You’d think that Psychology Today could do better. This article by Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. should embarrass both her and the magazine (Psychology Today, 6/6/11). Still, if this is the best opponents of Parental Alienation Syndrome can do, the future looks rosy.
For a long time now, one of the main arguments advanced by those opposed to fathers having access to their children post-divorce is that fathers abuse children, therefore their access should be limited at best.
Those folks are fighting a losing battle as we see every day. In my 13 years as an advocate for fathers and children, the public debate about fathers has changed dramatically and mostly for the better. The level of public awareness of the value of fathers to children and the rights of fathers has grown dramatically in that time.
That’s mostly because facts and fairness are on the side of fathers. For example, the answer to those who wring their hands about abusive fathers, is that mothers do twice the child abuse and neglect that fathers do. That statistic is reported every year by the Department of Health and Human Services and it must cause consternation among the anti-dad crowd.
So when we read a piece like Caplan’s it’s not hard to hear the desperation of those who feel themselves on the wrong side of history. After all, if you oppose the inclusion of PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, and you had a good argument against it, why would you make this one, as Caplan does?
[PAS] is a medical-sounding term for nothing more than “She’s a vengeful woman who’s trying to make her children tell horrific lies about their father.”
Well no, it isn’t. Anyone who spends, say, five minutes on the Internet would learn that mental health professionals say that PAS is not gender-specific. Sadly, mothers and fathers alienate about equally. Time and again it’s been said and written that men and women both alienate their children.
So with Caplan, there are two possibilities; she either doesn’t know the basics about PAS or she’s intentionally misleading her readers. I’m essentially certain which one it is, and that’s the reason why Psychology Today has no business publishing such nonsense.
And just because she leads off her piece with an assertion that is demonstrably false, doesn’t mean that Caplan has much more to say on the subject. It’s the same old stuff that we’ve come to expect and, as we’ve also come to expect, it’s almost completely unsupported by any data.
According to Caplan (and others), PAS is a concept unscrupulously used by abusive fathers to deprive mothers of their children post-divorce. Into the bargain, it’s “unscientific.”
As to the latter, I’ve said before that I express no opinion. Whether the syndrome should be included as such in the DSM is beyond my ability to say.
What is common knowledge is that some parents attempt to alienate their children from the other parent following divorce. Unfortunately, the practice is common as dirt. Whether there’s a discrete set of symptoms that alienated children exhibit and that warrant inclusion of PAS in the DSM is, for now, an open question.
That doesn’t make PAS “unscientific;” it just means the scientists haven’t agreed on the answer.
Caplan’s claim that only fathers claim PAS only against mothers is, as I said, simply wrong. The same is true of her belief that family courts don’t take allegations of child abuse seriously. It’s a well-traveled claim, but it’s not only untrue, it’s essentially unimaginable.
So Caplan plays the card that lets us know to a dead certainty what her true motivations are. She claims that “it is estimated that ‘over 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States.'”
The problem with that “estimate” is that it’s made by people who believe every mother’s claim of child abuse by a father to be true. Their claims are legion, their proof is non-existent. Time after time people like Amy Neustein, Jonea Rogers, Sadia Lolliger and the like swear to heaven that their children were taken from them by courts that cared not a whit for their claims of child abuse by the father.
But on closer examination, it’s revealed that the courts investigated the claims carefully and found them to be unwarranted. Not only that, but Neustein’s daughter has been grown up for a long time now and has said that she owes her well-being to the fact that CPS got her away from her mother and into her father’s care. Does Neustein admit that she’s wrong? Nope; even her daughter’s own words don’t deflect her from her mission.
It’s the same mission that Caplan is on – to do whatever they can to keep fathers and children separate. And if that means making up “facts” about PAS, then they’re happy to do it.
And, like seemingly everyone else in her camp, Caplan wants us to believe that Dr. Richard Gardner, who first researched and named the syndrome, was an apologist for (male) child abusers. The fact that that is again simply false deters her not a bit.
Gardner is no longer living and it’s not legally possible to libel a dead person, which is the only reason these people keep making the claim. What they hang their hats on is the fact that he did, as an expert witness, on occasion express the opinion that a mother who claimed abuse by the father was actually engaging in alienating behavior. And if you believe that mothers never lie about abuse, there’s only one thing to conclude – that Gardner was shielding pedophiles.
It’s utter nonsense of course, but again, when you don’t have real arguments to make, this is the type of thing you come up with.
If you think by now that Caplan’s penned a pretty dreadful piece, it’s actually worse than that. One of the commenters is Robert Samery, Vice President of the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization, so I’ll let him administer the post mortem.
You have made strong assertions against the existence of PAS, all without balance. You quote old statements without quoting the updates by those same sources and further you say that elsewhere there is no credible research supporting the malady.
In 1996 the APA simply found a lack of data, no invalidating data even then, in 2008 their position changed when said they have no position on PAS.
You quote Dr. Fink as discrediting PAS without quoting his written retraction and newer validation of the behaviours and damage they cause children.
You demean the courts and actually say they do not take domestic violence seriously without any situation whatsoever. Yet you do not site even 1 case where this has been shown as to have happened. I would be happy to site any number or case from all parts of the where the child has been brain washed, and in more extreme cases, abducted or even murder by a parent who testified to the motivation for the behaviour being to remove the other parent from that child”s life.
If you have no valid research information about PAS please read any of the over 500 recent peer reviewed situations in over 40 countries as presented by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists Treasurer Dr. W. Bernet in his book “Parental Alienation, DSM-5, and ICD-11′, 2010.
If you want empirical evidence you only need look to our website where both children of all ages and parents recount their personal stories of PAS, or look to Dr. Amy J. Baker’s research with adult children survivors of PAS, “Adult Children of Parent Alienation Syndrome’, 2007.
I trust this brief update is helpful to your understanding of parent child relations in high conflict parenting including divorce.