A psychiatrist named Richard Gardner, who wrote numerous questionable and controversial comments on the subject of pedophilia, devised the concept of “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (“PAS”). According to Gardner and those who subscribe to the notion of PAS, certain parents may engage in criticism and belittling of the other parent to their mutual child in situations involving custody disputes, which may include accusations of abuse against the child. PAS supporters claim that whether the accusations of abuse are true or false, their discussion by the other parent in court, whether in family court or in a restraining order application, is an indication that this parent is engaging in parental alienation.
A string of research was published a number of years back which linked the absence of a parent to problems in a child. Influenced in large part by these findings, modern family courts have assumed policies which support the concepts of PAS and alienation. The focus in family courts (and restraining order judgments) has become a strong preference for joint custody, so much so that courts often award substantial custody and visitation time even to parents who are irresponsible, substance abusing, neglectful, violent or even directly abusive to the child or the other parent.
In large part based on these leanings, when a protective parent complains about physical or sexual abuse by the other parent against a child, numerous family court systems have punished the protective parent for “alienating” behavior by withdrawing the protective parent’s custody rights, rather than engaging in investigation concerning the potential abuse. According to advocates in this field, significant injustice is taking place in family court systems today because courts, relying on court investigators with strong recommending power, who may not be properly credentialed and who frequently apply PAS related theories, are sending children to live with abusive parents and limiting or removing the custody rights of protective parents.
While advocates are working in this field to publicize issues concerning the results of these types of policies and have had a number of recent successes, including significant discussion in a White House conference on domestic violence, a television appearance by advocates on the program “The Dr. Phil Show”, as well as a recent state government level investigation of two county family court systems in Northern California leading to requests for reform, a recent setback was looming.
Revisions are being currently being considered for the DSM-V, the newest upcoming version of the manual referred to regularly by mental health professionals (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders). PAS was slated for inclusion in the newest version of the DSM. However, on June 6, 2011, the Chair and the Public Representative of the DSM-5 Task Force sent out a letter to a number of recipients stating that the Task Force is not currently recommending PAS for inclusion in the DSM-V.
See the following link for an article on this subject in Psychology Today by Paula J. Caplan, PhD: