June 10, 2011 Comments Off on Parental Alienation Syndrome: Another Alarming DSM-5 Proposal
“Parental Alienation Syndrome:” Another Alarming DSM-5 Proposal
Using a medicalizing label to mask child sexual abuse
by Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. in Science Isn’t Golden
Using a medicalizing label to mask child sexual abuse
Among the scientifically unwarranted and socially dangerous proposals that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 authors have not yet seen fit to rule out is the addition of something its advocates call Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is a medical-sounding term for nothing more than “She’s a vengeful woman who’s trying to make her children tell horrific lies about their father.”
When applied to a parent in a case involving an allegation of child sexual abuse, it is nearly always applied to a woman whose child is allegedly being molested by the father. Despite not yet being in the DSM, PAS has in some courts proven an astonishingly effective vehicle for deflecting the focus from the abuser and simply claiming that the woman must be lying, and coaching her children to lie, because she has the alleged mental illness of PAS.  The claim is that without cause, she wants to turn the children against their father.
What often gets short shrift, as a result, is even the consideration of the possibility that the children are truly being molested….
The construct of PAS is unscientific, composed of a group of general symptoms with no empirical basis….
Major professional bodies, including the American Psychological Association, have discredited PAS on the grounds that it is misused in domestic violence cases and that there is no scientific evidence of such a “syndrome.” The more recent APA Online document Issues and Dilemmas in Family Violence…. particularly Issue 5, describes the tendency of family courts to miminize a context of violence, falsely accusing the mother of alienation and granting custody to the father in spite of his history of violence.
The National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ 2006 manual states that “parental alienation syndrome or PAS has been discredited by the scientific community” and “should therefore be ruled inadmissible” (p. 19). A number of prominent figures, including Dr. Paul J. Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association and president of the Leadership Council on Mental Health, Justice, and the Media, and Professor Jon R. Conte of the University of Washington Social Welfare Doctoral Faculty have also discredited PAS and its lack of scientific basis (see Bruch, 2001).
Because of the use of PAS as a tactic by many CSA perpetrators to influence decision makers and the court system, abused children have been placed in the hands of their abusers (Childress, 2006). It is estimated that “over 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States” ( http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/1.html ) and that PAS was used in a large number of these cases. ….
The DSM-5 editors could at any time have already struck PAS from their planned additions but have so far chosen not to.
If this alarms you, and especially if PAS has been used against you, please consider going to dsm5.org before their June 15 cutoff date for input from the public arrives, and send them your concerns. Please urge everyone else you can think of to do the same. The DSM-5 authors will do themselves and the manual’s reputation no favors if they include PAS, and they need to hear from people whom the label has harmed.
May 21, 2011 Comments Off on Parental Alienation Disorder: Why Label Children with a Mental Diagnosis?
also: Revealed, six decades of ‘ritual’ child abuse: Catholic schools and orphanages damned in report
Parental Alienation Disorder: Why Label Children with a Mental Diagnosis?
Journal of Child Custody Volume 7, Issue 4, 2010, Pages 266 – 286 Authors: Lenore E. Walker; David L. Shapiro
The proposal to include Parental Alienation Disorder (PAD) in the new proposed Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) creates a host of problems. The first major problem is the labeling of children with a mental disorder who may simply be reacting with anger to the changes in their lives from the separation and divorce of their parents by rejecting one parent and aligning with the other. Diagnosis may bring with it shame and have a chilling impact on parents report of domestic violence.
Although proponents of PAD are aware that it is inappropriate to diagnose children who have been exposed to child abuse and/or domestic violence with PAD, they do not clarify how to make such differential diagnoses. It is suggested that there are insufficient empirical data to differentiate abused and traumatized children from those who are alienated or estranged from the rejected parent.
Nor are there sufficient scientific data to account for other child vulnerabilities such as neurological immaturity, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), other anxiety and mood disorders, or oppositional defiant disorder. There are too few comparisons between the risks and benefits of adding a new diagnosis of childhood disorders to justify its inclusion in the DSM-V.
Appropriate intervention strategies recommended for PAD children include contact with the rejected parent, which differ widely from trauma victim/survivors who need assurance of safety and healing before contact is re-established. Ethical standards that may be impacted by this new diagnosis and admissibility issues raised by its predecessor, Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), are also discussed by the authors.
“As discussed, alienation is almost always alleged when the child does not want to be with a parent when there does not appear to be any ‘rational’ reason for these feelings. Of course, the definition of ‘‘rational’’ in these cases remains totally subjective to the person making the evaluation. Although proponents of labeling these children with PAD claim that using this label will assist in formulation of treatment goals and techniques, there are no empirical data to support this position (Bernet, 2010). Using the definition put forward by the American Psychological Association (APA) which requires two scientific studies replicating each other, there are no empirically validated interventions that support evidence that forcing a child to be with an unwanted parent will promote mental health.” (p.270-271)
“PROPOSED DIAGNOSTIC CRITERIA FOR PAD AND MAKING A DIFFERENTIAL DIAGNOSIS….Perhaps the most egregious part of this newly proposed diagnosis is the impossibility of making a differential diagnosis based on the child’s signs and symptoms and not the parents’ alleged behavior. Johnston (2010) discussed the confusion currently in the courts dealing with PAS=PAD and, in particular, defining who is alienated, the rejected parent or the child? There are so many explanations other than alienation for a child’s rejection of a parent during separation or divorce that to give children a new mental illness diagnosis is neither necessary nor appropriate. Surely anxiety disorders including PTSD from abuse are primary as has been discussed herein, as are other mood disorders, particularly depression. The criteria for children’s depression often include acting-out behavior and rejection of people and things that they used to like to do.
(p. 276 – 277)
“It is not appropriate to diagnose a child with a mental illness based on the parents’ behavior. In many cases known to the authors, both in practice and in supervision of other forensic evaluators, the child’s behavior could have been diagnosed as an adjustment disorder with anxiety or depression. Separation and divorce often means a new home or even two homes, new schools, new friends, and new schedules. Even when all goes well this can be a daunting challenge for most children.” (p. 277) http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~db=all?content=10.1080/15379418.2010.521041
full article pdf and web page until 12/31/11 http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/903178__930160339.pdf http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/section?content=a930160339&fulltext=713240928
Revealed, six decades of ‘ritual’ child abuse: Catholic schools and orphanages damned in report
By Tom Kelly 21st May 2009
Abuse was ‘endemic’ in childrens’ institutions
Safety of children in general was not a consideration
No abusers will be prosecuted
Victims banned from launch of shocking report
Church leaders and government watchdogs covered up ‘endemic’ and ‘ritualised’ abuse of thousands of children in Roman Catholic schools and orphanages in the Irish Republic, a shocking report revealed yesterday.
For six decades, priests and nuns terrorised boys and girls in the workhouse-style schools with sexual, physical and mental abuse.
But officials in Ireland’s Catholic Church shielded paedophile staff from arrest to protect their own reputations despite knowing they were serial attackers, according to the 2,600-page report, which took nine years to complete.
Irish government inspectors also failed to stop the chronic beatings, rape and humiliation, it found.
About 35,000 children and teenagers who were orphans, petty thieves, truants, unmarried mothers or from dysfunctional families were sent to Ireland’s network of 250 Church-run industrial schools, reformatories, orphanages and hostels from the 1930s up until the early 1990s.
The report by Ireland’s Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse found ‘a climate of fear, created by pervasive, excessive and arbitrary punishment, permeated most of the institutions and all those run for boys’.
It added: ‘Children lived with the daily terror of not knowing where the next beating was coming from.’
Judge Sean Ryan, who chaired the commission, said that when confronted with evidence of sex abuse, religious authorities responded by moving the sex offenders to another location, where in many instances they were free to abuse again.
‘There was evidence that such men took up teaching positions sometimes within days of receiving dispensations because of serious allegations or admissions of sexual abuse,’ the report said.
‘The safety of children in general was not a consideration.’….
The report found that molestation and rape were ‘endemic’ in boys’ facilities, chiefly run by the Christian Brothers order.
Girls supervised by orders of nuns, chiefly the Sisters of Mercy, suffered much less sexual abuse but frequent assaults and humiliation designed to make them feel worthless.
‘In some schools a high level of ritualised beating was routine,’ the report said. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1184828/Revealed-decades-ritual-child-abuse-Catholic-schools-orphanages-damned-report.html
April 16, 2011 Comments Off on No Way Out But One documentary – woman accused of kidnapping her own children
No Way Out But One is a feature length documentary currently in post-production. It tells the story of an American woman accused of kidnapping her own children, a woman who fled the country and became the first American to be granted asylum by the government of the Netherlands on grounds of domestic violence. The 13-minute version presented here serves as a trailer for the feature and a documentary short.
In 1994 Holly Collins became an international fugitive when she took her three children and fled the United States to protect them from abuse. The family courts had ignored medical evidence of domestic violence and gave full custody of Holly’s children to the man they named as their abuser – her ex-husband and the children’s father. Wanted by the FBI, Holly became the first U.S. Citizen to receive asylum from the Netherlands.
In No Way Out But One, Holly Collins shares a story that in many respects is like thousands of others. It is estimated that 58,000 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States.
Unlike so many of the other tragic stories happening around the country, Holly was able to protect her children and keep them safe. Despite all the harrowing trials, her story ultimately has a happy ending. Even though she and the kids had No Way Out But One.
October 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases by Merrilyn McDonald
It is commonly believed that false allegations of sexual abuse in the context of divorce are epidemic, that most allegations made in the context of divorce are made by vindictive mothers and that these allegations are almost always false. These beliefs are not supported by scientific evidence. It is widely believed that at least 50 percent of all allegations of child sexual abuse are false, and that an accused person appearing in a court of law is quite likely to have been falsely accused. Those who defend accused child sexual offenders want us to believe that 50 percent of individuals brought to trial are innocent. These beliefs are not supported by scientific evidence, either….False allegations of sexual abuse in divorce are a rare occurrence. False allegations of sexual abuse in general are rare. Unsubstantiated is not the same as false. Child sexual abuse is a common experience . Child sexual abuse is grossly underreported http://www.omsys.com/mmcd/courtrev.htm
April 23, 2009 § Leave a comment
The Myth of Epidemic False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce Cases by Merrilyn McDonald (note: abstract summaries and web page addresses are not from the article)
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IS A COMMON EXPERIENCE. A more recent national survey found that 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men reported sexual abuse as a child. David Finkelhor, Gerald Hotaling, I.A. Lewis & Christine Smith, “Sexual Abuse in a National Survey of Adult Men and Women: Prevalence, Characteristics, and Risk Factors,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n1 p19-28 1990. Abstract: The national survey of over 2500 adult men and women found a reported history of childhood sexual abuse of 27 percent in women and 16 percent in men. Correlates of higher rates of abuse (e.g., growing up in unhappy families) are reported for both men and women. http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?_nfpb=true&_&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=EJ406942&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=EJ406942 The rates of 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men are considered to be solid, accurate rates by most researchers.
ALLEGATIONS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE IN DIVORCE CASES ARE INFREQUENT. An excellent study on the incidence of sexual abuse in divorce was done by Thoennes and Tjaden of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Research Unit in Denver, with funding from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect. Data was gathered from domestic relations court staff in eight jurisdictions, during a six-month period. Staff in these jurisdictions completed a questionnaire each time there was an allegation of sexual abuse in a custody or visitation dispute. More than 9,000 families in these areas had custody or visitation disputes. Of these 9,000 families, less than 2 percent had allegations of sexual abuse. (Nancy Thoennes & Patricia G. Tjaden, “The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Divorce Disputes,” Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v14 n2 p151-63 (1990). “A study of over 9,000 custody/visitation dispute cases found that sexual abuse allegations occurred in 2 percent of contested cases. Such cases involve a variety of accused and accusing parties and are no less likely to be “unfounded” than other sexual abuse reports.”
David P. H. Jones & J. Melbourne McGraw, “Reliable and Fictitious Accounts of Sexual Abuse to Children,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 2, No. 1, 27-45 (March 1987). “The various categories of reports of child sexual abuse were examined in Phase 1 of a two-part study. In this first phase, all the reports (N = 576) of child sexual abuse made to the Denver Department of Social Services were categorized. Most reports were reliable accounts (70%), but a small proportion appeared to be fictitious (8%)” http://jiv.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/2/1/27
Why Do Kids Recant?….The fact that a child recants does not mean that abuse never happened. It often means that pressure has been applied to the child and the child submitted. A child may also recant when he feels he is not being believed. Naturally reluctant to talk about abuse, a child may become silent or recant if those interviewing him seem skeptical of his disclosure. (Published in the Spring 1998 issue of Court Review) http://www.omsys.com/mmcd/courtrev.htm