Today is a win for Domestic Violence Victims Around the World! Weinstein to Jail and WHO Denies PAS
Harvey Weinstein is headed to jail on rape charges and The World Health Organization declares that Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) does not exist as a mental health diagnosis and is declassified. On 15 February 2020, the WHO declared that it had removed this pseudo-scientific concept of PAS from its index and classification.
The Italian members of the Facebook group PAS: informazioni e disinformazione were the first to spread the information. They spotted a comment from a WHO team, Team3 WHO, on the page of the Classification devoted to Psychological maltreatment, in response to a remark reminding that parental alienation has no scientific basis.
Team3 WHO declares:
"Parental alienation has been removed from the ICD-11 classification as it is a judicial term and issue. Its inclusion for coding purposes in the ICD-11 will not contribute to valid or meaningful health statistics."
Collective Memo of Concern to: World Health Organization
RE: Inclusion of “Parental Alienation” as a “Caregiver-child relationship problem” CodeQE52.0 in the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision (ICD-11)From: 352 Concerned Family Law Academics, Family Violence Experts, Family Violence Research Institutes, Child Development and Child Abuse Experts, Children’s Rights Networks and Associations and 764 concerned individuals
1Date: July 10, 2019Introduction to the Inclusion ProblemIt has recently come to our collective attention that the World Health Organization is considering the addition of “parental alienation” (PA) as a “caregiver-child relationship problem” in ICD-11, the International Classification of Diseases 11th Revision. We are surprised by the lack of prior consultation in connection with gender equality issues associated with the concept and are deeply concerned about this proposal from a women’s safety and child development, health and safety point of view, as well as from research and science perspectives.We are requesting removal of all references to “parental alienation” and related concepts in ICD-11 for the reasons set out below. Our research and experience in court has demonstrated that parental alienation, which lacks credibility, is frequently employed to divert attention from domestic violence and abuse and other evidence relevant to the best interests of the child.Empirically verified problems associated with the application of parental alienation theory, discussed in Part Two, include: Limited support for the concept in scientific research on children Gender bias in the application and effects of parental alienation claims Deflection of attention from scrutiny of parenting practices and parent-child relationships infavor of assuming primary-care parental blame when children have poor relationships with theother parent Deflection of attention from scrutiny of child risk and safety factors in family violence cases Imposition of equal time, joint custody presumptions or equal shared parental responsibility1 Linda C Neilson, Professor Emerita, University of New Brunswick, Canada, and Research Fellow of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research composed this memo with the support and assistance of Joan Meier, Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School and Legal Director, Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project (DV LEAP); Elizabeth Sheehy, Professor Emerita, F.R.S.C., O.O., University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law; Margaret Jackson, Professor Emerita, Director of the FREDA Centre on Violence Against Women and Children; Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Professor at Bar-Ilan University Faculty of Law, Israel, Founding Head of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women at BIU and former Vice-Chair of CEDAW; Susan Boyd, Professor Emerita F.R.S.C., Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia; Peter Jaffe, PhD, Psychologist & Professor, Academic Director, Center for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, Western University, London ON, Canada; and Simon Lapierre, Full Professor, School of Social Work, University of Ottawa.
