29 de novembre 2013
Autors: Vanistandael, Stefan; Gaberan, Philippe; Humbeeck, Bruno
Preu: 9,90 €
"L'humor és a vegades un llum que ens treu de la foscor. En situacions difícils, ens permet focalitzar la nostra atenció sobre aspectes positius ja oblidats o desatesos fins al moment". Stefan Vanistendael il·lustra amb aquestes paraules, el potencial de l'humor en l'experiència humana, oblidat amb freqüència a les grans tradicions filosòfiques o psicològiques, però rescatat des del discurs de la resiliència. L'humor es planteja com una porta oberta al saber i com una eina de superació i creixement.
Aquest llibre selecciona articles sobre el caràcter substantiu de l'humor i l'espiritualitat i les reflexions sobre el paper de l'educació resilient dels infants.
Com ressenya el seu autor, l'humor és quelcom més que un mecanisme de defensa, és una important eina relacional que ens fa més realistes i humans.
Autor: Màrius Serra Roig
Editorial: Grup 62
Preu: 16,05 €
Segons l'autor "Quiet cobreix set anys en la vida del nostre fill Lluís Serra Pablo, àlies Llullu, que va néixer amb una greu encefalopatia que la ciència neurològica encara no ha estat capaç de definir. El Lluís és el nostre segon fill. Té unes necessitats una mica peculiars, però això només significa que estem més pendents de la seva fragilitat. A Quiet, he buscat una forma narrativa d'explicar l'ambivalent estat emocional que provoca tenir un fill que no progressa adequadament. Un estat sovint exposat als fiblons del dolor, però en el qual predomina la joia i un cert embadaliment. M'ha semblat que la millor manera de fer-ho era rescatar escenes concretes fixades en la memòria i posar-les en moviment. Records refulgents. I he pretès, alhora, compondre un mirall. Dorian Gray va vendre l'ànima al diable per poder ser, més que immortal, invariable, mentre els estralls del temps anaven canviant l'aspecte del retrat invisible que havia amagat al soterrani. Aquí el procés s'inverteix. Tots els que ens mirem una mica a fons en aquest mirall envellim d'una manera diferent. Si Dorian Gray hagués conegut un Llullu no s'hauria conformat mai de la vida amb la invariabilitat dels presumptes immortals. Hauria après a mirar en comptes de voler ser mirat. A envellir. Molt probablement no hauria volgut ser retratat, sinó retrat."
Un llibre per a la reflexió.
Autor: Miquel Rubio Domínguez
Preu: 11 €
No és habitual trobar debats sobre la importància de la inclusió de l'educació social en les xarxes socials, ja que, generalment, el debat se centra en els beneficis o els riscos que porten implícita la seva utilització. Però és evident que els professionals de l'educació social fan ús de les xarxes per aglutinar coneixements i experiències i també per coordinar-se.
El blog "Educació social... des dels inicis" ofereix una resposta a les necessitats de les noves formacions i, alhora, proporciona informació acadèmica del grau d'educació social en la Universitat Oberta de Catalunya i reflexions personals sobre diferents aspectes exposades per diverses veus de professionals de l'educació social.
Autora: Ana Maria Novella Cámara
Preu: 15 €
El llibre pretén aprofundir en elements teòrics, que són el marc de referència per promoure la participació infantil, juntament amb elements pràctics de l'experiència d'un Consell que són fonamentals per saber com dinamitzar-la i per garantir-ne la gestió. Els educadors i les educadores que s'hi endinsin trobaran referents teòrics i pràctics, estratègies metodològiques i orientacions pràctiques i conceptuals que podran utilitzar per millorar, adaptar i optimitzar les experiències de participació infantil que acompanyen i donen suport. La sistematització de la pràctica des de la seva teoria vol convidar a repensar altres pràctiques per garantir, per sobre de tot, que la participació dels infants és autèntica i significativa. En definitiva, vol desvetllar que en la participació infantil a les ciutats no hi ha trampa ni cartó, sinó infants competents en l'exercici de la seva ciutadania i responsables per fer una ciutat millor per a tots.
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS): Its Causes, Cures, Costs, and Controversies By Jayne A. Major, Ph.D.
In no other area of family law do people become more polarized than in cases involving parental alienation (PA) and parental alienation syndrome (PAS). And though volumes have been written on this subject, there still exists enormous confusion as to what the real problem is. Because there is rarely enough accurate information to make an informed opinion, most bystanders as well as trained professionals eventually give up trying to figure out which parent in a high-conflict family is "right." The "he said/she said" quagmire is simply too shaky a place from which to sort out the truth.
In high-conflict families, one or both parents may be guilty of allowing their anger toward the other parent to be expressed in a way that tragically involves their children. Parental alienation (PA) is the term used to describe the attempts by one parent to undermine the relationship a child has with the other parent. Because children are suggestible, many will eventually succumb to the relentless programming or "brainwashing" by an alienating parent toward a target parent. When a child aligns with a disturbed parent and becomes a representative of that parent’s agenda by also behaving in aggressive and hateful ways toward the target parent, parental alienation syndrome (PAS) has developed. A child with PAS becomes an alienator in their own right, independently creating their own scenarios of how horrible the target parent is. These imagined scenarios are often bizarre and bear little resemblance to the truth.
My purpose in writing this article is to share the knowledge I have gained firsthand working as a practitioner with such high-conflict families and to provide a more in-depth understanding of this very serious issue, in particular by offering insight into the causes of PA/PAS, its severe costs, and the controversies that surround it. As you will see, the fallout from PA/PAS is far-reaching. A tremendous amount of community resources are used trying to stabilize these high-conflict families. My focus, therefore, is on the top 15% of chronically litigating parents, as they use an inordinate amount of court time to try to resolve their family issues and are most likely to 1) force their children to take sides with them and 2) obstruct shared custody and mutual decision-making.
Causes of PA/PAS
There are three degrees of PA that can result in PAS.
A mild and very common form of parental alienation is when one parent speaks negatively about the other parent, over what might be the smallest of issues, so that a child hears what is being said. This can be somewhat unintentional. Parents may be so upset at each other that they simply don’t realize that they are inappropriately involving a child in adult affairs. Parent education is often needed to teach these parents to have boundaries that protect their children from upsetting feelings. Without such boundaries, parents are contributing to the psychological insecurity of their children.
In the moderate category of parental alienation are conflicting parents who exercise little control over their anger and go ballistic when they are upset, without any consideration of how their anger affects other family members. The suffering that this ugly behavior causes children and the target parent is severe. Many parents look to the court to stabilize what is a chaotic family system. These are families where there is little ability to use mediation to work out a reasonable parenting plan for their children. But using a court to resolve high-conflict family disputes such as where PA/PAS is present has had limited success at best. The outcome depends almost entirely upon a judge’s ability to understand the nuances of PA/PAS and to make appropriate orders to contain the problem—not an easy thing to do.
In this category, PAS develops as children find the need to protect the angry, alienating parent. To avoid further triggering the parent’s rage, they stop expressing positive feelings for the target parent. They become caught in a vicious cycle of trying to figure out how to be safe while also sorting through the demonizing attacks made toward the target parent.
Falling into the severe category of parental alienation are those parents who become obsessed with destroying the child’s relationship with the other parent and that parent’s family and friends. Dr. Frank Williams describes this goal of cutting a parent out of a child’s life as a "parentectomy." In these cases, a child will succumb to the alienator’s programming or brainwashing and experience fear, anger, and hatred toward the target parent. When parental alienation is severe enough, children have no choice but to align with the disturbed parent against the target parent, thus destroying their relationship with the target parent. These children no longer have free will or the ability to continue loving the target parent. PAS describes the child’s behavior in response to the brainwashing that has occurred; it does not describe actions on the part of a parent. The focus of this article in on children who are being severely alienated or who are already experiencing PAS.
How can obsessed parents be effective in erasing a child’s love for a parent who showed the child only love and not abuse? In her book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind, Dr. Amy J. L. Baker provides solid qualitative research using 40 adults who experienced PAS as children. The subjects of the study reported five primary mechanisms that were used to manipulate their thoughts and feelings as children:
(1) relentless bad-mouthing of the character of the target parent, in order to reduce their importance and value
(2) creating the impression that the target parent was dangerous and planned to hurt the child, in order to instill fear and rejection of that parent
(3) deceiving children about the target parent’s feelings for them, in order to create hurt, resentment, and psychological distance
(4) withdrawing love if the child indicated affection or positive regard for the target parent, in order to heighten the need to please the alienating parent
(5) erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child through minimizing actual and symbolic contact (Baker 2007)
The outrageous behavior by the disturbed parent is often so shocking that people don’t want to believe it. Their dramatic justifications for their aberrant behaviors defy reason.
