What is Parental Alienation Syndrome?
Parental alienation syndrome was a term coined by child psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner drawing upon his clinical experiences since the early 1980s. The concept of one parent attempting to separate their child from the other parent as punishment or part of a divorce have been described since at least the 1940s, but Gardner was the first to define a specific syndrome. In a 1985 article, he defined PAS as "...a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child's campaign of denigration against the parent, a campaign that has no justification. The disorder results from the combination of indoctrinations by the alienating parent and the child's own contributions to the vilification of the alienated parent" also stating that the indoctrination may be deliberate or unconscious on the part of the alienating parent. PAS was originally developed as an explanation for the increase in the number of reports of child abuse in the 1980s. Gardner initially believed that parents (usually mothers) made false accusations of child abuse and sexual abuse against the other parent (usually fathers) in order to prevent further contact between them. While Gardner initially described the mother was the alienator in 90% of PAS cases, he later stated both parents were equally likely to alienate. He also later stated that in his experience accusations of sexual abuse were not present in the vast majority of cases of PAS.