- Deflection of attention from thorough analysis of the best interests of children criteria The silencing of women and children such that evidence of family violence and of negativeparenting is not presented The discounting of the perspectives of children and the failure to protect children from parentalabuse, contrary to the internationally recognized rights of children set out in the United NationsConvention on the Rights of the Child Inappropriate assignment of parental blame for normal adolescent behavior Deflection of attention from studies that demonstrate child resistance to contact and child harmare better explained by factors other than those proposed by parental alienation theory Emerging evidence that parental alienation “remedies” are harming many children Negative effect of the theory on evidence and on legal responsibilities to assess children’s bestinterests and safety The undermining of knowledge about how family violence harms children and what is neededfor their safety and well-being.PART TWO: Discussion. The parental alienation concept is not supported by credible scientific research on children.Discussion: As the Amici brief to the Court of Appeals for the State of New York (March 22, 2019) associated with E.V. (Anonymous) v R.V. (Anonymous) and G.V. (Anonymous) Westchester Country Clerk’s Index No. 10602/2007, states:Parental alienation, while lacking a universal clinical or scientific definition, generally refers to the presumption that a child’s fear or rejection of one parent (typically the non- custodial parent), stems from the malevolent influence of the preferred (typically custodial) parent. The alienation hypothesis inherently relies on two flawed assumptions: (i) that children do not ordinarily fear or resist a non-custodial parent without manipulation by the other parent, and (ii) that a child’s hostility toward or fear of the other parent, can in fact be caused solely by the favored parent’s negative influence (or programming), regardless of the child’s own experience. There is little or no scientific support for either premise, and both derive from PAS, which has itself been roundly debunked by scientific and professional authorities.2Vigorous debate and controversy surround the validity of “parental alienation” “diagnoses” and the assessment tools and remedies associated with it.3 While some authors contend that the concept has2 PAS stands for Parental Alienation Syndrome, a controversial concept proposed by child psychiatrist Richard A Gardner that resulted in family courts removing numerous children from the primary care of protective mothers. The concept was soundly refuted on grounds of gender bias, harm to children, and lack of scientific credibility in the mid 1980s. It then fell into disuse. The same concept resurfaced in the mid 2000s largely as a result of Dr. Amy J. L. Baker’s interviews in the United States with forty adults who responded to an advertisement, who claimed to have been alienated from a parent when they were children. Blatant anti women and children terminology found in Gardner’s earlier work has been removed (although gender bias and the undermining of the views of children have remained) and the word “syndrome” was omitted, presumably in order to avoid the need for scientific proof of a mental health condition. Despite questionable research foundations, the concept spread rapidly and is now being applied in many parts of the world.3 Julie Doughty et al., “Parental alienation: in search of evidence”  Fam Law 1304 [hereafter Doughty et al. (2018a)]; Julie Doughty et al., Review of research and case law on parental alienation (Cardiff: Welsh Government, 2018) [hereafter Doughty et al. (2018b)]: L. Drozd, “Rejection in cases of abuse or alienation in divorcing families” in
- demonstrated scientific validity,4 many tenured academic researchers, child experts and experts in the domestic and family violence fields disagree. References to published criticisms of parental alienation theory by internationally respected experts are listed in footnote 5.5 It is important to note that many of the assertions of validity have been advanced by individuals who offer or have offered alienation “reunification therapy” for economic gain or who are expert witnesses paid to testify in custody cases.6Concerns about parental alienation theory that have been validated empirically by researchers who do not have vested economic or personal interests in parental alienation remedie, include: 1) Concerns about research credibility,7 limited evidence of representativeness of study samples, small sample sizes,8 absence of longitudinal research,9 and most importantly, lack of research controls to assess for and rule out alternative explanations for child resistance to contact andRM