Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) - UK
Whilst PAS is not recognized by the UK
State Authorities there is evidence of research in the matter
so why does not Margaret Hodge and Wall state PAS is a misnomer??
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)
PAS has been practised for as long as
marital or relationship conflicts have occurred. It is the
conscious action of one parent turning against another to
oust the other parent from the affection, love and respect
or regard of their children. It works more effectively when
used against younger, passive children and less so with older,
more assertive children. It is unlikely to occur in a stable,
harmonious relationship between parents who encourage the
children to regard the other parent similarly, and work together
to bring up their children appropriately with socialized standards
of behaviour. Where marital disharmony does occur PAS is not
necessarily a consequence, as many parents consider their
parental role as of the greatest importance. They will encourage
the former partner to participate in guiding and caring for
their children, and afford them equal importance in the upbringing.
Such parents engender the important principle that whilst
parents may not be able to love one another it does not mean
that their love for their children is any the less. Sometimes
the parted couples can even establish a friendly relationship
towards one another which is desirable for their children.
To achieve this some parents need guidance from an outside
professional. In this way, despite the marital split, parenting
Depriving a former partner of positive contact
with his children is a powerful weapon. Some alienators go
so far as to accuse the former partner, often unjustly, of
physically, emotionally and even sexually abusing the child
or children merely to get their own way. This results in the
involvement of social workers, the police and leads to the
humiliation of the alienated parent, often unjustly. Under
these circumstances, most alienated partners often give up
the fight to seek contact with their child. The alienating
parent will often use this against him by informing the child:
"You see how little he cares for you"; "Wasn't
I right about him?" The child will more often than not
fail to understand the lack of logic of what takes place and
support the mother's position since she is present most of
the time and has usually been the main carer. Sometimes a
new partnership has emerged. It is then the object of the
alienator to promote the affection and closeness of the children
with the new partner and to forget the role of the alienated
parent, usually the father.
In the very rare instances there occurs poor parenting by
partner or even criminal activities such as paedophilia. Such
parents should be removed from the parenting role at least
until they have been treated for their problems.
More then 75 per cent of mothers practise PAS,
as against 25 per cent of men who alienate. Partly this is
due to the view, despite the changes in social and cultural
norms, that the mother is the centre of family life. Hence
an alienating mother feels she has the greater input and responsibility
in caring for the child than the father. Mothers who are on
their own feel it is only right that they should have the
main or only right to make decisions concerning their children.
They will, therefore, use any weapon, fair or foul, to make
certain that they have the ultimate power over their children.
Among the weapons used are accusations by the mother that
the father is unfit to care for or even spend any time with
the child. This may be due to allegations of sexual misconduct,
alcohol or drug misuse, immorality or poor mental state or
lifestyle or possibly criminal involvement. Due to the closeness
of the mothers and children, the children will often believe
the worse of the other parent.
Such mothers alienate themselves from the real
needs of the child in order to maintain their total contact
and to eliminate the contact and relationship with the other
parent. When litigation is threatened, the alienating parent
becomes even keener in her determination to have complete
control. She will say to the child: "See what your father
is doing now? He is trying to have me imprisoned". This
turns the child against the father even more as he sees the
mother as the "victim". Hence, she has involved
and continues to involve the child in her battle with the
father and the process of programming and brainwashing the
child until the child sees matters as the programmer sees
them and turns against the father. The child's behaviour,
therefore, becomes increasingly more difficult when the father
is present and the child may even refuse to go with him. Sometimes
in-laws, allied to one or the other, may influence matters
further. Hence the child uses the same hostility and acts
accordingly. The mother in turn is deeply gratified to have
achieved her objective and may even disclaim that she is doing
anything to influence the child and may state that she is
actively encouraging the child to cooperate. The result is
that the child will behave in an inimical, unfriendly and
hostile way towards the alienated person, usually the father.
In this situation, the mother may well believe her own lies.
Some mothers overindulge their children in order to provide
their children with the view that "mother offers them
most". This is combined with persistent denigration of
the other parent.
It is of interest to note that many parents
who seek to programme their children in the above way have
often been subjected to the same treatment themselves. They
are, therefore, very familiar with the techniques that can
be used effectively. They are perpetuating a vicious and destructive
pattern to the next generation.
