Feb 24, 2013

Parental Alienation Syndrome

For Christmas, Beth got me the book "A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood and Divorce", by Alec Baldwin.  While I am sure that he has presented his perspective and certainly shares the blame for the failure of the marriage, and must own his subsequent actions, I was amazed at the whole concept of Parental Alienation as described in this book.  While not accepted as a medical diagnosis, the harm that occurs to the child in the short term and long term, cannot be denied.

Psychiatrist Richard Gardner described PAS as a preoccupation by the child with criticism and deprecation of a parent. Gardner stated that PAS occurs when, in the context of child custody disputes, one parent deliberately or unconsciously attempts to alienate a child from the other parent. According to Gardner, PAS is characterized by a cluster of eight symptoms that appear in the child. These include a campaign of denigration and hatred against the targeted parent; weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalizations for this deprecation and hatred; lack of the usual ambivalence about the targeted parent; strong assertions that the decision to reject the parent is theirs alone (the "independent-thinker phenomenon"); reflexive support of the favored parent in the conflict; lack of guilt over the treatment of the alienated parent; use of borrowed scenarios and phrases from the alienating parent; and the denigration not just of the targeted parent but also to that parent's extended family and friends. 

In my case, the alienation did not occur at the start of the divorce, but eight years later, when my children were teenagers.  In 2007, Beth and I took them on a 2-week vacation, one week at our Florida timeshare, and one week on a Western Caribbean cruise.  We had a great time, but after that trip, the bottom fell out of my relationship with my children.  All eight of the symptoms described above were experienced by us, and some of the quotes from Alec Baldwin's book were verbatim statements that we heard.  The net result is that I have had virtually no contact with my kids in the last four years.  Sigh...

Not a day goes by that I do not think of my children, how sad I am that things turned out the way they did, and that they truly have been poisoned against me, my wife, and our loving families.  As this was occurring, we strove to take the high road, to recognize that they were teenagers and had their own lives; but if we would have known how things would end up, we would absolutely have fought in the courts to maintain contact and be a part of their lives.  

I love and miss you both!


  1. I didn't know this. It's very sad for all of you but it is never too late. You may never be able to make it perfect but you can make it better. I hope you have the courage and chance to try.

  2. I'll probably finish the book tonight. As you know, I am stunned by how similar Baldwin's experience with this was to ours, and how accurately PAS describes our own experience. Amazing.

  3. Ken, I feel the pain, but from a distance. I certainly appreciate your position. But I hope so e light is at the end of the tunnel. My son married a sweet lady. Her mother constantly degraded her father, but it wasn't long until I could see a change, as adulthood came on she voiced a true love for her dad and she had him visit her home and enjoy the grand kids. We had the opportunity to meet him, he was not the monster the wife had painted over the years I knew her. He comes around a couple times a year now. It is nice.

    I hope for the same as years pass. The truth has a way of coming out. Our thoughts are with you & Beth.

  4. I think this is a book that FOR SURE I will read... As you know, I have gone through a similar experience with my oldest daughter... thanks for sharing this and this insight to you and Beth's journey...

  5. I understand this completely. And empathize. We are currently estranged from our oldest daughter because of someone in her orbit. We are considering options in regards to our grandchildren. Sometimes love isn't enough.

  6. Hopefully as your children grow they will come to see what they are missing in their lives and realize that while neither parent is perfect, in any kind of marriage and/or divorce, they are your only parents.

  7. This must be very painful! Maybe one day it will sort itself out. You know if you are hurting they must be also. But perhaps the hurt will actually bring them back to you.


Tell Me What You Think, Don't Make me go Rogue on you :o)