Galatzer-Levy, L Kraus & J Galatzer-Levy, eds, The Scientific Basis of Child Custody Decisions (2nd ed) (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009) 403; C.S. Bruch, “Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child Custody Cases” (2001) 35 Family Law Quarterly 527; M.S. Pignotti, “Parental alienation syndrome (PAS): unknown in medical settings, endemic in courts” (2013) 104:2 Pub Med 54; Holly Smith,“Parental Alienation Syndrome: Fact or Fiction? The Problem With Its Use in Child Custody Cases” (2016) 11 Mass. L. Rev. 64; C. Dalton et al., Navigating Custody and Access Evaluation in Domestic Violence Cases (Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2006); Hon. Jerry Bowles et al., A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases (Reno, NV: National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2009); Joan Meier, “A Historical Perspective on Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation” (2009) 6 Journal of Child Custody 232; Toby Kleiman, “Family court ordered ‘reunification therapy’: junk science in the guise of helping parent/child relationships?” (2017) 14:4 Journal of Child Custody 295; Linda C Neilson, Parental Alienation Empirical Analysis: Child Best Interests or Parental Rights? (Fredericton: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence; Vancouver: FREDA Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children, 2018).4 For example, William Bernet & Amy J.L. Baker, “Parental Alienation, DSM-5 , and ICD-11: Response to Critics” (2013) 41:1 Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 98; Richard Warshak, “Current Controversies Regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome” (2001) 19:3 American Journal of Forensic Psychology 29; Stanley Clawar & Brynne Rivlin, Children Held Hostage (2nd ed) (Chicago: American Bar Association, 2013).5 Published comments critical of parental alienation theory by internationally respected researchers and academics include: Robert Emery, PhD., Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology and Director of the Center for Children, Families and the Law, University of Virginia: “Despite influencing many custody proceedings, Gardner’s ideas fail to meet even minimal scientific standards.” Source: Robert E. Emery, “Parental Alienation Syndrome: Proponents Bear the Burden of Proof” (2005) 43:1 Family Court Review 8; Robert Geffner, Clinical Research Professor and adjunct faculty member for the National Judicial College, as well as author of numerous books on domestic violence and child abuse has commented: “While some parents resort to such behavior, parent alienation syndrome is not a valid diagnosis and shouldn’t be admitted into child custody cases.” Robert Geffner, “Editor’s note about the special section” (2016) 13:2-3 Journal of Child Custody 111; Walter DeKeseredy, Molly Dragiewicz & Martin Schwartz, “A Word of Caution about parental alienation” in Walter DeKeseredy, Molly Dragiewicz & Martin Schwartz, Abusive Endings: Separation and Divorce Violence Against Women (Oakland: University of California Press, 2017) 136; R. Freeman & G. Freeman, Managing Contact Difficulties: A Child Centered Approach (Ottawa: Department of Justice Canada, 2003); S.J. Dallam, “Parental Alienation Syndrome: Is it scientific?” in E. St. Charles & L. Crook, eds., Expose: The failure of family courts to protect children from abuse in custody disputes (Los Gatos, CA: Our Children Charitable Foundation, 1999) (online); J.S. Meier, Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: A Research Review Research Forum (National Online Resource Centre on Violence Against Women, 2009); Joan Meier & Sean Dickson, “Mapping Gender: Shedding Empirical Light on Family Courts’ Treatment of Cases Involving Abuse and Alienation” (2017) 35:2 Law & Inequality 310; P. Van Horn & B. M Groves, “Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: Making Trauma Informed Custody and Visitation Decisions” (2006) 57:11 Juvenile and Family Court Review 51; Smith, supra note 3; Dalton et al., supra note 3; Bruch, supra note 3.6 For example, Richard A. Warshak, formerly associated with Family Bridges workshops in the United States; Amy J. Baker; Stanley Clawar, clinical sociologist, and owner of Walden Counselling & Therapy; Barbara Jo Fidler of Families Moving Forward.7 Sources cited supra note 3; Rebecca Thomas & James Richardson, “Parental Alienation Syndrome: 30 years On and Still Junk Science” (2015) 54 :3 Judge’s Journal (online); Daniel Krauss, Psychological Expertise in Court (city: Routledge, 2016); Isabelle Côté & Simon Lapierre, L’Aliénation Parentale Stratégie D’Occultation De La Violence Conjugale? (Ottawa: FemAnVi, 2019) Online: http://fede.qc.ca/sites/default/files/upload/documents/publications/ rapport_ap.pdf.
