Parent Alientation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was coined by Richard A. Gardner in the early 1980s. Parental Alienation Syndrome describes a significant adverse change in a child’s behavior toward one parent without justification. The child becomes belittling and emotionally withdrawn to the point where they don’t want to spend time with that parent. Occasionally it can extend to not wanting to spend time with that parent’s family. PAS can be caused intentionally by telling a child negative things about the other parent or unintentionally by a child hearing or overhearing one parent talking about the other parent in a negative light.

It is important to note that sometimes a parent does need to be alienated and that contact does need to end for the child’s safety. This would be if a parent is dangerous and if the child is at risk of harm. If this is your situation, talk to an attorney and a therapist well-versed in abusive and manipulative people and PAS about the legality surrounding limiting or cutting off contact with a destructive or dangerous parent.

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Examples of Parent Alienation Syndrome

Example #1

 Susan and Tom were married for ten years and had a five-year-old son, Peter. When they divorced, Tom would continually tell Peter bad things about his mother. He would say that Susan didn’t care about Peter because she wouldn’t have divorced him and split up the family if she did. He would also tell Peter he didn’t have enough money to buy him toys because he had to pay his mother child support. Peter began to resent his mother for hurting his father, causing him not to get any new toys and acting out. When Peter returned from visitation, he would act hostile and defiant and tell Susan that he didn’t want to live with her anymore. Susan was heartbroken and at a loss as to what to do

Example #2

 John and Kim recently broke up. They were never married but had two children, Liam and Barry. One day, John was on the phone, venting to his friend about Kim. Liam overhears John say all kinds of nasty things about his mother. Liam is furious at his mother for doing all these things and becomes hostile towards her. Both John and Kim are caught off guard by Liam’s change in behavior and chalk it up to kids sometimes acting out when their parents separate. Over time, Liam’s anger grows, and his relationship with his mother becomes more and more tense and strained. Kim can’t figure out what she did to deserve such treatment from her son. John’s actions unintentionally led to mild PAS and can most likely be remedied if the parents can open up communication with Liam and find his anger source.