Fear is sometimes induced in the child towards
the alienated parent. This is ultimately often translated
into attacking and humiliating them. Fear induction is especially
likely to be successful with younger children. Eventually
such children consider the alienated parent to be "bad",
"inadequate" and of little value to them. Such parents
eventually are forced to play a peripheral role or no role
at all, except as financial providers. When mother's economic
position is greater than father's, for instance, there is
a desire to eliminate father even from the role of provider.
Some fathers become so desperate as to contemplate suicide
or use alcohol or drugs as a means of escape. This merely
verifies the picture which mothers frequently inculcate in
their children - that their father is an alcoholic or drug
addict. Some children, seeing the once stable parents embroiled
in this kind of warfare, turn against both parents and become
depressed, underachieve at school or turn to delinquency.
Only later in life do children sometimes become
aware of the wrong which has been done and the way they have
been used as "pawns" and programmed against all
the opposing "reality". Then the antagonism of the
maturing adult turns against the alienating parent, as they
grow up and become aware through maturity and learning to
think for themselves that the alienated parent has suffered
a great injustice at the hands of the alienator and themselves.
As a consequence they feel a sense of desperate guilt, which
can become a helpless kind of regret this has no way of being
assuaged if the parent has died or has vanished.
Parents who use PAS often see themselves as
"victims" and like to think their children see them
as "victims". They tend to seek revenge and will
encourage the children to believe chat the other parent is
at fault, by claiming that "she", the victim and
programmer, has been cruelly and unjustly treated. They will
also assuage and engender the view that their former partner
suffers from a number of moral and personal problems. Slanderous
or exaggerated statements are made constantly to the child
about the alienated parent. Alienating parents will over-state
or even create vices such as: "He's an alcoholic, drug
taker, womaniser, has no sense of responsibility, drives dangerously,
etc." All such statements and many more, are repeated
to the child continually.
Of all such statements the most damaging to
the alienated parent is that of sexual or physical abuse,
when there are no justifiable reasons for such allegations
being made. The repercussions can be that the alienated parent
can be judged guilty by allegations alone, and often has to
undergo a painful investigation and suspicion to disprove
such allegations. However, where this is substantiated by
a court there should be no question of removal of access to
the child in question until treatment has been undergone and
it is felt safe by all involved for contact to continue.
Intervention in the form of therapy is usually
necessary in order to counteract false allegations. Such help
will be met with a mixture of hope by the alienated parent
and often resentment, and lack of co-operation by the alienator
and often by the alienated child. The alienator will use or
promote anything which will achieve their objective of hurting,
denigrating and if possible eliminating the alienated parent's
control or contact with the child.
Other ways of carrying out the process of alienation
via programming and thereby brainwashing children can be seen
a. Observing the behaviour and listening to
the statements of children towards the alienated party.
b. By noting the control the alienating parent seeks and obtains
in order to eliminate the alienated parent.
c. By noting the marital disharmony as well as the acrimony
when the parents separated subsequently.
d. By noting the contradictory statements and behaviour demonstrated
by the programmed child when interviewed.
e. By taking note of the character assaults which the alienating
parent makes which are often not verifiable: eg, that the
former partner is immoral, lacks parenting skills, drinks
heavily, uses drugs, is emotionally unstable or unreliable
or is dishonest, etc.
f. By noting the unchildlike statements made which have been
programmed by the alienating parent.
Another manifestation of PAS is the child being
totally under the influence of the alienating parent, by believing
and repeating what the alienating parent says, in attacking
and humiliating the other party, and refusing to have contact
or very limited contact with the alienated person.
There are many other direct as well as subtle
ways in which the process of programming and brainwashing
is carried out. Here are some of them:
1. Encouraging the child to disobey and show
a lack of respect for the alienated parent.
2. By promoting an alliance between the child and alienator
against the other parent.
3. Showing opposition to the other parent's child-rearing
methods and communicating this to the child.
4. Bribing and overindulging the child to create comparative
poverty of enjoyment with the other parent, when they are
with that parent.
5. Suggesting and actually changing the surname of the child
to reduce the influence and memory of the other birth parent.
6. The programmer playing the part of a "martyr"
claiming how badly they were treated by the alienated parent.
7. Making the child afraid of the alienated parent.
8. Encouraging the child to hate being with the other parent.
9. Showing the other parent to be bad.
10. Instilling in the child the view that the other parent
wants to take the child away from the programmer and even
to kidnap the child.
11. Making the child feel anxious, rejected and insecure if
the child does not comply with the programmer.
12. The programmer encourages the child to keep secrets while
spying and reporting on the alienated parent.