- child harm that are known to have a negative impact on children's relationships with parents and that have been documented repeatedly in research on child well-being for decades, i.e., parental conflict, intimate partner and family violence, child abuse, weak parent-child attachment, parental neglect, parental substance misuse and/or negative or hostile parenting;10 2) Gender bias in the application and effects of parental alienation claims;11 3) Deflection of attention from scrutiny of parenting practices and parent-child relationships in favor of projecting blame onto primary-care parents when children have poor relationships withthe other parent;128 Michael Saini et al., “Empirical Studies of Alienation” in Leslie Drozd et al., eds, Parenting Plan Evaluations: Applied Research for Family Court (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) 399. Sociologist Stanley Clawar’s research is commonly cited by parental alienation advocates in support of assertions of the scientific research validity of parental alienation theory. The claim is made that Clawar and Rivlin’s empirical research documenting parental alienation and its associated child and parental behaviors is based on analysis of more than 700 (now 1000) cases. However, scrutiny of the empirical basis for the claims made by Clawar and Rivlin, supra note 4, “Appendix: Research Techniques and Sample Characteristics,” reveals that the Clawar and Rivlin analysis is derived from client files seen in their professional practice and subsequently analyzed by the authors. In the absence of research samples and research controls, we have no way of knowing the degree to which the authors’ conclusions can be extended beyond clinical samples to the general public, and we have no way of knowing the extent to which the authors considered and controlled for scientifically verified and professionally accepted adversities that affect children’s relationships with their parents. Clawar and Rivlin’s conclusions should be considered therapeutic theory drawn from clinical practice rather than scientific research.9 Jean Mercer, “Are intensive parental alienation treatments effective and safe for children and adolescents?” (2019) Journal of Child Custody https://doi.org/10.1080/15379418.2018.1557578. Although Dr. Amy Baker has testified in Canadian courts, for example, Hukerby v. Paquet  S.J. no 791, that her research is longitudinal, and other parental alienation advocates have advised courts that Dr. Baker’s conclusions are based on “long-term’ research.” In fact, her research was actually merely qualitative and retrospective. For particulars, see: Amy J. L. Baker, “The Long- Term Effects of Parental Alienation on Adult Children: A Qualitative Research Study” (2006) 33:4 American Journal of Family Therapy 289; Amy J. L. Baker, Adult Children of parental alienation syndrome: Breaking the ties that bind (New York: W.W. Norton Professional, 2007). In contrast, a longitudinal study is a research design that involves repetitive observations and assessments of the same variables over a period of time. For example, a longitudinal study of parental alienation would start with use of a validated instrument (of which there are none) to identify a sample of children who were alienated from a parent. It would then follow and reassess the children at various points throughout their lives in comparison with children who were not alienated from a parent. Well-designed longitudinal studies implement experimental controls in order to distinguish the effects of parental alienation from the effects of other adversities on children. Dr. Baker’s parental alienation research is retrospective, based on adult memory of childhood experiences and lacking in research controls. Indeed a small longitudinal study of cases in which children resisted parental contact reveals that negative outcomes for children, when they exist in these cases, can be explained by serious deficits on the part of parents the children reject: Janet Johnson & Judith Goldman, “Outcomes of Family Counselling Interventions With Children Who Resist Visitation: An addendum to Friedlander and Walters” (2010) 48:1 Family Court Review 112.10 Without research controls it is impossible to distinguish the influence of parental alienation from the influence of other factors. Scott Huff, “Expanding the Relationship between Parental Alienating Behaviors and Children’s Contact Refusal Following Divorce: Testing Additional Factors and Long-Term Outcomes” (Doctoral Dissertation, University of Connecticut, 2015).11 Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Madelyn Milchman, “Misogyny in New York Custody Decisions with Parental Alienation and Child Sexual Abuse Allegation” (2017) 14 J. Child Custody 234; Simon Lapierre & Isabel Côté, “Abused Women and the Threat of Parental Alienation: Shelter Workers’ Perspectives” (2016) 65 Child & Youth Servs. Rev. 120; Sian Balmer et al., “Parental alienation: Targeted parent perspective” (2018) 70 Australian Journal of Psychology 91. Note that the Balmer study differs from the other studies in that the focus was on the more particularly severe impact on mothers when fathers undermined mothers’ relationships with children. Fathers often allege PA as a tactic in response to mothers’ claims domestic violence or abuse or in order to present mothers’ resistance to equal time parenting and equal shared parenting responsibility in a negative light: S Berns, “Parents behaving badly: Parental alienation syndrome in the family court: magic bullet or poisoned chalice?” (2001) 15:3 Australian Journal of Family Law 191; R Kaspiew, “Empirical Insights into Parental Attitudes and Children’s Interests in Family Court Litigation”