Few people understand the psychological underpinnings of PA and why a parent would treat a child so badly. Gregory Lester, Ph.D., describes possible causes that can account for the severity of the psychological disturbance seen in severely alienating parents. They demonstrate egocentricity to a fault and exhibit bullying behavior. He suggests that their brain may be partially wired. He describes them as assuming that they are entitled to special treatment and expect others to take care of them, including their children. They don’t engage in the normal give and take that is customary in social relationships. They are takers, not givers. If they give something, the gift is likely to have strings attached. They talk a fine game, but they don’t deliver.
Drama replaces reason. Individuals with these problems do not solve problems by being rational, but rather by escalating ordinary events into dramatic episodes. They have exaggerated mood swings. A person once revered and respected can suddenly become an object of hatred and contempt. This black-and-white, highly polarized thinking is called "splitting and is typical of these types of personalities. They are unpredictable—one day loving and cooperative, and the next attacking ferociously. They have no internal conflict, because they truly believe they are right. Like Teflon, nothing sticks to them. If a problem arises, it is always someone else’s fault. People comment, "How can they lie like that? How are they able to justify in their own mind any behavior, no matter how excessive?" This is because they are able to make up the truth to suit themselves and then passionately believe the story they made up. They can be very convincing because they themselves are convinced!
They are masters at projection, the strategy that refers to when another person’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors are reversed and used to describe the person making the complaint. For example, in Sharon’s declaration she described Jack’s irresponsible behavior. Jack’s declaration came back with exactly the same allegations about Sharon. Now Sharon has to defend herself about being abusive, neglectful, and out of control. Jack managed to level the playing field by using projection. Individuals using these tactics do not seem to have an observing ego or consciousness to witness their own mistakes. Therefore, if something is wrong it must be the other person’s fault. In our example, the fact that Jack has no evidence that Sharon behaves the way he does is irrelevant to him.
Often people who exhibit this level of nastiness have come from a disastrously dysfunctional family or have experienced a serious trauma that went untreated. They are unreasonably demanding and resist any discussion or negotiation to make a situation better. They must have their way and are rigid about expecting others to comply with what they want. (Gregory Lester, 2002)
Our court processes are based on the assumption that individuals are law-abiding citizens. However, these abusive people believe that rules and laws apply to other people, but not to them. If they don’t agree with a judicial decision, they are likely to see a court order as a recommendation and not something they must obey. Actually, these disturbed parents are like little children who haven’t reached the age of reason; however, they do respond to rewards and punishment. Sadly, their excessive behavior is constantly rewarded by the way our family law courts are structured. Unfortunately, PA/PAS cases can be stalled for months, even years, with no resolution. This is rewarding to them and easily used to their advantage to advance alienation in their children. Seldom in family law court are sanctions of fines, jail time, or community service applied to individuals for contempt of court orders.
Can PAS Be Cured?
It is safe to say that the average person is utterly perplexed about how to react to such aberrant behavior on the part of the alienating parent. They quickly run out of techniques that would work with a rational person. Furthermore, because so little is known about PA/PAS, target parents often do not even know that there is a name for their child’s increasingly hostile behavior. Unfortunately, this is also true of many therapists who are called upon to help families in crisis. Without a proper understanding of PA/PAS, it is easy to take sides and even provide evidence that the truly abusive person is a wonderful parent. Many therapists are not able to discern if what they are being told is true. Few psychologists understand rules of evidence used in family law courts or are trained in how to work with cases as difficult as these.
In exasperation, target parents often want to "cure" the toxic parent with medication or therapy. The problem with medication as a solution is that it is very difficult to get another person to take it consistently. After all, in their mind, there isn’t anything wrong with them. In fact, the suggestion that they need medication is more likely to be turned on whoever is suggesting it! For example, Jerry said that the raging mother of their son was guided to take psychotropic medication by her family. When she had stabilized, she was profusely apologetic to Jerry for her outrageous behavior. She thanked him for being such a good father and said that they would have no trouble with joint custody. Only three months of peace went by before she decided that she was all better and stopped taking the medication. She quickly deteriorated, becoming more vicious than she had been before.
What about therapy? Surely a therapist can fix them! Individuals who will brainwash a child are the worst candidates for therapy, because therapy implies that a person realizes that there is something wrong with them and that they are motivated to do something about it. These people do not have the ability to self-correct behavioral or emotional errors. The wiring of their brain will not permit it. Therapy doesn’t work because one can’t have a conversation about the problem when the problem is doing the answering! As soon as a therapist suggests that they behave better or that what they are doing is harming their child, splitting occurs. The therapist then becomes the bad guy and the parent leaves, taking the child with them. They do not form trusting relationships with others unless they believe that they are getting their way.
Therapy can, in fact, make these troubled individuals worse. Since they do not feel moral emotions of empathy, sympathy, or compassion, the therapist may unwittingly teach compassionate gestures and language that their client can use to more effectively manipulate people. They are most likely to be a warm body sitting in a chair for the required number of times; they may even be patronizing about how the therapist is saving their life. However, the end result is that they are unfazed by the efforts to make them healthier.
In spite of what they say, they are unable to act in the best interests of their child. It takes a truly disturbed and obsessed person to harm a child by brainwashing them, to remove from a child’s life a loving parent and their extended family and friends who care deeply about the child. The programming of a child is done for personal gain. These are not people with good parenting skills. Children are in their lives to serve them and to help them get their way. They are not nurturing and attentive to their child’s needs, nor do they know how to nurture their child emotionally. A child is not allowed to grieve for the loss of the target parent, extended family, and friends; they are kept busy taking care of the disturbed parent.
In family law procedures, we rely heavily on evaluators to assess the psychological underpinnings of a family. However, it is rare in psychological evaluations to see a specific diagnosis regarding the disturbed parent’s mental health. You might see a comment that there was an elevation in borderline, narcissism, or hysteria, but these labels are rarely used specifically. The reason is that when different psychologists attempt to diagnose a disturbed person, they are likely to arrive at different conclusions. Also, making a diagnosis is tricky, as there are rarely clean-cut distinctions that can be made. Most disorders may also be compounded by complications from drug abuse or alcoholism, post traumatic stress disorder, situational hormonal fluctuations, or obsessive compulsive features. Furthermore, courts rely on evidence, not labels.
However, one label is commonly used, although not necessarily by evaluators. Because alienating parents are socially maladaptive and have no moral conscience, they are called "sociopaths." Although they may know how to act the part, they are unable to have empathy, sympathy, or compassion for others. Unlike rational people, they do not distinguish between telling the truth and lying. Therefore, they may not know when they are lying. They can get worse by becoming so obsessed that they disassociate from reality and become psychotic—experiencing delusions and hallucinations.
In spite of admonitions from judges and mental health professionals to stop alienating, they cannot. One of the most difficult ideas for the target parent to understand is that the mentally disturbed parent is unable to act differently; nor can a child experiencing PAS act differently. The obsessed parent and child are likely to be experiencing a shared psychosis. There is no protocol to fix the alienating parent—not legally, not therapeutically, and not by reasoning with them. It is also unlikely that they will ever stop trying to perpetuate the alienation, because it has become a gut-wrenching survival issue to them! Douglas Darnall, a leading expert in PAS, points out that we do not have a protocol to treat these people. (Douglas Darnell, 2000)
However, if a child can be isolated from the toxic parent, there are protocols, developed by Dr. Richard Gardner, for reversing the alienation. Others have also developed ways to reverse the programming. In one sense, alienating parents have built a house of cards, as the child really wants to love both parents. If the severe alienator is legally prevented from being able to poison their minds, many children can be brought back with the right treatment; however, traditional talk therapy has not proven to be helpful. The most effective procedure to date is what has been used to deprogram individuals involved in cults. In some cases, though, it is simply too late and unlikely that the child will ever understand what happened. (Richard Gardner, 2001)
Of course, the significance of this result is that PA/PAS is often inner-generational and, once grown, those damaged are at risk of passing the problem on to their own children. These individuals are inclined to continue into adulthood the practice of seeing people in black and white. They are likely to be self-loathing, which creates horrific issues of low self-esteem. To compensate for how badly they feel about themselves, they may desperately attempt to have others see them as special and more important than other people. They have missed out on the social skills they need to gain respect and to get their needs met without having to resort to heavy-handed control and bullying.