13. Moving away or living some distance from the alienated
14. Sowing the seeds of not obeying the alienated parent.
15. Showing negative non-verbal communication such as turning
the body away when speaking of the alienated parent or making
derogatory faces about the alienated parent, when speaking
on the telephone.
It is vital that a professional such as a clinical
psychologist or psychiatrist be involved as soon as possible
to deal with PAS. This is to prevent the damage caused by
PAS from becoming impervious to improvement. The professional
must be aware of PAS, and also its origin.
Both parents and the child must be evaluated
individually with the professional being aware of the presence
and effect of PAS on all concerned. Sometimes unannounced
home visits are indicated. Having established that none of
the parents are a danger to the child, efforts must be made
to develop a voluntary "modus vivendi" on who should
have the children and when, thus avoiding PAS by either parent.
One must term this a "two-step plan". If the initial
process of voluntary help being provided with both parents
and the child is effective (sic), a more firm approach must
be adopted, including the involvement of the legal system.
Interviews with all members of the warring factions
should be insisted upon by the court. Frequently there is
much opposition to this by one party or the other. Only the
court can insist on all being done as the professional (expert
witness) requests. Failure to co-operate with the expert witness
indicates to the court what the next step needs to be. It
is preferable for one expert witness to deal with both parties,
rather than each have their own who will side with their particular
position rather than considering the overall complexity of
the problems and the concern over the child's needs. This
is not always possible however in an "adversarial"
Interviews and tests used must be carried out
sensitively and impartially. Videotaping may be used when
allowed by the participants. When this is not allowed, who
objects and why should be noted! The videotapes can be studied
by all involved in seeking to make the best possible decisions.
Where PAS continues by one or both parties,
need finally to be found with the alienating parent being
given psychological treatment and, failing this, being forced
to discontinue such behaviour When this fails in the extreme,
such parents should lose custody of the child, and the child
placed with co-operating in-laws who permit full contact of
the child with the previous alienated parent. It is also possible
that the alienating parent could be fined or imprisoned with
the alienated parent being given regular contact and even
custody of the child.
This would need to be done with the greatest
of care since the
children have often been programmed so fully against the alienated
parent. What is required is a period of deprogramming, with
the help of a clinical psychologist. In this way the child
may be allowed to understand the following:
1. Why the programming occurred.
2. What can be done to gradually improve and cement the child's
relationship with the alienated parent.
Therapists involved in helping such children
should seek to develop a greater insight into such children
There is an increase in the alienated parent
turning to the legal profession and the courts if all other
methods have failed. They feel justice must surely prevail
when an independent Judge is made aware of PAS. This is now
common in the United States, but less so in the UK. Judges
are naturally influenced by a number of traditions and are
unaware in many cases, of the effects of PAS. These traditions
1. Mothers on the whole, are thought more suitable
than fathers of having custody of the children.
2. The older children should have the final say about whom
to be with. This does not, however, consider the programming
which the alienated parent has carried out beforehand.
3. In the case of a younger child, many Judges again favour
the mother as main custodian or sole custodian, all things
being equal. If they favour the other parent they may well
be viewed as unfair.
4. Sometimes Judges will recommend family therapy or some
involvement of psychiatrists, paediatricians or clinical psychologists
to assess and treat the conflict between opposing parents.
These professionals also often fail to respond to the PAS
which has eliminated or reduced the role being played by the
alienated parent. They, too, may put too much emphasis on
what children say they want, being unaware of PAS.
It is vital that decisions are made which are
fair and just for all concerned. PAS cannot be allowed to
prevent one capable but hostile parent from depriving another
stable and capable parent of their parenting role. Any parent
who practises PAS must ultimately be dealt with severely by
the court. PAS is a kind of brainwashing which leads to suffering
for all concerned, either in the short or long-term. Both
parents must be viewed as having the right and the obligation
to play a vital role on the care, guidance and love provided
for their children.
The judiciary must realize that many potential
litigious parents who have been the victims of adverse brainwashing
of their children give up the fight. They do this for a variety
of practical reasons including:
1. The feeling that they are doing more harm
to their children than good by fighting over them.
2. Lack of financial resources.
3. The view that they simply do not think they can win against
a determined, alienating former parent.
4. It takes much determination and is extremely time consuming,
when one is already fully stretched in earning a living in
order to provide for the children.
It is unfortunate that many children view
the fact that a parent does not fight for them in the courts,
as a rejection of them by that parent. It is time to redress