- 4) Deflection of attention from scrutiny of child risk and safety factors, particularly in family violence cases;13 5) Imposition of equal time, joint custody, and co-parenting assumptions by parental alienation advocates;14 6) Deflection of attention away from thorough analysis of the best interests of children criteria in the legal system;15 7) The silencing of women and children such that evidence of family violence and of negative parenting is not presented to courts16 8) The discounting of the perspectives of children and the non-protection of children from parental abuse, contrary to the internationally recognized rights of children set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child);17 and 9) The inappropriate assignment of parental blame for behaviors of adolescents that are normal and consistent with the needs of youth at an adolescent stage of development.18Family violence and child welfare associations in many parts of the world have become increasingly concerned about misuse of parental alienation concepts to the detriment of women and children.Child resistance to contact and child harm are better explained by factors other than those proposed by parental alienation theoryDiscussion: Scrutiny of emerging arm’s length research utilizing research controls and credible research methods reveals that the premises of parental alienation enthusiasts do not stand up to research scrutiny. Instead, it becomes clear that factors long identified in child-welfare and development research, such as lack of parental warmth, exposure to parental or family violence and/or parental(20017) 29:1 Sydney Law Review 131.12 Milchman, ibid; Nancy Erickson, “Fighting False Allegations of Parental Alienation Raised as Defenses to ValidClaims of Abuse” (2013) 6:1 Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly 35; Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Neilson (2018), supra note 3; Smith, supra note 3; Lois Shereen Winstock, “Safe Havens or Dangerous Waters? A Phenomenological Study of Abused Women’s Experiences in the Family Courts of Ontario” (PhD dissertation in Law, York University, 2014).13 Erickson, ibid.; Daniel Saunders & Kathleen Faller, “The Need to Carefully Screen For Family Violence When Parental Alienation is Claimed” (2016) 46:6 Michigan Family Law Journal 7; Rita Berg, “Parental Alienation Analysis, Domestic Violence, and Gender Bias in Minnesota Courts” (2011) 29:1 Law & Inequality 5; Joan Meier, “Domestic Violence, Child Custody, and Child Protection: Understanding Judicial Resistance and Imagining Solutions” (2003) 11 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 657; Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Neilson (2018), supra note 3.14 Bruch, supra note 3; Joyanna Silberg et al., Crisis in Family Court: Lessons From Turned Around Cases (2013); Neilson (2018), supra note 3; Smith, supra note 3; Milchman, supra note 11; Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Erickson, supra note 12; Suzanne Zaccour, “Parental Alienation in Quebec Custody Litigation” (2018) 59 Cahiers de droit 1072; Winstock, supra note 12; Zoe Rathus, “Mapping the Use of Social Science in Australian Courts: The example of family law children’s cases” (2016) 25:3 Griffith Law Review 352.15 Bruch, supra note 3; Neilson (2018), supra note 3; Smith, supra note 3; Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Erickson, supra note 12; Pamela Cross, Alienating children or protecting them? (online at Pamela Cross.ca, 2018)).16 Linda Neilson et al., “Spousal Abuse, Children and the Legal System” (Fredericton: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, 2001); Leanne Francia et al., “Addressing family violence post separation – mothers and fathers’ experiences from Australia” (2019) Journal of Child Custody https://doi.org/10.1080/15379418.2019.1583151.17 Honourable Donna J. Martinson & Caterina E. Tempesta, “Young People as Humans in Family Court Processes: A Child Rights Approach to Legal Representation” (2018) 31 Can. J. Fam. L. 151; Special Issue, “A Renewed Call to Address Women’s and Children’s Human Rights” (2014) 18:6 International Journal of Human Rights; Neilson (2018), supra note 3.18 Joan Kelly & Janet Johnston, “The Alienated Child: A Reformulation of Parental Alienation Syndrome” (2001) 39:3 Family Court Review 249; Neilson (2018), supra note 3.