Without legal intervention to limit an alienating parent’s access to a child and to have the brainwashed child deprogrammed by a specialist, it is unlikely that a child will ever recover from PAS. The tragedy is that they have lost their free will and ability to make rational choices over their lives. They are likely to experience serious psychiatric disorders, have poor social relationships, and of course pass the problem on to their children. For a greater understanding of the long-term impact of PA/PAS, I highly recommend Dr. Baker’s book, listed in the bibliography.
Costs of PAS
Consider the resources required by families afflicted with PA/PAS. Seeing their once-loving relationship with their child eroding away, many target parents will use all the financial resources they can muster to pay for legal representation to try to preserve their relationship with their children. This is risky. Mounting attorney fees, court evaluations, and multiple other costs involved in making the case that they are a good parent and deserve to be in their child’s life quickly deplete financial reserves. Target parents are likely to borrow against credit cards, siphon money from pension plans, liquidate the equity on a house, or ask extended family to help pay for an escalating and increasingly expensive conflict. Declaring bankruptcy and paying for these costs for years isn’t uncommon. Even still, sadly, all too often there is little to show for such an investment.
Additionally, target parents involved in these difficult cases find that every minute of their spare time is spent preparing legal documents, worrying about whether the next visitation with their child will occur, and managing increasing frustration at not being able to resolve their problems. Trying to communicate with the other parent to resolve issues that are vitally important to their child only results in more stress. In these cases, joint custody simply does not work because one parent refuses to negotiate or change their point of view.
Working parents involved in a high-conflict child custody case find it hard to focus on the job. Court dates and family emergencies repeatedly cause missed workdays. Employers carry a serious liability as their valued employee becomes less able to meet deadlines, makes more errors, and increases the risk of accidents at the workplace. Company profits can be deleteriously affected.
Furthermore, families experiencing PA/PAS consume an enormous amount of community legal and mental health resources. Numerous calls may be placed to the police. The department of social welfare is likely to become involved, requiring an investigation of abuses to children. Therapists are called upon to stabilize the family. Family law judges find their courtrooms repeatedly clogged with chronic litigators.
No one can experience this level of stress and anxiety without suffering serious mental health problems. This population is at high risk for post traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide, domestic violence, and homicide. Issues of deteriorating physical health arise as stress takes its toll.
Children are likely to suffer academically as their concentration is undermined. Their social relationships are compromised and they often exhibit adjustment disorder. An interesting situation that occurs among many PAS children is that while initially they struggle in school, many are likely to eventually excel academically as well as in sports. One reason is that school and sports offer them logic and stability, and through this, a way to escape the chaos at home. The child’s successes are likely to be seen as evidence that the disturbed and alienating parent is doing a good job of parenting, when this is not the case.
Problems related to divorce will continue long after the final decree is signed and the last court appearance is over. The psychological damage to children and the target parent is unlikely to ever be reversed.
Understanding the raging controversies surrounding PA/PAS is extremely difficult. "Thinking" people don’t have the advantage of living with the certainty of seeing things as only black and white. Since rational people aren’t sure what the truth is, they don’t want to take sides until they can decipher the facts. They will research an issue. They realize that people may be solidly convinced of their opinions and that they present their opinions as facts. Thinking people wait, investigate, and figure things out. They realize that they will have to live in mystery until the facts are clear; whereas, for non-thinking people there is no mystery, so real is their certainty.
Polarized, "win/lose" thinking is systemic to our society. There are those who live with the certainty of right and wrong—what is true or false, black or white. People who think in absolutes can easily find others who think as they do. Together they are able to reinforce each other’s beliefs and present a united front about what they perceive as true. "Rigor mortis of the brain cells" has been used to describe their stuck position. Their calcified thinking does not allow them to be bothered with exceptions. The complex issues around PA/PAS invite simplistic thinking. Many people seem to need someone else to do their thinking for them. It is easy to jump on the bandwagon of highly charged issues such as preventing the sexual molestation of children and ending domestic violence. Gender wars are common; one gender sees the other as the enemy. The issue is about human rights, protecting not only children’s rights, but also mother’s and father’s rights. It is about being fair and logical and letting reason, not drama, make appropriate decisions.
To understand current controversies that surround PA/PAS, we need to go back to the 1980s, when a series of events greatly contributed to the problems of today. In 1980, Jim Cook single-handedly lobbied the California legislature to pass a law stating that there is a presumption of joint custody when parents divorce. California became the leader in joint custody laws, and most of the other states followed this lead. Prior to 1980, if there was a disagreement between mother and father about the custody of their child, the mother retained sole legal custody and was allowed to make all of the decisions, including whether her children would have a father in their life.
At the same time, with the rise of feminism in the 1960s, rigid roles for men and women were breaking down. Women had more voice over their lives and were attending college and entering the business world in increasing numbers. Most men were doing some domestic chores and, of course, taking care of their children some of the time. This meant tending to all of children’s needs, including changing diapers—a task once considered solely women’s work. In many families, sharing domestic duties became the order of the day. Most men gladly accepted some responsibility for the care of their children. Computers had made their way into people’s homes, and dads enjoyed working from home while tending to their children. In some families, women became the primary breadwinner.
When parents divorced, many liked the idea that "the best parent is both parents" and were able to share the decision-making and their children’s time. However, with others the idea of shared custody didn’t go over so well. Some women thought that, as before, children should be their sole property. Even though Dad had proven that he was fully capable of caring for his children, some moms stated that he was only a babysitter. Fathers going to family law court to get shared custody caused a burgeoning of family law cases. If a mother refused to share a child, court was a father’s only opportunity to be involved in his child’s life.
In 1983, a tragedy happened in Manhattan Beach, California. Judy Johnson made an allegation that Ray Buckey, the 25-year-old son of Peggy Buckey, who owned McMartin Preschool, had molested her 2½-year-old son. On September 7, 1983, Ray Buckey was arrested and sent to prison. After Police Chief Harry Kuhlmeyer arrested Ray Buckey, he sent a letter to 200 McMartin Preschool parents informing them that Ray Buckey was suspected of child abuse and asked them to question their children about having experienced acts such as oral sex, sodomy, having their pictures taken while naked, and being tied up. Chief Kuhlmeyer asked the parents to keep the letter strictly confidential. His request for confidentiality exploded into headline news across the country.
Ray Buckey was never charged, but he was held under the suspicion that he had done heinous crimes against children. Everyone who worked at the McMartin Preschool became suspect of bizarre and horrific acts against children. Judy Johnson’s reports of misbehavior became increasingly bizarre, claiming that Ray’s mother was involved in satanic rituals and that horrible things had been done with babies, animals, and sexual acts in front of the children who attended the preschool. Nine months later, Judy Johnson died due to complications from alcoholism. She had also been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Day after day the public was bombarded with details of bizarre allegations of what had happened to the children at the McMartin Preschool. Mass hysteria had taken over.
All preschools become suspect. Workers were told to never touch children, to have two people go to the bathroom with a child, to install glass doors at the front of the building so anyone who wanted to could see in. Parents were allowed to visit unannounced at any time to see what was going on. To make matters worse, Kee McFarlane, a consultant at Children’s Institute International, interviewed children at McMartin Preschool using anatomically correct dolls, leading questions, and rewards for answers that they had been molested. She testified that 384 McMartin students had been abused.
After two trials, no substantial evidence was found against the owner or staff at McMartin Preschool, including Ray Buckey. Five years had passed before Ray Buckey was allowed to leave prison, never having been charged with a crime. The government spent $15 million investigating and prosecuting the case over a seven-year period that involved two trials that led to no convictions. The fate of Ray Buckley foreshadowed what was going to happen to many fathers fighting for shared custody of their children.
