NOW Fires Back at Fathers & Families over Our Campaign to Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition

A group of 50 mental health experts from 10 countries are part of an effort to add Parental Alienation Disorder to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), the American Psychiatric Association’s “bible” of diagnoses. This scientific coalition is led by psychiatrist William Bernet, who explains that adding PAD to DSM “would spur insurance coverage, stimulate more systematic research, lend credence to a charge of parental alienation in court, and raise the odds that children would get timely treatment.”

Fathers & Families wants to ensure that the DSM-5 Task Force is aware of the scope and severity of Parental Alienation. To this end, in December we asked our supporters to write the Task Force to urge them to consider including Parental Alienation Disorder in DSM-5. As usual, the response was overwhelming. It also helped lead to progress–while as expected the newly-released draft version does not specifically include Parental Alienation Disorder, the DSM-5 Task Force has now listed Parental Alienation Disorder among the “Conditions Proposed by Outside Sources…that are still under consideration by the work groups.”

Gaining inclusion isn”t easy–David J. Kupfer, M.D., the chair of the DSM-V Task Force, recently told the media that with any disorder proposed for inclusion, ‘The door to get in [the manual] is pretty hard.’

The DSM must consider whether Parental Alienation Disorder fits their scientific criteria for inclusion. Experts will say that they do not want this process politicized, and we agree. We are not seeking to influence the Task Force’s view of the scientific aspects of PAD, nor are we asking the Task Force to include Parental Alienation Disorder due to pressure politics or our campaign. Our purpose is simply to ensure that the DSM Task Force is aware that Parental Alienation is a common problem in divorce/child custody, and to take a serious look at whether PAD meets their scientific criteria. Our campaign page is here, those who would like to participate in our efforts can do so by clicking here.

The National Organization for Women has learned about our efforts and is concerned about them. They have now sent out an Action Alert to counter our campaign. According to NOW’s Tracy Simmons:

I am writing you, the leaders of various groups that represent battered women, for your help in one of the most important matters we will address this year. The American Psychiatric Association is considering adding Parental Alienation to the Diagnosticians book, which would legitimize this legal tactic into a real disorder.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has now morphed into Parental Alienation Disorder thanks to the fathers’ rights organizations who are wildly pushing this through, and why wouldn’t they? It benefits the abuser and discriminates against the victims of abuse, which are overwhelmingly women.

This gender specific, abuse excuse, junk science can not be allowed to enter into the scientific community as there is nothing scientific about a syndrome/disorder whose only symptoms are a uterus, divorce papers, and bruises. I ask that you all to take action against legitimizing this outrageous theory by e-mailing the APA and asking your groups to do the same.

While Simmons’ claims aren’t credible, there are legitimate questions to be asked about Parental Alienation Disorder, as there are with all mental health issues. We address many of these in Frequently Asked Questions about Parental Alienation and also summarize the scientific perspective in the Case for Including Parental Alienation Disorder in DSM V.

To participate in our campaign, click here.

Opponents of recognizing Parental Alienation in California have introduced AB 612 which would ban Parental Alienation from being mentioned in any way, shape or form in a California family court. Should such efforts succeed, they could easily spread to other states. Last year Fathers & Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson was instrumental in blocking the bill’s passage but it will be heard in the Senate this spring. Robinson and I detailed the problems with AB 612 in our recent column Preventing courts from considering parental alienation will harm kids (Capitol Weekly, 2/25/10).

Fathers & Families’ crucial work on Parental Alienation costs money–to make a tax-deductible contribution to support this effort, click here.


Glenn Sacks, MA
Executive Director, Fathers & Families

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