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ACFC: Psychobabble or a legitimate, legal basis for child custody

Started by MYSONSDAD, Nov 24, 2004, 10:23:26 AM

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While evidence, and the experience of many of this lists readers, supports
the existence of PAS, it's inclusion in the DSM is for other "experts" to
determine.  Regarding Michael McCormick's actual "quote," he stated; "PAS
has been recognized as valid from an evidence admission standard by numerous
courtrooms across the country under the Frye test."  For those further
interested,  Richard Gardner's website contains a number of case cites and
decisions regarding PAS in custody determinations and can be viewed at:



Daily Herald
Sunday, November 14, 2004

Psychobabble or a legitimate, legal basis for child custody
by Charles Keeshan, Daily Herald Staff Writer

The first time Norma Perez learned she was being accused of "parental
alienation syndrome," she shrugged it off.

The idea that one parent could turn a child against the other might be true,
the Elgin resident figured, but it certainly did not apply to her.

A year later, a DuPage County judge ruled otherwise.

Declaring that the mental, emotional and physical health of her 10-year-old
daughter was endangered by her mother's behavior, Judge James J. Konetski
stripped Perez of custody and handed the girl over to her father without
giving her a chance to say goodbye to mom.

"I'm not a perfect person, but I know I didn't do the things they said I
did," Perez said.

"I fought for my daughter," she said. "If we don't, we risk losing our
children, and if we do, we're called alienators."

Robert G. Black, the attorney for Perez's former husband, R. Edward Bates,
said the label fits in this case.

"The evidence showed she did not foster a close loving relationship between
the child and father," Black said. "In fact, she totally alienated the child
from her father."

Perez is just one of many mothers across the suburbs, and hundreds
nationwide, to lose custody of their children based on parental alienation
syndrome, a theory that stirs passionate debate in the mental health and
legal communities almost two decades after its advent.

The concept, proffered by New Jersey psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985,
holds that in some cases a custodial parent can poison a child's mind
against the other parent, causing that child to have a disrespectful and
antagonistic relationship with the other parent.

Gardner's work has launched intense arguments both pro and con in
psychological publications, legal journals and courtrooms across the

Some dismiss the theory as junk science or pop psychology that lacks
research to support it. Others say Gardner's work is not only valid but a
long-overdue examination of an insidious form of child abuse.

That debate took place most recently within the Illinois Supreme Court,
where justices hearing Perez's case were asked to decide whether testimony
about the syndrome belongs in state courtrooms.

The court provided no clear answer to that question in an Oct. 28 decision.
But in denying Perez's request to regain custody of her daughter, justices
encouraged more challenges of the syndrome's legitimacy.

"We note that PAS is now the subject of legal and professional criticism,
and our holding in this case does not foreclose further challenges to the
validity or general acceptance of that concept," Justice Thomas L. Kilbride

Discovery and debate

Gardner was working as a professor of child psychiatry at his alma mater,
Columbia University in New York, when he began documenting cases in which
children in the midst of a custody dispute began showing hostile behavior
toward a parent with no clear reason, according to his biography.

He declared the behavior "parental alienation syndrome" and established a
set of eight symptoms, including denigration of the alienated parent, lack
of guilt over cruelty to that parent and unflinching support for the other

Before his suicide last year, Gardner wrote at length on the subject and
testified about it in hundreds of divorce cases across the country. One of
those cases was Perez's, in which he issued a finding of parental alienation
syndrome despite never interviewing Perez or her daughter.

His self-published 1992 book, "The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for
Legal and Mental Health Professionals," is considered the definitive guide
to the theory.

His ideas launched a legion of followers in the legal and mental health

Among them is Douglas Darnall, a Youngstown, Ohio, psychiatrist who wrote
a book on the issue called "Divorce Casualties." He also operates a Web site,
found at //www.parentalalienation.com.

Darnall said cases of parental alienation syndrome are rare but real.

"It should be used in court because it does describe a legitimate pattern of
behavior that does have an impact on a child and a parent/child
relationship," he said. "Most judges want to listen to the evidence, and
most judges accept it."

But for all the followers Gardner's ideas have spawned, they have created at
least as many critics.