What responsibility do journalists have to report the truth? As in the case of the McMartin Preschool, the media engaged in "pack journalism," slanting heavily toward the prosecution, which provided sensational headlines day after day and almost never seriously questioned the allegations. Today, we have a media that continues to focus on lurid and scary news involving children. Politicians can easily exploit parents’ fears about the safety of their children, implying that they are the law-and-order people who will protect their children. Mark Foley was quoted in the Washington Times in 2005 as saying, "We need to stand together and unite cities, communities, and states in the effort to stop the assault on America’s children." What assault? Mark Foley, who is now a disgraced congressman for his sexually inappropriate contact with high school pages, used this rhetoric for personal political gain. He was exploiting parents’ worst fears about the safety of their children. The problem with media reports of bad things that happen to children is one of proportion. Bad things do happen to children. The media can easily whip people’s emotions into a frenzy by exaggerating such events as happening more frequently than is the case. The mass hysteria unleashed by Judy Johnson in 1983 is still with us today.
The 1980s is a significant decade because of the colliding of joint custody laws and the hysteria of the McMartin Preschool trial. Fathers found that a mere allegation of being sexually inappropriate with a child was enough to have him kicked out of his home. Countless fathers became childless as they tried to prove what didn’t happen—what REALLY didn’t happen.
In 1983, at the beginning of the McMartin Preschool fiasco, there was a sharp rise in the number of reports of sexual molestation of children. Suddenly, people were hyper-vigilant about the issue. Elaborate tests were developed to determine whether a man had pedophilia tendencies and was likely to molest children. There is still a belief by many that children don’t lie about abuse. Kee McFarlane has been widely criticized for leading children to the conclusions that she wanted to hear, ultimately proving how suggestible children can be.
If a mother was driven to be vicious, the climate of hysteria about the sexual molestation of children became a powerful tool to gain her ends. All she had to do was say that she thought the father had molested their child. The tragedy of this kind of parentectomy continues today.
In 1985, Dr. Richard Gardner first introduced a phenomenon found in family law cases called parent alienation syndrome. He pointed out that PA/PAS is related to highly litigious court cases where there is a win/lose mentality. Ultimately, a desperate and obsessed parent could win in court by programming a child to despise the other parent, resulting in a parentectomy, and there was little that anyone could do about it. Dr. Gardner took on this difficulty, and he wrote volumes about how to understand the complexities of these highly volatile cases. He was first to identify the eight characteristics that PAS children display as a syndrome. He published extensively on how to identify false allegations of sexual molestation. He also wrote the book Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome to describe a protocol for deprogramming children. His contributions have been profound in helping us understand PA/PAS. He has written and testified extensively about false allegations of sexual abuse that had become common during this period. In this respect, he was a pioneer. Those of us who had the good fortune to know Dr. Gardner, to hear his lectures and read his books, are appreciative of his contributions. In addition to his groundbreaking insights about PA/PAS, he had a long and illustrious career as a psychiatrist specializing in children. (Richard Gardner, 2001)
Litigation over issues of parental alienation of children became common in family law courtrooms. Initially, mothers had more time with children and were the primary cause of PAS in children. A person who programs a child must have a lot of time with that child in order to be effective in the programming. As disturbed, narcissistic fathers gained more child custody, they proved to be just as capable of initiating PAS. Soon, PAS became a hot issue in gender wars, especially when women began losing legal custody of their children when a court ruled that they were guilty of alienating a child against the father.
PA/PAS has been a tragic issue that has polarized men and women. On one side, malicious mothers who often have legal precedent for primary child custody on their side take children away from good fathers by alienating them. On the other side are vicious fathers whose purpose is to take children away from good mothers. Women have claimed that men are predators on women and children. Men are livid that they have been so labeled and frequently accused of sexually molesting children. The frequency of false allegations of child molestation against fathers has had a backlash from fathers against mothers. Some mothers lost custody because the evidence showed that they were coaching their child to participate in inappropriate behaviors toward the father. These mothers are quick to respond that all a father has to do is say she is guilty of PA/PAS and he will get custody of the child whom she was only trying to protect. It is also claimed that fathers have been awarded primary legal custody when they have in fact been guilty of domestic violence or have molested a child. This has created another backlash of mothers wanting to get back at fathers. No matter who is doing the alienating, it is terribly wrong. It isn’t a gender issue, as both men and women are guilty of initiating PAS in children. It is a human rights issue.
We’ve already seen that parents who alienate can be an angry, difficult group of people. When they go through a trial and a judge issues a court order giving sole legal custody to the other parent and limiting physical access to a child, these parents are not likely to roll over and passively obey. This leads to chronic litigation, as no matter how convincing the evidence against them or what the judge’s decision, they do not let go of the idea that they are right.
Unfortunately, angry, disgruntled women who are in fact guilty of severe parental alienation have found a sympathetic ear in the domestic violence community. Domestic violence groups have been successful in making domestic violence a crime and thus reducing its frequency. In most states, it is against the law for men to hit women, nor can women hit men without the possibility of being arrested. Interestingly, it is still allowed that adults may hit children. Hitting children is also domestic violence, but unfortunately, we haven’t progressed that far in our consciousness.
In an article in Newsweek, journalist Sara Childress stated, "It is…hard to fathom how a judge could award custody to a parent accused of abuse." Fortunately, the logic and rules of evidence that are necessary to remove a child from a seriously psychologically disturbed parent are extensive. Judges don’t just wake up in a bad mood, disregard all evidence, and say, "Let me take a child away from a good mother." This makes for good drama, but not good logic. (Childress, Newsweek, October 2006)
The mendacity of non-thinking people creates a maelstrom of trouble in sorting out what is true. Too many members of the domestic violence community will assume that an accusation or allegation is true. Many do not understand the standard of evidence that is needed to turn an allegation into proof. The irony is that unthinking members of this community fan the flames of injustice and contribute to the most unspeakable kinds of violence against children, that of PA/PAS. No innocent father, or man such as Ray Buckley, should be recklessly accused of something he didn’t do. False allegations of sexual misconduct with children and the brainwashing of children where PA/PAS occurs are the worst kinds of domestic violence. The irony is that the very people who are against domestic violence contribute to it by denying the existence of PA/PAS.
Unfortunately, Richard Gardner has been relentlessly slandered, demonized, and dismissed as a pedophile by those who are threatened by his work and by others who have never read his articles and books and have not taken the time to realize that he was on the side of truth and justice in these complicated cases. This aggressive behavior on the part of so many has contributed to the mass hysteria that has done great damage to those parents and children who are impacted by PA/PAS.
There is no greater example of this hysteria than the denunciation of "so-called" parental alienation syndrome in the declaration by the National Organization of Women (NOW). See Appendix A. This declaration from NOW sums up the arguments against the very existence of PA/PAS. Of course, there is no mention of the unfairness of what happens to fathers, the need for a child to have a father, or the very real problem of PAS in children. There is no mention of the countless numbers of mothers who have been victimized by PA/PAS. The problem is not caused solely by one gender against another. It is caused by very disturbed people who have to get their way at all costs. Amazingly, the declaration claims that PA/PAS is non-existent! But anyone can use ordinary observation to find repeated examples of its existence.
Current debate over whether the child has experienced a "syndrome" has created a smokescreen that attempts to ignore the fact that children are, in fact, being manipulated and brainwashed into such states of confusion that their perception of events and people around them is severely distorted. It doesn’t matter what the tragedy is called; it is still a tragedy for children and the target parent.
This is an example of making simple that which is very complex with a maneuver of killing the messenger. Dr. Gardner’s contributions have been taken out of context and twisted to imply that he encouraged inappropriate sexual behavior. For example, he said that if a society has no social prohibition for molesting children sexually, then sexual molestation is common. This has been translated as saying it is okay to sexually molest children if no one says not to. The fabrications about Dr. Gardner are so extensive that it is an example of brainwashing in itself. He is the scapegoat for people who desperately need an enemy to blame. No group is more anti-Gardner than are the domestic violence community and the National Organization for Women.
PAS is the result of terrible domestic violence toward children and target parents. The irony is that those people whose stated purpose is to prevent domestic violence contribute to it by putting the whole body of Dr. Gardner’s work out for target practice, not for analysis. Those of us who appreciate and support Gardner’s contribution and understand that PA/PAS is serious violence to children and the target parent would never support awarding custody of a child to a pedophile or aggressor. The domestic violence community and those who want PA/PAS stopped should be rowing their respective boats in the same direction, instead of engaging in a bizarre tug-of-war characterized by the black-and-white thinking of who is right and who is wrong. Truth suffers. To take a child’s free will and mind away is violence from which they are likely never to recover.
