, 0 comments

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Formulation of the term Parental Alienation Syndrome

Richard Gardner was the first mental health professional to formulate the term PAS as an abnormal and deep-seated preoccupation by the child (usually in a custody dispute) with criticism and deprecation of one parent. Gardner stated that PAS occurs when one parent the “Alienating Parent” (AP) blatantly or in more subtle ways, attempts to alienate a child from the other parent.

Eight Symptoms of PAS

According to Gardner, PAS is characterized by eight symptoms in the child. These include 1) a campaign of denigration and hatred against the targeted parent; 2) weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalizations for this deprecation and hatred; 3) lack of the usual ambivalence about the targeted parent; 4) strong assertions that the decision to reject the parent is theirs alone ( "independent-thinker phenomenon"); 5) reflexive support of the favored parent in the conflict; 6) lack of guilt over the treatment of the alienated parent; 7) use of borrowed scenarios and phrases from the alienating parent; and 8) the denigration is aimed not only at the targeted parent but also at that parent's extended family and friends.

The Three Levels of PAS

Gardner and others have divided PAS into mild, moderate and severe levels. The number and severity of the eight symptoms displayed increase through the different levels. Gardner argued that any change in custody should be based on the symptom level of the alienating parent. In mild cases, he notes some parental programming against the targeted parent, but little or no disruption of visitation, in this case, Gardner did not recommend court-ordered visitation. In moderate cases, there is more intense parental programming and a greater resistance to visits with the targeted parent. In moderate cases, Gardner recommended that primary custody remain with the programming parent if the brainwashing had a “good chance” to be discontinued, but if not, that custody should be transferred to the targeted parent.

The Use of Therapy for PAS Alienated Children

In addition, Gardner also recommended therapy with the child to stop alienation and to remediate the damaged relationship with the targeted parent. In severe cases, children display most or all of the 8 symptoms, and refuse adamantly to visit the targeted parent. This level might include threats from the alienated child to run away or commit suicide if the visitation is forced. In such severe cases, Gardner recommended that the child be removed from the alienating parent's home into a transition home before moving into the home of the targeted parent. In addition, therapy for the child is recommended.

PAS and the Loss of Independent Thinking

A child subject to PAS is very similar to a brainwashed POW or cult follower where independent thinking is compromised and the person’s outlook is dictated by the precise instructions of an authority figure. PAS has also been compared with the psychiatric condition —shared delusional disorder.

PAS and Gender Bias

When Gardner first published his book Parental Alienation Syndrome, his initial research concluded that only mothers were capable of being alienating parents; his later writings concluded that he was initially incorrect and actually there was no gender bias. This is an important psychological marker and further research in the last 25 years (as of 2010) continues to support his later findings. Gardner’s initial research led to a “gender battle” where women rights groups said “PAS” did not exist and was a litigation ploy or device to get children away from their mothers and given the over to their “abusive” fathers. On the other hand, father rights groups saw PAS as one of the very few ways they could overcome false accusations of abuse and have their relationship with their children restored. At the present time, PAS advocates are aware that either gender can be the alienating parent or the targeted parent.

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