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PAS or Parental Alienation Syndrome Defined in Domestic Violence Terms
September 14, 2005
by Joan T. Kloth, Masters Student
Southern Christian University
Masters Department for Marriage and Family Therapy And Professional Counseling
July 2004

Dr. Richard Gardner, of Cresskill, NJ, a child psychologist, was one of the leading authorities on children of dysfunctional families. What he found in his research is that no matter the financial or cultural background, alienation of one parent from the other could occur. According to Dr. Richard Gardner, PAS is described as "a disturbance in which children are obsessively preoccupied with depreciation and/or criticism of a parent. In other words, denigration that is unjustified and or exaggerated." In effect, these children are taught to hate the Targeted Parent to the point of wanting to eliminate them from their lives. Dr. Gardner considers this psychological abuse and it is the only form of psychological abuse that has clear-cut unmistakable signs and symptoms and therefore the only psychological abuse that can be easily diagnosed.

PAS can be further described as a form of psychological kidnapping where the child's mind has been forced to prejudicially believe and discriminate against the Targeted Parent. This is perpetrated by creating fear, not of the Targeted Parent, but of the Alienating Parent whom the child must reside with, or as Gardner calls it, the "hostage taker" parent. It is also called the Stockholm Syndrome and best compared to the Patti Hearst kidnapping.

According to Kemp in his book Abuse in the Family, domestic violence is defined as "A form of Maltreatment perpetrated by a person with whom the victim has or had a close personal relationship." (Kemp, P.36) Furthermore, the clinical and textbook definitions and categories of Child Psychological Maltreatment found in Table 3-1 of Alan Kemp's book, Abuse in the Family, on pages 72-77, can easily be applied to PAS showing it as a form of Domestic Violence via Psychological Maltreatment. This book is a technical training book for Students studying for their Masters in Counseling and Social Work. It is just one of many textbooks used to teach the students and professionals about Psychological Maltreatment and the categories that make it up. Those categories are:

  • Rejecting (spurning)
  • Terrorizing
  • Corrupting
  • Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability
  • Unreliable and inconsistent parenting
  • Mental health, medical, or educational neglect
  • Degrading/devaluing (spurning)
  • Isolating
  • Exploiting

As we correlate the above definition, we will see how it fits in classifying PAS as Psychological Maltreatment and thus Domestic Violence. For example, by deliberately alienating the victims from other family members and social supports, isolation is occurring. The whole premise of PAS is to isolate and alienate the children from the Targeted Parent or any other individual who supports the Targeted Parent. If the alienator uses threats or denigrating tactics, to force the victims to comply, this can be seen as terrorizing. (Kemp, P. 225-228) As well, verbal denigration, harassment and exploitation of the Targeted Parent is very prominent and a key indicator of PAS. In addition, DV includes the exploitation and use of the children for personal gain. Thus in PAS when the children are used to destroy the Targeted Parent by denying visitation or a relationship between TP and the children or is used for monetary gains such as excessive expenses beyond child support, they are in affect committing Domestic Violence. It is for these reasons that PAS or alienating the children from the Targeted Parent can be considered as a form of domestic violence.

Let's take this a bit further in it's application. When a parent REJECTS a child because the children show any love or affection for the Targeted Parent that is a form of abuse. This is not only a form of rejection, but terrorization. In fact, a child's refusal to come to the Targeted Parents home for fear of loosing the Alienating Parent's conditional love is fear and fear is terror.

Next, there is corrupting. When an Alienating parent refuses to comply with court orders and tells the children they do not have to either, this is corrupting. It is teaching the children that they are above the law and therefore immune to the courts authority. When a parent files false allegations of abuse and convinces the children to do the same, this is corruption. When an Alienating parent tells the children lies about the Targeted Parent, and that anything having to do with the Targeted Parent is illegal, immoral and disgusting, this is corrupting. In fact, this is a form of discrimination and prejudice, which corrupts the children's minds.

Next, let's look at Denying essential stimulation, emotional responsiveness, or availability. By refusing to allow the children to have a relationship with the Targeted Parent, for no reason other than their own need to control the ex-spouse, the Alienating Parent's are denying them the basic elements of stimulation, emotions and availability with the Targeted Parent. In fact, the Targeted Parent has little to no opportunity to defend themselves against the false allegations. Though they will have you believe that they or the children feared for their lives and that the Targeted Parent was abusive, this is usually unsubstantiated or proven by the courts to be a fabrication. With no basis for this denial, the Alienator refuses their children a warm and loving relationship with the Targeted Parents. Thus it causes unreliable and inconsistent parenting. Since the children have been denied a relationship with the Targeted Parent, they have also been denied a reliable and consistent parenting situation and the Alienating Parent has proven that they cannot parent consistently and reliably in the supporting of a two-parent relationship with the children.

This brings us to the Mental, medical and Education Neglect. When an Alienating Parent refuses to comply with numerous separate court orders for counseling, they are denying their children's mental health. Thus mental neglect has occurred as defined in the DSM IV as Malingering. (V65.2) and by Neglect of Child (V61.21).