The leadership in women’s groups has a responsibility to come to terms with the injustice of this slander of Gardner, and realize that their organization attracts disgruntled women who can easily find a sympathetic ear for how they were victimized by the father of their child and the court system. Just because someone has a dramatic story to tell doesn’t mean that they are telling the truth. The domestic violence leaders need to bring logic and reason to these issues.
Unfortunately, their efforts against any recognition of PA/PAS are relentless. They lobby for laws that would prevent PA/PAS from being used in family law court as a justification for modifying custody. They have successfully influenced the publishers of the 2006 edition ofNavigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide—a publication of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges--to include anti-PA/PAS information. To the undiscerning eye, information published in such a prestigious document must be true. This is most unfortunate and tragic for the families impacted by these issues. (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2006)
Both sides of the debate have stated that their mission is the same—to protect people from the excesses of violent, disturbed individuals. Unfortunately, much of the domestic violence community focuses only on violence perpetrated by men, rather than also including the violence perpetrated by women against fathers and children. Violence is wrong, no matter who is committing it. The result is that domestic violence has been turned into a gender issue, when the truth is that both men and women are capable of doing serious damage to their children and to each other.
It is unfortunate that too many people will believe a dramatic story more than they will listen to evidence. Drama is the hallmark of people who are psychologically disturbed. Individuals with these severe mental health issues are under-diagnosed. We need more research and clarity on the effects of PA/PAS. The costs are staggering to children, the target parent, and that person’s family. The damage is severe and has long-reaching effects.
The whole fabric of our society is undermined by the behaviors of these severely disturbed individuals. Both men and women with obsessed thinking create PA/PAS situations with children and their target parent. Their irresponsible behaviors siphon off a staggering amount of social resources to stabilize the chaos they create. Any protocol that we use for the regular population is woefully inadequate in making them normal. Every year, hundreds of thousands of children and parents are experiencing the phenomenon of PA/PAS and the resulting devastation it causes. Millions of people are ending up damaged because, up to now, we have not even recognized the phenomenon or truly considered its impact. We all need to take action to educate and help people who have this terrible problem that does such severe damage to children.
• Baker, Amy, R. L. Adult Children of Parental Alienation: Breaking the Ties that Bind. W.W. Norton, 2007.
• Darnall, Douglas. Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation. Taylor Trade Publishing, 1998.
• Lester, W. Gregory. Personality Disorders in Social Work and Health Care, Third Edition. Cross Country University, 2002.
• "Fighting Over the Kids: Battered spouses take aim at a controversial custody strategy." Newsweek, September 26, 2006.
• Linder, Douglas. "The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial: A Commentary 2003 Internet."
• Gardner, R. A. The Parental Alienation Syndrome, 2nd ed. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1998.
• Gardner, R. A. Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 2001.
• Williams, Frank. "Preventing Parentectomy Following Divorce," Keynote address, Fifth Annual Conference, National Council for Children’s Rights, Washington, D.C., Oct. 20, 1990.
• National Organization for Women, www.now.org.
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Navigating Custody and Visitation Evaluations in Cases with Domestic Violence: A Judge’s Guide. Reno, Nevada: 2006.
Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect It and What to Do About It by J. Michael Bone and Michael R. Walsh
Although parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a familiar term, there is still a great deal of confusion and unclarity about its nature, dimensions, and, therefore, its detection. (1) Its presence, however, is unmistakable. In a longitudinal study of 700 "high conflict" divorce cases followed over 12 years, it was concluded that elements of PAS are present in the vast majority of the samples. (2) Diagnosis of PAS is reserved for mental health professionals who come to the court in the form of expert witnesses. Diagnostic hallmarks usually are couched in clinical terms that remain vague and open to interpretation and, therefore. susceptible to argument pro and con by opposing experts. The phenomenon of one parent turning the child against the other parent is not a complicated concept, but historically it has been difficult to identify clearly. Consequently, cases involving PAS are heavily litigated, filled with accusations and counter accusations, and thus leave the court with an endless search for details that eventually evaporate into nothing other than rank hearsay. It is our experience that the PAS phenomenon leaves a trail that can be identified more effectively by removing the accusation hysteria, and looking ahead in another positive direction.
For the purpose of this article the authors are assuming a fair degree of familiarity with parental alienation syndrome on the part of the reader. (3) There are many good writings on PAS which the reader may wish to consult now or in the future for general information. Our focus here is much more narrow. Specifically, the goal is twofold. First we will describe four very specific criteria that can be used to identify potential PAS. In most instances, these criteria can be identified through the facts of the case, but also can be revealed by deposition or court testimony. Secondly, we wish to introduce the concept of "attempted" PAS; that is when the criteria of PAS are present, but the child is not successfully alienated from the absent parent. This phenomenon is still quite harmful and the fact of children not being alienated should not be viewed as neutral by the court.
Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood.
The criteria described below are fairly easy to identify separate and apart from the court file. When there is uncertainty about any of them, these criteria can be used to guide the attorney in the deposing of witnesses as well as in their examination in court.
Criteria I: Access and Contact Blocking
Criteria I involves the active blocking of access or contact between the child and the absent parent. The rationale used to justify it may well take many different forms. One of the most common is that of protection. It may be argued that the absent parent's parental judgment is inferior and, therefore, the child is much worse off from the visit. In extreme cases, this will take the form of allegations of child abuse, quite often sexual abuse. This will be addressed in more detail in Criteria II, but suffice it to say that often this is heard as a reason for visitation to be suspended or even terminated. On a more subtle and common level, an argument heard for the blocking of visitation is that seeing the absent parent is "unsettling" to the child, and that they need time "to adjust." The message here is that the absent parent is treated less like a key family member and more like an annoying acquaintance that the child must see at times. Over time, this pattern can have a seriously erosive effect on the child's relationship with the absent parent. An even more subtle expression of this is that the visitation is "inconvenient," thereby relegating it to the status of an errand or chore. Again the result is the erosion of the relationship between the child and the absent or "target" parent. One phenomenon often seen in this context is that any deviation from the schedule is used as a reason to cancel visitation entirely.
The common thread to all of these tactics is that one parent is superior and the other is not and, therefore, should be peripheral to the child's life. The alienating parent in these circumstances is acting inappropriately as a gatekeeper for the child to see the absent parent. When this occurs for periods of substantial time, the child is given the unspoken but clear message that one parent is senior to the other. Younger children are more vulnerable to this message and tend to take it uncritically; however, one can always detect elements of it echoed even into the teenage years. The important concept here is that each parent is given the responsibility to promote a positive relationship with the other parent. When this principle is violated in the context of blocking access on a consistent basis, one can assume that Criteria I has been, unmistakably identified.
Criteria II: Unfounded Abuse Allegations
The second criteria is related to false or unfounded accusations of abuse against the absent parent. The most strident expression of this is the false accusation of sexual abuse.(4) It has been well studied that the incident of false allegations of sexual abuse account for over half of those reported, when the parents are divorcing or are in conflict over some post dissolution issue.(5) This is especially the situation with small children who are more vulnerable to the manipulations implied by such false allegations. When the record shows that even one report of such abuse is ruled as unfounded, the interviewer is well advised to look for other expressions of false accusations.
Other examples of this might be found in allegations of physical abuse that investigators later rule as being unfounded. Interestingly our experience has been that there are fewer false allegations of physical abuse than of other forms of abuse, presumably because physical abuse leaves visible evidence. It is, of course, much easier to falsely accuse someone of something that leaves no physical sign and has no third party witnesses.
A much more common expression of this pattern would be that of what would be termed emotional abuse. When false allegations of emotional abuse are leveled, one often finds that what is present is actually differing parental judgment that is being framed as "abusive" by the absent parent. For example, one parent may let a child stay up later at night than the other parent would, and this scheduling might be termed as being "abusive" or "detrimental" to the child. Or one parent might introduce a new "significant other" to the child before the other parent believes that they should and this might also be called "abusive" to the child. Alternatively one parent might enroll a child in an activity with which the other parent disagrees and this activity is, in actuality, a difference of parental opinion that is now described as being abusive in nature. These examples, as trivial as they seem individually, may be suggestive of a theme of treating parental difference in inappropriately subjective judgmental terms. If this theme is present, all manner of things can be described in ways that convey the message of abuse, either directly or indirectly. When this phenomenon occurs in literally thousands of different ways and times, each of which seems insignificant on its own, the emotional atmosphere that it creates carries a clearly alienating effect on the child.