- conflict, offer far better explanations for child resistance to contact than does parental alienation theory. In fact, these long-documented factors19 often operate in opposition to the premises of parental alienation theory. Dr. Scott Huff reports, in his 2015 doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut:These findings are notable in that alienating behaviors were not predictors of outcomes in any of the analyses, contrary to previous work on parental alienating behaviours (Baker & Verochio, 2012; Bena-Ami & Baker, 2012).20Similarly, Jenna Rowen, who studied the effects on children of parents denigrating the other parent, and Robert Emery have found that denigration patterns and the effects on children were consistent with conflict theory – we have long known that parental conflict is harmful to children – and not with parental alienation theory. Denigration problems were seldom one-sided or linear. Denigration alone seldom resulted in the successful manipulation of a child against the other parent. Instead, denigration usually had the opposite effect of impairing the child’s relationship with the parent engaging in denigration.21In other words, the child relevant factors verified by significant bodies of research – family violence, parental conflict, absence of parent-child warmth, weak parent-child attachment, parental neglect, negative parenting – that are known to be associated with children’s resistance to parental contact are both different from and more complex than the alienation theory’s primary focus on blaming the preferred parent. Yet, as Jean Mercer has documented, parental alienation advocates ask us to ignore these plausible explanations in favor of adopting a simplistic, one dimensional, speculative view of parent-child relationships that ignores most of the scientifically verified parent-child relationship factors.22Parental alienation remedies are harming some children.Discussion: Parental alienation experts typically recommend that children be removed from preferred parents without any contact while children undergo “reunification therapy” for a substantial period of time to restore or build positive relationships with the parent the children rejected. Stephanie Dallam and Joyanna Silberg, of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence, report that the treatments recommended by parental alienation therapists are likely to cause children foreseeable and lasting psychological harm, particularly when children have already been traumatized by negative family experiences.23 Indeed, removing children from preferred primary-care parents is contrary to research on child resilience, recovery from trauma and accepted child development principles.24 While reunification programs may help children in some cases, for example when the parent who engaged in domestic violence has undermined the child’s relationship with the abused parent in order to retain coercive control over the family (a common phenomenon in domestic violence cases), we actually19 See, for example, L. Neilson, “Spousal Abuse, Children and the Courts: The Case for Social Rather than Legal Change” (1997) 12:1 Canadian Journal of Law and Society 101, in connection with the large number of consistent research studies documenting the negative impact of parental conflict on children.20 Huff, supra note 10.21 Jenna Rowen, “Examining Parental Denigration in Family Law Systems and its Association with Parent-childCloseness, Interparental Conflict, and Psychological Well-Being” (PhD Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2014);Emery, supra note 5.22 Mercer, supra note 9.23 Stephanie Dallam & Joyanna Silberg, “Recommended treatments for ‘parental alienation syndrome’ (PAS) may causechildren foreseeable and lasting psychological harm” (2016) 2-3 Journal of Child Custody 134.24 Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, Resilience.
- know very little about the short or long-term effects on children, positive or negative, of reunification therapy. While positive claims have been advanced by those who are, or have been, associated with and financially benefited from the delivery of such programs,25 arm’s length, controlled experimental research is lacking.26We do not know much, if anything, about the impact of the removal of children from their preferred parent and engagement in “reunification” attempts; about the effects on children’s relationships with preferred parents, siblings and other family members; or about the impact on children’s overall health and well-being. Moreover, anecdotal news reports are emerging now from children old enough to comment on experiences in reunification programs without risk of being censored or disciplined by the legal system. These children report having been forced to attend these programs; being threatened and intimidated; loss of contact with preferred parents, siblings and family members; being exposed to pro- father, anti-mother rhetoric; not being listened to and having their views treated respectfully; and not being protected from parental abuse.27 Although much of the emerging evidence from children is anecdotal and case specific, such that it is possible that other children had favorable experiences, the emerging experiences of children suggest the need for caution. We need to know a great deal more about the circumstances in which children are helped or harmed by such programs. Until the positive effects of reunification therapy are confirmed by arm’s length, longitudinal research,28 the current evidence does not support court-imposed reunification programs.29Judges are not mental health experts. Inclusion of parental alienation in the diagnostic manual will result in courts not appreciating the need to assess the scientific validity of the concept when assessing admissibility and will lead to simplified and erroneous assumptions about the appropriateness of proposed remedies. Children will be harmed.The parental alienation concept has a negative effect on evidence and on legal responsibilities to assess children’s best interests and safety:Discussion: Inclusion in the diagnostic manual would be detrimental to best interests of the child determinations in the legal system and contrary to the educational efforts of judicial educators. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in the United States warns against application of parental alienation theory in family law cases, particularly in cases involving allegations of family violence:3025 For example: Richard Warshak, “Reclaiming Parent-Child Relationships; Outcomes of Family Bridges with Alienated Children” (2018) Journal of Divorce and Remarriage https://doi.org/10.1080/10502556.2018.1529505.26 Mercer,supranote9.27 Mercer, supra note 9; Vicky Nguyen, et al, No Oversight for Programs Advertising They Reconnect Children withAlienated Parents (NBC Bay Area, Investigative Unit, 2018); Cara Tabachnick, “They were taken from their mom to rebond with their dad. It didn’t go well” Washington Post (11 May 2017); Pei-Sze Cheng, “I-Team: NJ Brother, Sister Rip ‘Alienating’ Divorce Program That Tore Them From Father For Years” New York TV (26 December 2018) https:// www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Divorce-Camp-New-Jersey-Investigation-503506061.html; Trey Bundy et al., “Bitter Custody” Revealnews.org (9 March 2019).28 Nguyen, ibid.29 Doughty et al. (2018a), supra note 3; Doughty et al. (2018b), supra note 3; Dallam & Silberg, supra note 23.30 National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, A Judicial Guide to Child Safety in Custody Cases (2008);Barry Goldstein, “Why Family Courts Cannot Protect Children: ACE vs. PAS” (Denver: National Organization for Men Against Sexism, no date).
