The Beginnings of Parental Alienation Syndrome

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The Beginnings of Parental Alienation Syndrome

I am going to continue exploring Dr. Gardner’s “Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation” from 1985.

In my previous article, I gave the eight symptoms that classified a child as having PAS. Do you know what they mean? Dr. Gardner describes each of them and I will quote some of it.

“These children speak of the hated parent with every vilification and profanity in their vocabulary, without embarrassment or guilt.”

“After only minimal prompting … the record will be turned on and a command performance provided.”

“… the rehearsed quality to the speech … phraseology that is identical to that used by the ‘loved’ parent.”

“… the child may justify the alienation with memories of minor altercations … These are usually trivial … that most children quickly forget.”

This sets the stage (pun intended) for some type of melodramatic play, an entertainment show. Notice the words “prompting,” “record,” “performance,” and “rehearsed.” So now, we are assuming that the language and actions are scripted and therefore false from the beginning. We are starting from a position that everything is already a lie.

Is it wrong to believe that a young child or frightened child may need prompting in order to reveal what he/she has to say? What if the child comes from an authoritarian household or is afraid of adults (which may be the case if the child was abused by adults)?

And doesn’t speech become rehearsed if it is repeated many times? Think of someone asking you about your recent break-up—a best friend, then another friend, then a co-worker, then your mother, then your aunt, and then your therapist … the police, the person you broke up with. Does your story become rehearsed? Perhaps. Do you tell the same exact story to each person? It depends on your relationship with the person, and the amount of fatigue from repeating it—and not to forget, your memory. Too many factors.

If a child remembers a “minor altercation,” are we to brush it aside because we feel it is irrelevant? Sometimes it is easier to remember the not-so-important details. In order to understand this, a person would need to understand more about trauma, and how it affects the brain/memory. What do you know about trauma?

“There will be a complete absence of gratitude for gifts, support payments, and other manifestations of the hated parent’s continued involvement and affection. Often these children will want to be certain the alienated parent continue to provide support payments but at the same times adamantly refuse to visit. To such a child I might say: ‘So you want your father to continue paying for all your food, clothing, rent, and education—even private high school and college—and yet you still don’t want to see him at all …’”

Don’t the children in your own home sometimes exhibit these characteristics to you about you? Children can be ingrates about a gift from anyone, especially if it was something they did not request. And are we saying that children are supposed to be grateful for child support? I thought child support was a duty. Surely a child could be grateful about it as they could equally express gratitude for shelter, food, and clothing. But how many kids do you know go around thanking their parents for basic necessities? Thank you for my bras, thank you for the lotion, thank you for the tampons!

You have to teach gratitude. A lot of parents do this lesson by voicing the comparison of the haves to the have nots in front of their children. But what if the children have almost nothing? That’s when you talk about Africa …

And since when are support payments a sign of “continued involvement and affection”? Child support can be court ordered and is continuous so long as the order remains in effect and the noncustodial parents’ pay is drafted. Money and gifts (which cost money) can be considered a form of affection, but do they buy love in children? I suppose it is the only way some people know how to express their feelings—when done voluntarily.

What I found most amusing was the fact that Dr. Gardner would actually ask the child what he did. How many of us as children were aware of exactly what financial contributions our parents made to the household? As an adult, I still don’t know.