Obviously, this type of acrimony is very common in dissolution actions but such conflict should not necessarily be mistaken or be taken as illustrative of the PAS syndrome; however, the criteria is clearly present and identifiable when the parent is eager to hurl abuse allegations, rather than being cautious, careful. and even reluctant to do so. This latter stance is more in keeping with the parent's responsibility to encourage and affirmatively support a relationship with the other parent. The responsible parent will only allege abuse after he or she has tried and failed to rationalize why the issue at hand is not abusive. Simply put, the responsible parent will give the other parent the benefit of the doubt when such allegations arise. He or she will, if anything, err on the side of denial, whereas the alienating parent will not miss an opportunity to accuse the other parent. When this theme is present in a clear and consistent way, this criteria for PAS is met.
Criteria III: Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation
The third of the criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is probably the least described or identified, but critically is one of the most important. It has to do with the existence of a positive relationship between the minor children and the now absent or nonresidential parent, prior to the marital separation; and a substantial deterioration, of it since then. Such a recognized decline does not occur on its own. It is, therefore, one of the most important indicators of the presence of alienation as well. as a full measure of its relative "success." By way of example, if a father had a good and involved relationship with the children prior to the separation, and a very distant one since, then one can only assume without explicit proof to the contrary that something caused it to change. If this father is clearly trying to maintain a positive relationship with the children through observance of visitation and other activities and the children do not want to see him or have him involved in their lives, then one can only speculate that an alienation process may have been in operation. Children do not naturally lose interest in and become distant from their nonresidential parent simply by virtue of the absence of that parent. Also, healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally of their own accord. They must be attacked. Therefore, any dramatic change in this area is virtually always an indicator of an alienation process that has had some success in the past.
Most notably, if a careful evaluation of the pre-separation parental relationship is not made, its omission creates an impression that the troubled or even alienated status that exists since is more or lees an accurate summary of what existed previously. Note that nothing could be further from the truth! An alienated or even partially or intermittently alienated relationship with the nonresidential parent and the children after the separation is more accurately a distortion of the real parental relationship in question. Its follow-through is often overlooked in the hysterical atmosphere that is often present in these cases. A careful practitioner well knows that a close examination is warranted and that it must be conducted with the utmost detail and scrutiny.
If this piece of the puzzle is left out, the consequences can be quite devastating for the survival of this relationship. Also, without this component, the court can be easily swayed into premature closure or fooled into thinking that the turmoil of the separation environment is representative of the true parent-child relationship. Once this ruling is made by the court, it is an exacting challenge to correct its perception.
In a separate but related issue, a word should be said about the use of experts. First, it must be understood that all mental health professionals are not aware of nor know how to treat the PAS phenomenon. In fact, when a mental health professional unfamiliar with PAS is called upon to make a recommendation about custody, access, or related issues, he or she potentially can do more harm than good. For example, if the psychologist fails to investigate the pre-separation relationship of the nonresidential parent and the children, he or she may very easily mistake the current acrimony in that relationship to be representative of it, and recommend that the children should have less visitation with that parent, obviously supporting the undiagnosed PAS that is still in progress. If that expert also fails to evaluate critically the abuse claims or the agenda of the claimant, they may be taken at face value and again potentially support the undiagnosed PAS. If that professional is not also sensitive to the subtleties of access and contact blocking as its motivator, he or she may potentially support it, thereby contributing to the PAS process. When these things occur, the mental health professional expert has actually become part of the PAS, albeit unwittingly. Alarmingly, this happens often. Suffice it to say, if PAS is suspected, the attorney should closely and carefully evaluate the mental health professional's investigation and conclusion. Failure to do so can cause irreparable harm to the case, and, ultimately to the children.
Criteria IV: Intense Fear Reaction by Children
The fourth criteria necessary for the detection of PAS is admittedly more psychological than the first three. It refers to an obvious fear reaction on the part of the children, of displeasing or disagreeing with the potentially alienating parent in regard to the absent or potential target parent. Simply put, an alienating parent operates by the adage, "My way or the highway." If the children disobey this directive, especially in expressing positive approval of the absent parent, the consequences can be very serious. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to reject the child(ren), often telling him or her that they should go live with the target parent. When this does occur one often sees that this threat is not carried out, yet it operates more as a message of constant warning. The child, in effect, is put into a position of being the alienating parent's "agent'' and is continually being put through various loyalty tests. The important issue here is that the alienating patent thus forces the child to choose parents. This, of course, is in direct opposition to a child's emotional well being.
In order to fully appreciate this scenario, one must realize that the PAS process operates in a "fear based" environment. It is the installation of fear by the alienating parent to the minor children that is the fuel by which this pattern is driven; this fear taps into what psychoanalysis tell us is the most basic emotion inherent in human nature--the fear of abandonment. Children under these conditions live in a state of chronic upset and threat of reprisal. When the child does dare to defy the alienating parent, they quickly learn that there is a serious price to pay. Consequently, children who live such lives develop an acute sense of vigilance over displeasing the alienating parent. The sensitized observer can see this in visitation plans that suddenly change for no apparent reason. For example, when the appointed time approaches, the child suddenly changes his or her tune and begins to loudly protest a visit that was not previously complained about. It is in these instances that a court, once suspecting PAS must enforce in strict terms the visitation schedule which otherwise would not have occurred or would have been ignored.
The alienating parent can most often be found posturing bewilderment regarding the sudden change in their child's feelings about the visit. In fact, the alienating parent often will appear to be the one supporting visitation. This scenario is a very common one in PAS families. It is standard because it encapsulates and exposes, if only for an instant, the fear-based core of the alienation process. Another way to express this concept would be that whenever the child is given any significant choice in the visitation, he or she is put in the position to act out a loyalty to the alienating parent's wishes by refusing to have the visitation at all with the absent parent. Failure to do so opens the door for that child's being abandoned by the parent with whom the child lives the vast majority of the time. Children, under these circumstances, will simply not opt on their own far a free choice. The court must thus act expeditiously to protect them and employ a host of specific and available remedies.(6)
As a consequence of the foregoing, these children learn to manipulate. Children often play one parent against the other in an effort to gain some advantage. In the case of PAS, the same dynamic operates at more desperate level. No longer manipulating to gain advantage, these children learn to manipulate just to survive. They become expert beyond their years at reading the emotional environment, telling partial truths, and then telling out-and-out lies. One must, however, remember that these are survival strategies that they were forced to learn in order to keep peace at home and avoid emotional attack by the residential parent. Given this understanding, it is perhaps easier to see why children, in an effort to cope with this situation, often find it easier if they begin to internalize the alienating parent's perceptions of the absent parent and begin to echo these feelings. This is one of the most compelling and dramatic effects of PAS, that is, hearing a child vilifying the absent parent and joining the alienating parent in such attacks. If one is not sensitive to the "fear-based" core at the heart of this, it is difficult not to take the child's protests at face value. This, of course, is compounded when the expert is also not sensitive to this powerful fear component, and believes that the child is voicing his or her own inner feelings in endorsing the "no visitation" plan.
All the criteria listed above can be found independent of each other in highly contested dissolutions, but remember that the appearance of some of them does not always constitute PAS. When all four are clearly present, however, add the possibility of real abuse has been reasonably ruled out, the parental alienation process is operative. This does not necessarily mean, however, that it is succeeding in that the children are being successfully alienated from the target parent. The best predictor of successful alienation is directly related to the success of the alienating parent at keeping the children from the target parent. When there are substantial periods in which they do not see the other parent, the children are more likely to be poisoned by the process. Another variable that predicts success is the child's age. Younger children generally are more vulnerable than older ones. Also, another variable is the depth and degree of involvement of the pre-separation parent-child relationship. The longer and more involved that relationship, the less vulnerable will be the children to successful alienation. The final predictor is the parental tenacity of the target parent. A targeted parent often gives up and walks away, thus greatly increasing the chances of successful alienation.
The question remains: What if all four criteria are present, but the children are not successfully alienated? Should this failure at alienation be seen as nullifying the attempt at alienation? The answer to that should be a resounding "No!" It should be, but often it is not. It is very common to read a psychological evaluation or a GAL's report that identified PAS but then notes that since it was not successful, it should not be taken very seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood, which is to promote and encourage a positive and loving relationship with the other parent, and the concept of shared parental responsibility.
It is our feeling that when attempted PAS has been identified, successful or not, it must be dealt with swiftly by the court. If it is not, it will contaminate and quietly control all other parenting issues and then lead only to unhappiness, frustration, and, lastly, parental estrangement.
1 PAS syndrome applies and relates equally to the nonresidential, as well as the residential parent. D.C. Rand, The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome. 15 Am. J. Forensic Psychol. No. 3 (1997).
2 S.S. Clawar and B.V. Rivlin, Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children, A.B.A. (1991).
3 M. Walsh and J.M. Bone. Parental Alienation Syndrome: An Age-Old Custody Problem, 71 Fla. B.J. 93 (June 1997).
4 N. Theonnee and P.G. Tjaden, The Extent, Nature and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody Visitation Disputes, 12 Child Abuse and Neglect 151-63 (1990).
5 National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Washington, D.C.: Department of Health and Human Services, 2998, Contract 105-85-1702.
6 The appointment of a guardian ad litem, the appointment of an expert to conduct a psychological evaluation of the child and the parents, the employment of make-up or substitute access and contact, or an enlargement of same to the nonresidential parent, and as previously suggested by the authors in their last article, a consideration for entry of a multidirectional order. Walsh and Bone, supra note .3
J. Michael Bone, Ph.D., is a sole practice psychotherapist and certified family law mediator in Maitland. He concentrates in divorce and post-divorce issues involving minor children, and has a special interest in PAS. He has served as on expert witness on these and related topics and has been appointed by the court to make recommendations involving PAS and families.
Michael R. Walsh is a sole practitioner in Orlando. He is a board certified marital and family law lawyer, certified mediator and arbitrator, and a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. For more than 20 years, he has been a frequent lecturer and author for The Florida Bar.
This column is submitted on behalf of the Family Law Section, Jane L. Estreicher, chair, and Sharon O. Taylor, editor.
Qué es una rabieta: Cuando nacemos, el principal plan que tiene la naturaleza con nosotros es que podamos sobrevivir. Para ello nos "apega" con las personas que nos cuidan, ya que está comprobado que teniendo a un cuidador cerca vivimos más (recordad que somos una especie muy incompletita cuando nacemos). Por eso es tan importante que los bebés nos reclamen cuando no estamos cerca y por ello es tan importante que nosotros intentemos satisfacer sus necesidades más importantes (alimento, sueño, higiene, contacto.), solo así se crea un apego seguro entre el niño y sus padres: el niño se da cuenta que tiene personas que le quieren y que le van a cuidar pase lo que pase, y por eso será un niño feliz.
Es importante durante los primeros años de la vida de un niño dejarle bien clarito que "siempre" estaremos con él, que "siempre" le querremos y le cuidaremos, aunque a veces no nos guste "exactamente" lo que hace. Eso es la base de una personalidad segura, independiente y con una autoestima capaz de soportar altibajos y adversidades. Alrededor de los dos años (puede variar según el niño) la supervivencia del niño está ya más garantizada (se desplaza solo, puede comer casi de todo y con sus propias manos, es autónomo en sus actos más vitales ..) y la naturaleza (¡qué sabia que es!) tiene otro plan para nosotros: si al principio era "apegarnos" para sobrevivir, ahora nos prepara para la independencia (pensad que sin independencia no crearíamos una familia propia, y eso es básico para el plan reproductor de la naturaleza). La independencia y autonomía es un largo camino que se va adquiriendo con la edad y a estas edades empezamos de una forma muy rudimentaria. ¿Cómo hace el niño para manifestar su independencia? Pues dada su edad es una estrategia muy simple: consiste solamente en negar al otro. Su palabra más utilizada es el "no" y es fácil de entender porque, negando al otro, empieza a expresar lo que él "no es" porque aún no sabe realmente lo que "es".Intento explicarme mejor: ¿Cómo se yo (niño) que soy otro y puedo hacer cosas diferentes a mis padres? ¡Pues llevándoles la contraria! Puede que aún no tenga claro lo que voy a ser pero así sé lo que no soy: yo no soy mis padres, por lo tanto ¡soy otro!
El único problema para los niños, es que les conlleva un conflicto emocional importante porque como los padres no entienden lo que pasa y normalmente se enfadan con ellos, los niños notan que se están enfrentando a los seres que más quieren y eso les provoca una ambivalencia de sentimientos. Eso, nada y más y nada menos son las famosas rabietas: una lucha interior entre lo que debo hacer por naturaleza y una incomprensión de mis padres hacia tales actos que me provocan unos sentimientos ambivalentes y negativos. Esa ofuscación entre querer una cosa, no entender lo que pasa y el rechazo paterno, es la fuente de la mayoría de las rabietas. Por eso lo mejor es dejarle claro que haga lo que haga siempre le queremos y le comprendemos, aunque a veces no estemos de acuerdo. Muchos padres viven esta etapa con mucha ansiedad porque piensan que es una forma que tienen sus hijos de rebeldía, tomarles el pelo y desobediencia. Nada más lejos. En estas conductas del niño no hay ningún sentido de "ponernos aprueba" ni hay ningún juego de poder entre medio (bueno a veces los padres sí que se lo toman como tal, pero el niño nunca pretende "desafiar" al adulto, solo hacer cosas diferentes a sus padres). Si el niño lleva la contraria a sus padres es para comunicarles algo muy importante: "¿lo ves?, me hago mayor. ¡Yo no soy tú! Puedo querer, desear y hacer cosas que tu no quieres".
¿Qué hacemos ante una rabieta? La mejor manera de superar las rabietas la resumo en cinco puntos
1- Comprendiendo que el niño no pretende tomarnos el pelo. Esta simple convicción hará que seamos más flexibles con ellos (y por lo tanto se evitan muchos conflictos). Solamente pretende mostrarnos su identidad diferenciada.
2- Dejando que pueda hacer aquello que quiere. "¿Y si es peligroso o nocivo?" -me preguntareis-. Evidentemente lo primero es salvaguardar la vida humana, pero los niños raramente piden cosas nocivas, ¿saben lo más peligroso que me pidieron mis hijos cuando eran pequeños? ¡Ir sin atar en la sillita del coche!. Evidentemente les dije que no, y no arrancamos hasta que estuvieron convencidos, pero no me han pedido nunca nada tan peligroso. Bueno, una vez mi hijo mayor cogió una pequeña rabieta porque quería un cuchillo "jamonero", pero la culpa era más mía por dejar a su vista (y alcance) un cuchillo de tales dimensiones, que él por pedirlo. ¿No? El hecho de que quieran llevar una ropa diferente a la que nosotros queremos puede que atente contra el buen gusto, pero raramente atentará contra la vida humana. Lo mismo pasa con alguna golosina o con otras cosas. Si usted es un padre que vigila que el entorno de su hijo sea seguro, es difícil que pueda pedir o tocar algo nocivo para él. El hecho de el niño pueda experimentar el resultado de sus acciones sin notar el rechazo paterno hará que no se sienta mal ni ambivalente (y, de paso, evitamos la rabieta).
3- Evitando tentaciones. Los comerciantes saben perfectamente que los niños piden cosas que les gustan (por eso en los grandes supermercados suelen poner chucherías en las líneas de caja) ¿Acaso pensaba que el suyo es el único niño que montaba en cólera por una chuchería? Si su hijo es de los que pide juguetes cuando los ve expuestos o chucherías si las tiene delante ¿Qué espera?. Intente evitar esos momentos (no se lo lleve de compras a una juguetería o intente buscar una caja donde hacer cola que no tenga expositor de juguetes ni dulces) o pacte con él una solución ("Cariño vamos al super. Mamá no puede estar comprando cada día chuches porque no son buenas para tu barriguita, así que solo elegiremos una cosita"). Si los mayores nos rendimos muchas veces a una tentación (el que esté libre de pecado que tire la primera piedra) ¿Por qué pensamos que un niño puede contenerse más que nosotros?