If despite numerous court orders or request and recommendations, the alienator continues to insult, verbally abuse and denigrate the child's Targeted Parent in front of them, this behavior degrades and devalues someone the children once respected and loved and in most cases, secretly want a relationship with. This disdain and disrespect for the Targeted Parent in front of the child(ren) is another form of Psychological Maltreatment as it permanently affects their view of that Targeted Parent, which transfers to their view of themselves. This creates a distorted sense of reality, of themselves and their ability to trust and accurately judge others.

When a parent deliberately sabotages a relationship with the Targeted Parent, with no evidence of abuse, this is called Isolation. Furthermore, when a parent has initially allowed continuous contact with the children during the separation and divorce period, but reneges on this refusing them visitation, especially when they find out their ex-spouse has a new partner, this is isolation and abuse. This is also called Remarriage as a Trigger for Parental Alienation Syndrome and can be further reviewed in an article by Dr. Richard Warshak, There is no doubt this is isolation and thus psychological abuse.

And finally, EXPLOITATION. When a parent uses the children as pawns to get back at their ex spouse for not loving them anymore or to control them further, this is exploitation. When an Alienating Parent uses the children and makes false allegations of abuse, terrorizing the children to state they hate the Targeted Parent, this is exploitation. When a parent uses the children for monetary gains, but yet does not allow the children a relationship with the targeted parent, this is exploitation.

When you add all these factors up, it is easy to see how Cross-Generational Coalitions, Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Enmeshed Relationships, Triangles and Borderless Boundaries can be classified as Child Psychological Maltreatment in a divorce situation. When you put it all together, the DSM sums up the Alienator quite nicely under Cluster B Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, (301.7). The Alienating Parent willfully and without regard to the child(ren) or the targeted parent's welfare, or the innocent extended families welfare, continually violated their rights and disregarded their needs for a relationship. The Alienating Parent uses and exploits the children. The Alienating Parent isolates the children from a nurturing parent and family. The Alienating Parent denies the children their basic needs of love and belonging from the Targeted Parent. The Alienating Parent thus neglects the children's mental welfare. They rejected the children's and Targeted Parent's testimony of love and need for each other. The Alienating Parent terrorizes and corrupts the children. The Alienating Parent callously puts their own desires, wants and needs above those of everyone else including their own children. This all adds up to one thing, PAS is Domestic Violence in the form of Psychological Maltreatment.


  • Gardener, R A. March (2000) Addendum to Parental Alienation Syndrome (2nd Edition). Creative Therapeutics, Creskill, NJ. http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/gard00b.htm.
  • Gardner, R. A. (1992). The parental alienation syndrome: A guide for mental health and legal professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc..
  • Gardner, R. A. (2000) Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Also Harms Women. http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar13.html.
  • Gardner, R. A. (2001) Should Courts Order PAS Children to Visit/Reside with the Alienated Parent? A Follow Up Study. http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/gard01a.htm. The American Journal of Forensic Psychology. 19(3):61-106.
  • Gardner, R. A. (1999) Family Therapy of the Moderate Type of Parental Alienation Syndrome. http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/gard99m.htm.
  • Gardner, R.A., (2000) Parental Alienation Syndrome, http://www.familycouts.com/pas.htm.
  • Gardner, R. A. The Empowerment of Children in the Development of Parental Alienation Syndrome. http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar14.html
  • Gardner, R. A. (2002) The Empowerment of Children in the Development of Parental Alienation Syndrome. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
  • Gardner, R. A. (2002) The Role of the Judiciary in the Entrenchment of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). http://www.rgardner.com Pas References.
  • Gardner, R. A. Response to Kelly/Johnston Article. Speak Out for the Children: a publication of the Children's Rights Council: 17 (2):6-10. http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar15.html
  • Gardner, R. A. (1998) Parental Alienation Syndrome. Creative Therapeutics, Inc. http://www.rgardner.com
  • Kemp, A. (1998) Abuse in the Family. An Introduction. Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, Albany, NY.
  • Rand, D. C. (1997) American Journal of Forensic Psychology, Volume 15, Number 3, 4 & 5 1997/23, "Parental Alienation Syndrome, The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parts 13". Forensic Psychology, Balboa Island, CA. Also found online at Dad (Pappa) Watch,
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir and
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir/rand01.html and
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir/rand02.html and
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir/rand03.html and
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir/rand04.html and
    http://www.robin.no/~dadwatch/pasdir/rand05.html and
  • Warhak, R. A. Remarriage as a Trigger of Parental Alienation Syndrome http://www.fact.on.ca/Info/pas/warsha00.htm
  • Warshak, R. A. (2001) Divorce Poison. NY, NY: ReganBooks, HarperCollins Publishers.
  • Warshak, R. (2002) Keeping Kids Out of Parental Fights. SmartKids.com Family Resource Center. Keep Kids Out of Parental Fights. January 14-16, 2002. http://www.DivorcePoison.com
  • Warshak, R. (2002) Dealing with "Divorce Poison". CBSNEWS.com, New York, Feb. 2, 2002. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/02/01/earlyshow/Saturday/printable327911.shtml.
  • Warshak, R. A. (2002 )Richard Warshak: Children often manipulated in custody fights. The Dallas Morning News. May 2 2002. http://fact.on.ca/news0005/da00502.htm
  • Warshak, R. A. Child Custody Resources. http://home.att.net/~rawars/shopcart.htm

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