- The discredited ‘diagnosis’ of “PAS” (or allegation of “parental alienation”), quite apart from its scientific invalidity, inappropriately asks the court to assume that the children’s behaviors and attitudes toward the parent who claims to be alienated have no grounding in reality. It also diverts attention away from the behaviors of the [disliked] parent, who may have directly influenced the children’s responses by acting in violent, disrespectful, intimidating, humiliating and/or discrediting ways towards the children themselves, or the children’s other parent.Analysis of “expert” parental alienation testimony in family law cases in Canada reveals that parental alienation “experts” testifying in Canadian courts are advising courts to ignore: the views of children; evidence of child well-being while in the care of the child’s preferred parent; evidence of negative parenting on the part of the alienation claimant; and evidence of children’s therapists in favor of adopting parental alienation theory and denying children contact with the parent they prefer in order to restore or create a relationship with the parent the children reject.31 Case law in Canada and the United States is documenting children being forcefully removed by police from the homes of primary-care parents children prefer, sometimes repeatedly, and placed with parents the children fear or reject.32 In a number of Canadian cases children have applied to be removed from parental authority entirely in order to escape parenting arrangements imposed on them by courts.33Similarly, American researcher Joan Meier and colleagues, reporting on a major study of parental alienation cases in the United States, and Suzanne Zaccour in Canada, have found that alienation claims are resulting in evidence of paternal abuse of women and children being ignored by courts, in the removal of children from parents (primarily mothers) who seek to protect them, and in children’s placement with abusive parents, even in cases where judges made positive findings of family violence and abuse.34 Indeed Meier and colleagues report that women who present evidence of child abuse are more apt to lose custody of their children than women who merely report intimate partner violence, and that cross-claims of parental alienation virtually double the rate of mothers’ custody losses.35 Joyanna Silberg et al., also reporting from the United States, examined legal cases in which family violence and child abuse claims were initially considered false (as a result of misplaced judicial scepticism36 and/or the impact of alienation claims) but ultimately resulted in findings of abuse and in the return of children to protective parents. The authors report, on the basis of scrutiny of the case law, that when courts placed children with abusive parents the abuse continued, and a third of these children attempted suicide. When courts subsequently made positive findings of abuse and returned children to the custody of protective parents, the children had spent an average of three years in abusive parents’ care.37 Experts in many countries are now documenting concerns about the well-being of children and children’s relationships with abused parents in cases when alienation theory is applied by courts.31 Neilson (2018), supra note 3.32 Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Neilson (2018) supra note 3; Silberg et al., supra note 14.33 Neilson (2018), supra note 3.34 Meier & Dickson, supra note 5; Zaccour, supra note 14.35 Ibid.36 In connection with judicial and legal scepticism and the reasons for such scepticism throughout the legal system, referto Deborah Epstein & Lisa Goodman, “Discounting Credibility: Doubting the Testimony and Dismissing theExperiences of Domestic Violence Survivors and Other Women” (2018) 167 U. Penn. L. Rev. forthcoming.37 Silberg et al., supra note 14.