4- Podemos expresar nuestra disconformidad, pero no atacamos la personalidad del niño o valoramos negativamente su conducta. Es decir, mi hijo no es más bueno o malo porque ha hecho una cosa bien o no. Mi hijo siempre es bueno, aunque a veces yo no le entienda o no me guste lo que ha hecho. En este sentido vean este diálogo: Mamá: Cariño ha venido tía Marta. Ve a darle un beso. Niño: No quiero, mamá: ¿Cómo que no quieres? Esto está mal. ¡Eres un niño malo! Tía Marta te quiere mucho y tú no la quieres. Mamá no te querrá tampoco. A partir de aquí puede haber dos opciones o el niño monta una pataleta del tipo: ¡eres tonta y tía Marta también! Y ya la tenemos liada. O bien, ante la idea de perder el amor de su madre, va y le da un beso a tía Marta, a lo que su madre responde: "¡Que bien! Así me gusta ¡Qué bueno eres!" con lo que el niño aprende que es bueno cuando no se porta como él siente y que solo obra bien cuando hace lo único que quiere su madre. Es decir: se nos quiere cuando disfrazamos nuestros sentimientos. Ninguna de las dos soluciones es correcta porque en ningún momento hemos evitado atacar la personalidad del niño (eres malo) y hemos valorado su conducta (esto esta mal o esto está bien). Si en lugar de ello hubiéramos entendido sus emociones, a pesar de mostrar nuestra disconformidad, el resultado podría haber sido: Mamá: cariño ha venido tía Marta. Ve a darle un beso. Niño: No quiero. Mamá: Vaya, parece que no te apetece dar un beso a la tía marta. (Reconocemos sus sentimientos) Niño: sí. Mamá: Cuando las personas van de visita a casa de otra se les da un beso de bienvenida, aunque en ese momento no se tengan muchas ganas ¿lo sabías? Niño: No. (Y si dice que sí, es lo mismo). Mamá: ¿vamos pues a darle un beso de bienvenida a tía Marta?
Normalmente a estas alturas el niño (que ha visto que le han entendido y que no le han valorado negativamente) suele contestar que sí. En el hipotético caso de que siga con su negativa podemos mostrar nuestra disconformidad: Mamá: El hecho de que no se lo des me disgusta, porque en esta casa intentamos que la gente se sienta bien. ¿Qué podemos hacer para que tía Marta se sienta bien sin tu beso? (a lo mejor tía Marta es una barbuda de mucho cuidado y a su hijo no le apetece darle un beso, pero eso no implica que quiera que se sienta ofendida). Niño: le diré hola y le tiro un beso. Mamá: Me parece que has encontrado una solución que nos va a gustar a todos. ¡Vamos!
5- Las rabietas se pasan con la edad. Es decir, llega un día en que el niño adquiere un lenguaje que le permite explicarse mejor que a través del llanto y las pataletas. También llega un día en que sabe lo que "es" y "quiere" y lo pide sin llevar la contraria a nadie. Llega un momento en que, si no hemos impedido sus manifestaciones autónomas y de autoafirmación, tenemos un hijo autónomo, que sabe pedir adecuadamente lo que quiere porque ha aprendido que nunca le hace falta pedirlo mal si su petición es razonable. ¿Cómo hacer que llegue antes este momento en que finalizan las rabietas? Por una parte hemos de procurar que en la etapa anterior (la del apego que explicábamos al principio) el niño esté correctamente apegado: un niño inseguro tardará más en pasar esta etapa de independencia. Así que si quiere que su hijo sea autónomo, mímele todo lo que pueda cuando sea pequeño. Para adquirir la independencia se necesita seguridad y la seguridad se adquiere con un buen apego. Una vez haya llegado a la etapa de las rabietas, hemos de intentar que se solucionen cuanto antes. Nada de esto se dará si coartamos su deseo de separarse de nosotros, ya que lo único que se obtiene "intentando" que no se salga con la suya es un niño sumiso o rebelde (depende del tipo y grado de disciplina o autoridad empleada). Normalmente si les "ignoramos" suelen volverse más sumisos y dependientes (otro día os explico los mecanismos psicológicos de ignorar conductas), aunque lo que vemos es un niño que se doblega y "parece" que mejore en sus rabietas. Pero la causa que provoca esa rabieta sigue en él y se manifestará de otra forma (ahora o en la adolescencia). Sé que es difícil acordarse de todo ante una rabieta infantil. Sé que es difícil razonar cuando estamos a punto de perder la razón. Sé que es difícil, y por eso, ante la duda de no saber como actuar, intente querer a su hijo al máximo porque él lo estará necesitando, ya que las rabietas también hacen sentirse mal a los niños.
Quiéreme cuando menos me lo merezca porque será cuando más lo necesite" o lo que es lo mismo: "intenta ponerte en mi lugar porque yo también lo estoy pasando mal".
El Guerau està en ple procés d'autoafirmació. Sap què vol i ho defensa amb totes les eines que té.
Evidentment no li porto la contrària de manera arbitrària, però hi ha moments en que els seus desitjos i els meus xoquen de manera frontal, per exemple quan vol entrar a algún lloc perillós o vol sortir al pati i jugar amb l'aigua a les 11 de la nit, quan li he de canviar el bolquer i ell no vol, quan li retiro quelcom...
Jo abans sempre que plorava intentava distreure'l o donar-li pit per tal que es calmés. I atzarosament va arribar a les meves mans un llibre de l'Aletha Solter que parla sobre la importància del plor.
Ella explica que cal respectar també el plor dels nens i donar-los un espai segur perquè puguin fer-ho. I demostra com la necessitat de plor dels nens és una necessitat autèntica que si no queda satisfeta els nens i nenes busquen satisfer plorant per motius de poca embergadura. Parla d'un fenòmen que es dóna molt en els nens i que ella anomena "la galleta rota", que és quan els nens i nenes estallen en plor per una cosa intrascendent. Ella creu que és la manera que han trobat d'alliberar les tensions viscudes durant el dia. Moltes de les coses que explica em van semblar interessants i vaig decidir provar-ho.
Aixi doncs, el primer cop (després d'haver llegit el llibre) que el Guerau va caure vaig agafar-lo i abraçar-lo (sense donar-li el pit, que és el que feia normalment) mentre li anava dient coses com ara "t'has degut espantar"; "et deu fer mal", "quan ens mal a vegades plorem", "pots plorar el que vulguis, que jo estic aquí amb tu"... i la veritat és que va plorar força estona. Per mi no va ser fàcil, doncs sabia que amb el pit el plor pararia. Després de plorar, va voler baixar de la meva falda i va seguir jugant com si res no hagués passat, feliç i content. I així ho hem anat fent sempre.
Dilluns passat vam tenir un episodi de frustració (jo no el deixava entrar a un lloc) i el tema del plor va ser espectacular. Potser ens hi vam passar quasi una hora. Parava i tornava a començar al cap de no res. Crec que al final ja no sabia ni perquè plorava. I al cap d'aquesta estona, quan en va tenir prou, va baixar de la meva falda i va anar a jugar com si res. I des d'aleshores els plors són breus, cau i plora 5 minuts i ja en té prou. I ara quasi sempre plora per coses d'importància (mal, frustració, son...).
Tinc la sensació que hem fet net. No se sap mai, però diria que ha satisfet la necessitat de plorar que tenia acumulada. I haver fet net ara que veig que entrem en ple procés de "rabietes" em deixa bastant tranquila!
Estic molt contenta d'haver descobert la Solter perquè a casa ens ha anat molt bé no distreure al Guerau mentre plora i donar un espai a la tristesa, al dolor, a la frustració...
La contrapartida a tot això és que no fa tant pit. M'hi noto molt quan li surten els queixals perquè aleshores s'hi està tot el dia, però si no, el pit l'agafa quasi només per mamar i a la nit.
I aquí estem, jo que em pensava que encara em faltava temps per arribar a l'època de les rabietes! Em consola saber que són necessàries i saludables, que són reaccions que encaminen cap a la independència i defensa de les pròpies idees, però costa acceptar tants NO del Guerau! De moment anem fent equilibris entre les seves idees i les nostres. I quan ens hem d'imposar nosaltres ja sabem que ens toca sessió de plor! Jo normalment me l'assec a la falda o m'assec al seu costat i l'abraço. El miro, li dic que entenc que estigui enfadat (o frustrat o enrabiat o disgustat) i m'estic amb ell fins que es calma.
I vosaltres, com ho feu?
Susana Martín / ICAL . Yoana Martín Sánchez, responsable del piso del Proyecto Acompaña en Salamanca junto a Mamadou, uno de los beneficiari...
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