One of them, Dr. Paul Fink of Temple University's School of Medicine, called
the theory dangerous.

"It was made up by one guy who spread it around," said Fink, who is past
president of the American Psychiatric Association. "No investigation was
done, there was no research, and it's hurt a lot of women and children."

Detractors note Gardner's work is not recognized by the APA's Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual, the Bible of the psychiatric profession.

"It has generally been denounced," said David Finn, a counselor from Rolling
Meadows who performs court-ordered child custody evaluations. "It's never
been accepted as a valid syndrome, and the research has not been there to
support it.

"The presumption is that the alienation is because of the parent," Finn
said. "While that may be part of the reason in some instances, it is not an
evaluation of all the reasons why it might exist."

Critics of the theory say one parent can cause resentment in a child toward
the other parent. But those feelings are usually temporary and never rise to
the level of a syndrome or mental disorder, as Gardner claims.

Darnall, however, believes the theory may soon get APA recognition. New
research, he said, indicates Gardner's findings may be more correct than
many critics believe and could get it into the next edition of the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Fink scoffed at the suggestion.

"It won't be in there, I guarantee you," he said. "Since there has been no
verification, no research, it's not getting in there."

From an idea to court

Gardner's theories have yet to receive official recognition in the industry,
but family law attorneys have been using them for years, most often on
behalf of fathers hoping to gain custody.

Annette Zender, a Woodstock resident who lost custody of her daughter three
years after a Lake County judge sided with alienation claims against her,
likens it to legal kidnapping.

"When they can't find any other excuse, they come up with parental
alienation and it works," she said.

Since losing her daughter, Zender has built a network of suburban women who
share similar stories. So far, she said, the group numbers more than 70 from
Lake, Cook, Kane, McHenry and Will counties.

While groups like Zender's want to see the syndrome, known as PAS, barred
from the courtroom, fathers' rights organizations support Gardner's work,
saying it can provide balance in a family court system that assumes mothers
should always get custody.

"Parental alienation occurs, unfortunately," said Michael McCormick,
executive director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. "We
have seen parental alienation be adopted in numerous courtrooms across the
country as a valid science."

Whether that should be the case is something people on both sides thought
the Illinois Supreme Court would answer in the Perez case.

While that did not happen, Perez attorney Paul Feinstein said the court's
offer to hear more cases on the issue is a promising sign for PAS opponents.

"They weren't impressed with it and that's why they invited more challenges
to it," Feinstein said. "I think this is pretty much the end of it."

Theory: Syndrome critics say it has no scientific foundation

© 2004 Daily Herald, Paddock Publications, Inc.
Daily Herald Home:  http://www.dailyherald.com/

"Children learn what they live"


> The idea that one parent could turn a child against the other might be true

LOL, *might* be true??? "Might be"??  Now that's funny.

As someone who has seen parental alienation firsthand, I almost laughed when I read this. I wonder if Norma Perez thinks the Sun "might" come up tomorrow.  I mean, I have an *idea* that it could, but....

Really...who hasn't heard of the "idea" of one parent turning a child against the other parent? Mzzzzz Perez is a bit too disingenuous for my taste.

Does it qualify as a "syndrome"? I don't know and don't care. I do know that it's a FACT that this kind of behavior goes on every single day of the year and that it's harmful to children. What do I give a damn if it's officially classified as a 'syndrome'?



"Children learn what they live"


can a child be considered to have a functional and reasoning mind?

At what stage is it thought a child can make basic  thoughts and determinations for her/himself?

What if a child simply decides s/he doesnt like one  parent and would prefer not to have that much to do  with that person.

Does the fact a child might not like us or how we have behaved relieve us of our  responsibility for that child?


Ask folks here and they will tell you how REAL this is.

I would describe it as small bits of manipulation toward the targeted parent, the NCP. Over a period of time, it can be devasting not only to the child, but the alienated parent as well.

All about control. CP's should make every effort possible to facilitate a good relationship with the child/children and the NCP.  Unless, of course, there is abuse, neglect, child endangerment or drugs are involved.

Truth be told, this does not always happen.

In answer to your question, when they become legal age. Then let them decide what is in their best interests.

If the shoe was on the other foot, what would you do?

If you were the alienated parent, you wouldn't have to ask...