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Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Also Harms Women

 

Analysis of recent PAS paper by Richard Gardner
[Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Also Harms Women]

" A syndrome, by medical definition, is a cluster of symptoms, occurring
together, that characterize a specific disease. The symptoms, although
seemingly disparate, warrant being grouped together because of a common
etiology or basic underlying cause."
  -- by Richard Gardner

from:
http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/stories/gardner040502.htm

Notwithstanding the above quote, Gardner, in the body of his analysis,
seems to confuse "syndrome" with "disease" and "disorder", reading this
article. That he is sustained in this misreading by the bureaucracy of
medicine matters not one iota in the domain of the sense of words. A
syndrome is identifiable by its characteristic grouping of symptoms, not
their cause. A syndrome may or may not have a (correctly) identified
disease at its root. He uses an analogy - with trees being trees because
they are trees, irrespective of whether they are recognised as such, which
to my mind vastly overstates the case - PAS occurs at one point along a
continuum of human relational behaviour, it is not an absolute singularity.

This brings me to the second gaping hole in his logic. Diagnostically,
it is true, it gives an ability to explain alienation not explained by
"real" misbehaviour on the part of a parent, but by the very restrictions
Gardner seeks to impose on any such diagnosis, it sidelines itself, or
lends itself to greater litigious tension in families. In one sense his
dogmatism can be understood: he is fighting for his theory in the real
world of petulant professional rivalries, not for us - is this not always
the way with the selective responsibility of professionals? According to
Gardner in this article, PAS can be identified categorically and exists
due to an alienating parent - or it ain't PAS. This implies that, far from
encouraging people to desist from competing over the bodies of children,
it invites them to do so by arguing the toss about whether this is "really
PAS" or alternatively lacking credence. Grey areas, within which we mostly
exist, become problematic. Gardner is seemingly impervious to this:

"[...] I generally recommended the mother to be designated the primary
custodial parent, even though she might have been a PAS indoctrinator."

...as he would seem to subscribe to the very principle of "backing
winners" which causes the syndrome to manifest itself in the first place.

There may be a syndrome that exists in humans at a visceral level, to
spontaneously desist from relational association with certain humans when
this threatens their association with other humans in turn, for instance
forcing a choice between their prime carers. Clearly, this may give rise
to creative self-expression of such sentiments. We may find that in
disrupted families, the disgust reflex is induced against one parent or
the other. PAS would then be one among many examples of this. It may
even, through Gardner's efforts to make it so clearly identifiable, lead to
insight into all such behaviour. But our problem, as opposed to Gardner's,
is to situate this phenomenon within the complex actions of human families
now, as emergent phenomena which benefit little from discussion as though
this were a narrow and discrete "disease". To use Gardner's technique, we
would need a plethora of discrete "disorders" (the badge of belonging!) to
account for a plethora of human devices which end up splitting children
from normal parents. And we would still simply end up with the facts,
baldly stated by Gardner himself, that such syndromes have become widely
manifest BECAUSE of shifting legislation. He refers to PAS emerging due
to the advent of possible paternal custody. But the tender years doctrine
which this supplanted seems more the pernicious fount of this evil, if it
is not the legal doctrine of assumptive paternal custody of the late
nineteenth century which it in turn supplanted, for each has the premise
of forcible legal establishment of a sole parental custodian in the event
of parental separation. Habits that are hard to break?

To me, this indicates that legislation is the "medical" root cause of this
syndrome. The tentative science behind it - eg: attachment theory, can
also be fingered. Parents and children are adapting their extraordinarily
flexible human intelligence to the insane world of family legislation and
legal practice. So, far from PAS being a useful tool in the armoury of
family disputes, it becomes prey to the prevailing legislative, medical
and judicial ideologies of the time. Gardner has twisted it to justify
recommending sole custody, remember?

The Gardner approach seems to me to be strangely symptomatic of the
struggle we humans have to exist in such an alienating world of conflicting
professionals. Later in the article he displays a certain awareness which
gives pause for thought:

"[...] "PAS is just Gardner's theory," "PAS doesn't exist because it's not
in DSM-IV," "PAS is not a syndrome." Their lawyers, too, will tell them,
"PAS might exist, but the court will not recognize it. I can't use the word
syndrome in the courtroom. It's the 'big S' word." Worse yet, many
leaders in the Women's Rights movement are reflexively chanting the same
incantations, thereby abandoning the women whose cause they profess to
espouse. These mantras have become deeply embedded in the brain
circuitry of most of the people the alienated women are looking to for
help-therapists, lawyers, guardians ad litems, and judges. "

Gardner, as a rationalist, has a belief in the possibility of ideas becoming
"deeply embedded in the brain circuitry" of professionals, of whom he is
one. He has set out to systematically establish the existence of a
syndrome, for which he will be remembered, according to the rituals of
present-day scientific process, to burn this into their brain circuitry. In
this case, he could be viewed as a possibly well-meaning Machiavellian.

But that's not science.

It is still hard to say whether, on aggregate, the focus on this syndrome
is helpful. Instinctive opponents, like me, seem to shy away from this
grandstanding of a small idea - it detracts from fundamentals. But once
one engages with the logic of PAS, seeing how alienation can work in a
particular instance, it does to some degree break the logjam preventing
children and parents from being together, not just due to PAS. This is
often the way with the uptake of conceptual frameworks, they are not born
fully fledged. But however much PAS achieves in the grand scheme of
things, over a period of years, it is probably the wrong tool for the courts
now, who are not scientists, but instinctive opponents with little opportunity
or will to assimilate the culture behind the theory. One is forced to conclude
that it is a pity that the existence of PAS, rather than something rather more
illuminating and inclusive of a greater range of cases, has come to occupy
people's minds to the extent that it needs to be defended.

Julian Fitzgerald
Leeds (UK)

~~~~~~~

From 06 Apr 02:

ACFC: PAS Denial Also Harms Women

To PAS Network  [04 Apr 02; excerpt]

From: Richard Gardner

I have recently completed an article that I consider very timely.
This is the title, subtitle, and abstract:

The Denial of the Parental Alienation Syndrome Also Harms Women

Abstract: Denying reality is obviously a maladaptive way of dealing
with a situation. In fact, denial is generally considered to be one of
the defense mechanisms, mechanisms that are inappropriate,
maladaptive, and pathological.  In the field of medicine, to deny the
existence of a disease seriously compromises the physician's ability
to help patients.  If a physician does not believe that a particular
disease exists, then it will not be given consideration when making a
differential diagnosis, and the patient may then go untreated.  This
is in line with the ancient medical principle that proper diagnosis
must precede proper treatment. Or, if for some external reason the
physician recognizes the disorder, but feels obligated to use another
name, other problems arise, e.g.,impaired communication with others
regarding exactly what is going on with the patient, and hence
improper treatment. This is what is occurring at this point with the
parental alienation syndrome, a disorder whose existence has
compelling verification.  In this article I discuss the reasons for
denial of the PAS and the ways in which such denial harms families.
Particular emphasis will be given to the ways in which this denial
harms women, although I will certainly comment on the ways in which
the denial harms their husbands and children.

I consider this such an important article that it will serve as the
primary focus of presentations I will be giving in London in September
and Frankfurt am Main in October. The article is attached and can also
be downloaded from my website:

http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar13.html

2002 Richard A. Gardner, M.D.

[now also posted at MND:
http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/stories/gardner040502.htm ]

Richard A. Gardner, M.D.  [CV]
http://www.rgardner.com/pages/cvsum.html

[from MND: Dr. Richard A. Gardner is a renowned expert in the field of
Parental Alienation. His groundbreaking book, The Parental Alienation
Syndrome: A Guide for Legal and Mental Health Professionals, was first
published in 1992.]

Website address for references and legal citations on the parental
alienation syndrome (PAS) and sex-abuse accusations:
http://www.rgardner.com/refs/

Website address for book information:
http://www.rgardner.com/

Address correspondence to Richard A. Gardner, M.D., 155 County Road,
Cresskill, NJ 07626. Email:
ct39@erols.com
===
Related articles:

Empowerment of Children in the Development of Parental Alienation Syndrome
http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/stories/gardner041502.htm
by Richard A. Gardner. M.D. -- 15 Apr 02

The Role of the Judiciary in the Entrenchment of the Parental Alienation
Syndrome (PAS)*
http://www.mensnewsdaily.com/stories/gardner041002.htm
http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar11w.html
by Richard A. Gardner. M.D. -- Winter 2002
 

FROM ACFC

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