Divorce & Parental Alienation Syndrome
An Aurora, Ontario-based group called the Canadian Symposium for Parental Alienation Syndrome (CSPAS) has come up with a mental illness related to divorce. The group claims that when divorced parents put kids in the middle of a nasty divorce battle and constantly berate their ex in front of a child, the kid can become quite torn trying to maintain a relationship with either parent and in extreme cases, the group claims turning a child’s mind against a parent can actually cause a definable mental illness. That particular mental illness is contained within the Canadian group’s name, Parental Alienation Syndrome.
The CSPAS is asking that parental alienation syndrome be added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The Manual that many in the profession consider to be the psychiatric encyclopedia was last revised in 1994 and the CSPAS wants the new disorder included in the next revised edition of the Manual, due to be published in May of 2013. The term Parental Alienation Syndrome was first used by psychiatrist Richard Gardner in the 1980s to describe the extreme negative feelings a child may have toward a targeted parent as a response to the constant brainwashing and indoctrination by the other parent, who is usually the one with custody. The CSPAS group contends that parental alienation can affect everyone in the extended family of the parent who is thrown under the bus when a child is pushed to reject one parent completely. The list can include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends.
The theory sounds plausible, and is backed up by a 2008 case when an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that a 13-year-old boy whose father had poisoned his relationship with his mother could be placed in a facility that deprograms children who suffer from parental alienation. However, the entire psychiatric community is not buying the validity of the syndrome so easily, and critics debate whether or not a child can actually be brainwashed into rejecting a parent. At least one independent scientific organization has called the syndrome a pseudoscientific theory. Regardless of the dissent, the movement to recognize the parental alienation syndrome as a real disorder appears to be gathering momentum.