Parental Alienation Syndrome

Today’s (Saturday, 10/2/2010) Honolulu Star-Bulletin (p. A5) announces a major con­fer­ence on parental alien­ation syn­drome (PAS), being held this week­end in NYC (www.cspas.ca). As you may be aware there is an effort under­way to place PAS into the DSM-V.  There are no cases that a foren­sic psy­chol­o­gist is likely to encounter, even grisly homi­cides, that are uglier and more dif­fi­cult than PAS cases. The debate is incred­i­bly polit­i­cal. The cases pose seri­ous risk of lia­bil­ity to men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als who are patic­i­pants. The Family Court has a hard enough time man­ag­ing ordi­nary high con­flict cases, but PAS typ­i­cally over­whelms the system’s capac­ity. BTW, the best update on PAS can be found in  the  January 2010, Family Court Review, a spe­cial vol­ume ded­i­cated to alien­ated chil­dren.  After a decade in which Richard Gardner’s PAS con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion has been derided and lam­pooned, his work is clearly being reha­bil­i­tated, though con­cep­tu­al­iza­tions have become more sub­tle. The work of Janet Johnston remains peer­less. Of great inter­est is emerg­ing long-term fol­lowup of data on alien­ated chil­dren (Outcomes of Family Counseling Intervention with Children Who Resist Visitation: An Addendum to Friedlander and Walters (2010)).

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