Barbara: Today we’re very pleased to have Childress speak about the topic of attachment and parental alienation in a revolutionary way. Just very briefly, according to . I was reading Helen Fisher, who is a professor at Rutgers University, and she’s a biological anthropologist. She talks about having three brain systems, one for lust, a system for romantic love, and a system or a drive towards attachment. As young children, when they’re growing up, that secure bond between a parent is correlated with emotional wellbeing. Childress is here today because what happens when that is ruptured? What happens when there’s a divorce? So without further ado, let’s . I’ll turn it over to Childress.
Craig A. Childress: Thank you. Thank you Barbara. Let me start by thanking California Southern University for the opportunity to talk today about an issue that I believe is very important to a set of children and families going through what’s called high conflict divorce that involves . Traditionally, it’s been called parental alienation, and it involves a child’s rejection of a relationship with a normal range in affectionately available parent, because of the distorting practices of the other parent during the high conflict divorce. It’s a very tragic situation, and it’s a situation that’s not particularly well understood at this point. This is a companion lecture to my previous talk on the theoretical.
Foundations for an attachment based model of the construct of parental alienation. In this particular talk today I’m going to be addressing diagnostic issues and treatment issues related to an attachment based model of parental alienation, but to begin with here I’d like to just review some of the theoretical foundations. For a more thorough discussion of that you can go back to my other previous talk. The construct of parental alienation was first put forward by a psychiatrist Richard Gardner back in the 1980s, who identified this process involved in family dynamic involved in high conflict divorce that he called quot;Parental Alienation Syndromequot;. It was a set of anecdotal al indicators that he identified related.
To one parent inducing the child’s rejection of the other parent. Since the time that Gardner put forth the idea of Parental Alienation Syndrome, it’s received a lot of controversy. There are supporters for it, but there’s also a number of detractors. It was labelled junk science, it didn’t have a scientific foundation to it. He also put forward some ideas about false allegations of sexual abuse that also generated considerable controversy. The construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome from my perspective is a failed paradigm. In the thirty years since its first been introduced it has failed to solve the problem associated with parental alienation in high conflict divorce, and from my perspective, while Gardner.
Was accurate in identifying a al construct, he too quickly abandoned establish psychological principles and constructs in defining what was going on. He proposed, in my view, too quickly this idea of a new syndrome out there that was not based in any established psychological principles, and because of that we have been unable to leverage the construct of Parental Alienation Syndrome to solve the problem. Over thirty years we are still mired in a lot of controversy, and a lot of difficulty for the targeted parents who are rejected by their children. Gardner’s model for Parental Alienation Syndrome, is in my view, a failed theoretical paradigm, because it does not.
Establish what the processes are within established and accepted psychological principles and constructs that we can then use to understand what’s happening in the family. It’s a failed diagnostic paradigm, because his anecdotal set of eight al indicators, things like a campaign of denigration, or borrowed scenarios don’t have any foundation in any other theoretical principles, and so whether or not it’s present or absence is open to debate, and often times leads to the third problematic issues regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome is that it’s a failed legal paradigm, because it requires that we litigate whether or not parental alienation is occurring. That can be tremendously expensive.
For the targeted parents. It can involve years of litigation trying to prove parental alienation in court, and it can only be proven in the most egregious cases. Very insidious and subtle forms we are unable to prove it in the legal system, and having to prove it in the legal system unduly burdens targeted parents so that many of them cannot afford to do that, and so then lose a relationship with their children. It’s also a failed therapeutic paradigm, because even if we accept Parental Alienation Syndrome, it doesn’t guide us as to what it is and how to treat it. From my perspective, when I first ran into this about a decade ago, and decided that this was an issue that needed resolution, I went back.