Parental Alienation Syndrome: To Be or Not to Be a Recognized Disorder

By October 5, 2010Child Custody

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Child Custody on Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Alec Baldwin brought the term into the popular media years ago to explain his estrangement with his daughter during his divorce from Kim Basinger, but now the American Psychiatric Association has to decide whether or not they will recognize Parental Alienation Syndrome as a disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The APA is in the process of completing the first full revision of the manual since 1994.

Parental Alienation is a term that is often seen in child custody cases to describe the situation when a child rejects one parent without sufficient justification. Parents often claim that it occurs as a direct result of one parent poisoning the child’s relationship with the other.

Dr. William Bernet, a psychiatric professor and spokesperson for recognition of the disorder, proposed that the APA define the syndrome as “a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification.” Proponents of recognition claim that the disorder affects many people across the nation and provide the opportunity for children to receive the proper counseling in order to reunite with their estranged parent.

Opponents often include feminist groups and advocates for battered women and claim that men use the disorder as a way to deflect attention away from abusive behavior. They caution that recognition of the disorder could be used as a dangerous means of obscuring the truth about real, serious abuse.

Whether or not the disorder is recognized by the APA, evidence of situations that act as the basis of the disorder will still be relevant in court. One Texas Supreme Court Justice said while discussing the term that “anyone who’s in this business knows there are situation where that in fact is happening.”

Source: The Associated Press “Psychiatric experts assess parental alienation” David Crary 10/1/10