Step Parents and Parental Alienation Syndrome.


Outstanding article and please be reminded, that while these situations are most commonly witnessed with the father being the maligned parent, it happens to women as well. In addition step parents take on the role of abusing the actual parent. Bottom line . . . it is NEVER appropriate for ANYONE to do anything other than support and encourage a child to have a healthy relationship with both their parents whenever possible.

American Judges Association

When Psychiatry and the Law Join Forces

Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

In the mid to late 1970s, in association with the replacement of the tender-years presumption with the best-interests-of-the-child presumption (and the gender egalitarianism incorporated therein), we witnessed a burgeoning of child custody litigation. Fathers who previously had little if any chance of gaining custody now found court support for their quest. Since the late 1970s, in association with the increasing popularity of the joint custodial concept, there was an even further burgeoning of custody litigation. Whereas previously the courts tended to award one parent sole custody and assigned the other parent visitation status, now litigating parents could each hope for a large share of time with the children. In association with what can justifiably be called a custody litigation explosion (which is still going on), I began to see a disorder, which I rarely saw before, that developed almost exclusively in children who were exposed to and embroiled in custody disputes. The primary characteristic of this disorder is obsessive alienation from a parent.

Originally, I thought I was observing manifestations of simple “brainwashing.” However, I soon came to appreciate that things were nor so simple and that many other factors were operative. Accordingly, I introduced the term parental alienation syndrome.

I use the term to refer to a disturbance in which a child is obsessed with deprecation and criticism of a parent (more often the father) denigration that is unjustified or exaggerated. At the same time, the other parent can do no wrong and the nonpreferred parent can do no right. The notion that such children have merely been brainwashed by the preferred parent is narrow. The term brainwashing implies that one parent is systematically and consciously programming the child to denigrate the other parent. The concept of the parental alienation syndrome includes much more than brainwashing. It includes not only conscious but subconscious and unconscious factors within the preferred parent that contribute to the parent’s influencing the child’s alienation. Furthermore (and this is extremely important), it includes factors that arise within the child-independent of the parental contributions – that foster the development of the syndrome.  (more here … )

3 thoughts on “Step Parents and Parental Alienation Syndrome.

  1. Pingback: Step Parents and Parental Alienation Syndrome. | bcbonusmomblog

  2. What about when a father’s own family alienates his child against his new wife, the stepmom?
    For nine years, my daughter has been a full-fledged Mom to her stepson. They are as close as any mother and son could be, but certain members of her husband’s family have often made disparaging remarks about her to him or within earshot of him. Its quite upsetting to both her and her stepson, but her husband won’t tell them to stop even though he knows how much it hurts them both.
    I can’t understand why he won’t he tell his mother and siblings to stop speaking ill of the woman his child loves?

    • THANK YOU!! I am glad you have brought up another permeation of how this happens because it impacts both sexes and is aided by families and friends of both sexes. We live in a world where the kid in the class growing up with their birth mom and dad is an exception, not the rule. As parents, we have to accept the likelihood our kids are going to travel through their lives with their original partner is probably not going to happen. Families who make it difficult on the new person entering are targeting the wrong person in the first place. The unhappy discussion needs to take place with the family member. But, ultimately, what is the point? Life is going to move one and where there are children involved, the best way to handle it is to assure the children they are loved by all and present the children with a loving caring family that at best embraces the ever evolving change in the family definition and at worst is politely quiet about it all.

      I have seen so much of the fighting between families of a couple, where the woman’s family claims all the holidays etc. They get birthdays and mothers and fatehrs day with gifts and visits and the husbands family is completely forgotten. Visits and invitation are extended to all her relations and the man must give up all of his sibling relationships. I am not sure what is happening with all of this but people act like all of life is a competition and that in the end, he who rocks up to heaven’s gates with the most names on his “friend’s list” wins.

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