parental alienation.jpgParental alienation syndrome, or PAS, is the result of one parent engaging in an effort to isolate, denigrate or alienate the other parent. Cases involving parental alienation syndrome often involve children becoming hateful or fearful of one of their parents after a divorce. The consequences to both the alienated parent and the child can have devastating life-long effects.

PAS is recognized by most family law judges, but many judges are not aware of its serious effects and do not know the best way to address and prevent PAS. However, there is a strong movement in the psychiatric community to promote awareness of PAS and classify it in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM is an official catalog of mental disorders.

One of the leading proponents for including PAS in the manual is William Bernet, a psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University who has said PAS "causes horrible outcomes for children." Not only have studies shown that PAS causes long-term harm to children, children who are affected by PAS effectively lose half of their family and half of their heritage.

Psychologists say that PAS cases range from mild to severe. Mild cases involve a parent who is unaware of what he or she is doing and will stop alienating behavior when they learn how harmful it is to the child. Moderately harmful cases involve a parent treating the other parent like an adversary and asking a child to spy on the other parent. Severe cases involve narcissism or a strong fear of abandonment and an obsessive hatred for an ex-spouse. In severe cases, the alienating parent's hatred for his or her ex-spouse is stronger than the instinct to protect their children from harm.

Source: Denver Post, "Recognizing parental alienation syndrome," Mary Winter, 12/5/2010