- Child research clearly documents the negative impact of family violence on children and on post separation parenting and the need to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of childrenDiscussion: We know, from a consistent body of research over decades, that family violence against children's caregivers in children's homes causes direct, scientifically documented child stress and harm. The violence need not be witnessed directly in order to cause harm. Some of these children will experience long term fear responses and emotional --even developmental-- harm.38 Documentation of direct harm to children from violence directed against adult caregivers is consistent across research methods (qualitative and quantitative) and even across disciplines (social science, medicine, psychiatry, child development, neurobiology).39 The research also tells us that perpetrating abuse against mothers commonly occurs together with abuse and violence directed at children40 and that child disclosure rates are low.41 The post separation parenting patterns research from many countries also tells us that negative perpetrator parenting – such as demeaning domination, monitoring and surveillance, isolation, excessive physical discipline, and coercive control – continues and often gets worse following parental separation, once the abused parent is no longer able to shield or buffer the children – that is, after the adults separate,42 if the perpetrator has unsupervised access to the children.Nonetheless, those family lawyers, mediators, evaluators and judges who do not understand that parental intimate partner violence is directly associated with child harm and child abuse43 are silencing38 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child at Harvard University, Persistent Fear and Anxiety Can Affect Young Children’s Learning and Development (2010) and educational materials on toxic stress. For discussion of pertinent research, see Linda C Neilson, Chapter 6 “Children: Impact of Domestic Violence & Evidence of Children” in Responding to Domestic Violence in Family Law, Civil Protection and Child Protection Cases (Ottawa: CanLII, 2017); Sibylle Artz et al., “A Comprehensive Review of the Literature on the Impact of Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence for Children and Youth” (2014) 5:4 International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies 493.39 Refer, for example, to the lengthy list of references on this issue in “Supplementary Reference Bibliography: Effects of Domestic Violence on Children”, Responding to Domestic Violence in Family Law, Civil Protection and Child Protection Cases (Ottawa: CanLII, 2017).40 Child Welfare Information Gateway & U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence (reference materials on the connections between domestic violence and abuse directed at children); Australian Government materials on Domestic violence and child abuse and neglect; Jeffrey Edleson, “The Overlap Between Child Maltreatment and Woman Battering” (1999) 5:2 Violence Against Women 134.41 Jane Callaghan et al., “The Management of Disclosure in Children’s Accounts of Domestic Violence: Practices of Telling and Not Telling” (2017) 26:12 J Child Fam Stud. 3370; Statistics Canada, Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2015. (Ottawa: Stats Canada, 2017) Catalogue no. 85-002-X, see Child disclosure.42 L. Bancroft, J. Silverman & D. Ritchie, The Batterer as Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Families (2nd ed) (Los Angeles: Sage, 2012); Linda Neilson et al. (2001), supra note 16; Australia’s National Research Organization for Women’s Safety (hereafter ANROWS), Domestic and family violence and parenting: Mixed Methods insights into impact and support needs: Key findings and future directions (Sydney: ANROWS, 2017; Dale Bagshaw et al., The effect of family violence on post-separation parenting arrangements in Family Matters 86 (Canberra: Australian Government, 2011); ANROWS, The impacts of domestic and family violence on children (summarizing major Australian research studies) (Sydney: ANROWS, 2017).43 Researchers are reporting that many custody evaluators do not have sufficient understanding of domestic violence to assess child best interests in a domestic violence context: Daniel Saunders et al., Child Custody Evaluators' Beliefs About Domestic Abuse Allegations: Their Relationship to Evaluator Demographics, Background, Domestic Violence Knowledge and Custody-Visitation Recommendations (Rockville, MD: National Criminal Justice Research Service, 2012); Daniel Saunders, State Laws Related to Family Judge’s and Custody Evaluators’ Recommendations in Cases of Intimate Partner Violence: Final Summary Overview (Rockville, MD: National Criminal Justice Research Service, 2017); Michael Davis et al., Custody Evaluations When There are Allegations of Domestic Violence: Practices, Beliefs, and Recommendations of Professional Evaluators (Rockville, MD: National Criminal Justice Research Service, 2011); Jason Hans et al., “The Effects of Domestic Violence Allegations on Custody Evaluators’ Recommendations” (2014) 28:6 Journal of Family Psychology 957; Jennifer Hardesty et al., Divorcing Mothers’ Demeanor in Custody