For those people who have never been exposed to PA (Parental Alienation) or PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome), it is difficult to comprehend exactly what life is like for families exposed to this.

First, a brief history/explanation:

Who discovered Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?
In association with this growing child-custody litigation, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard A. Gardner first identified Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1980’s. He noticed a dramatic increase in the frequency of a disorder rarely observed before, that of programming or brainwashing of a child by one parent to denigrate the other parent. 

However, the disorder wasn’t just brainwashing or programming by a parent. It was confounded by what Dr. Gardner calls self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. He called this disorder Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), a new term that includes the contribution to the problem made by both the parent and the child.

What is PAS?
Gardner’s definition of PAS is:

1. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.

  1. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. 
  2. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.

What is the child’s part in PAS?
Gardner notes that the PAS is more than brainwashing or programming, because the child has to actually participate in the denigrating of the alienated parent. This is done in primarily the following eight ways:

  1. The child denigrates the alienated parent with foul language and severe oppositional behavior.
  2. The child offers weak, absurd, or frivolous reasons for his or her anger.
  3. The child is sure of himself or herself and doesn’t demonstrate ambivalence, i.e. love and hate for the alienated parent, only hate.
  4. The child exhorts that he or she alone came up with ideas of denigration. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon is where the child asserts that no one told him to do this.
  5. The child supports and feels a need to protect the alienating parent.
  6. The child does not demonstrate guilt over cruelty towards the alienated parent.
  7. The child uses borrowed scenarios, or vividly describes situations that he or she could not have experienced.
  8. Animosity is spread to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.

In severe cases of parent alienation, the child is utterly brain- washed against the alienated parent. The alienator can truthfully say that the child doesn’t want to spend any time with this parent, even though he or she has told him that he has to, it is a court order, etc. The alienator typically responds, “There isn’t anything that I can do about it. I’m not telling him that he can’t see you.”

PAS is an escalation of Parental Alienation (PA)
Dr. Douglas Darnall in his book Divorce Casualties: Protecting Your Children from Parental Alienation, describes three categories of PA:

The mild category he calls the naïve alienators. They are ignorant of what they are doing and are willing to be educated and change. 

The moderate category is the active alienators. When they are triggered, they lose control of appropriate boundaries. They go ballistic. When they calm down, they don’t want to admit that they were out of control. 

In the severe category are the obsessed alienators or those who are involved in PAS. They operate from a delusional system where every cell of their body is committed to destroying the other parent’s relationship with the child. 

In the latter case, he notes that we don’t have an effective protocol for treating an obsessed alienator other than removing the child from their influence.

An important point is that in PAS there is no true parental abuse and/or neglect on the part of the alienated parent. If this were the case, the child’s animosity would be justified. Also, it is not PAS if the child still has a positive relationship with the parent, even though one parent is attempting to alienate the child from him or her.


Now that a definition and explanation has been made, back to my own personal life and post.

This subject came up, once again in my family, because of a brief comment my mom made on Thanksgiving.  The comment stayed with me for the remainder of the day and turned itself over and over in my head.

The scene of the comment:  Monkey was with Hun, Buddy and I at my parents’ house for our Thanksgiving celebration with my extended family.  LaLa has taken a 3rd shift job and was sleeping.  The plan was for LaLa to sleep until about 2pm, go to Jetsam’s house and pick up Flounder (as Jetsam was working), swing by our location to pick up Monkey and then head to Jetsam’s extended family celebration.

As planned, LaLa arrived with Flounder and greetings and well-wishes were exchanged all around.  After about 5 minutes, the three left.

My mom commented to me, “What happened with that?  Flounder was pleasant, polite and cheerful with us.  He acts nothing like Rowdy or Monkey (who was being very grouchy about having to come with us and couldn’t leave fast enough).”

At the time, I just shrugged….. but the comment stayed with me and fermented in my mind.

It dawned on me.  Flounder has no bias against us because Jetsam has not spent the last 14 years of his life implying that we are horrible people.  Sure, he may have overheard her saying things to the other kids, but as his loyalty was never “tested” or “required”, none of the negatives stuck with him because he didn’t experience having to choose between parents.  LaLa, Rowdy and Monkey have spent the last 13+ years having to carefully choose their emotions, lest they make their mom upset over any minor thing.

Talking with Hun about the incident, we theorized that the same Parental Alienation that has happened with LaLa, Rowdy and Monkey, probably has also happened with Flounder.  The only difference is, his father isn’t in the picture and so, there is no one to lash out at.  While Hun and I are VERY present and easy targets, so we get to experience the abuse in all of its horrifying glory.

This makes me terribly sad for my kids.  They have been brainwashed into believing that Hun and I are abusive, horrible people who are hated justifiably in their young minds.  Besides continuing to do what we already are doing, there isn’t anything left for us to do.  Either the kids will mature and realize that their impressions are/were wrong or they won’t.

For my own piece of mind, I will continue to believe that they will eventually realize that we do love them, always have and always will.  No matter what.  I love you guys!