Barbara: Today we’re very pleased to have Childress speak about the topic of attachment and parental alienation in a revolutionaryway. Just very briefly, according to . I was reading Helen Fisher, who is a professorat Rutgers University, and she’s a biological anthropologist. She talks about having threebrain systems, one for lust, a system for romantic love, and a system or a drive towardsattachment. As young children, when they’re growing up, that secure bond between a parentis correlated with emotional wellbeing. Childress is here today because what happenswhen that is ruptured? What happens when there’s a divorce? So without further ado, let’s . I’llturn it over to Childress.
Craig A. Childress: Thank you. Thank youBarbara. Let me start by thanking California Southern University for the opportunity totalk today about an issue that I believe is very important to a set of children and familiesgoing through what’s called high conflict divorce that involves . Traditionally, it’sbeen called parental alienation, and it involves a child’s rejection of a relationship witha normal range in affectionately available parent, because of the distorting practicesof the other parent during the high conflict divorce. It’s a very tragic situation, andit’s a situation that’s not particularly well understood at this point. This is a companionlecture to my previous talk on the theoretical
foundations for an attachment based modelof the construct of parental alienation. In this particular talk today I’m going tobe addressing diagnostic issues and treatment issues related to an attachment based modelof parental alienation, but to begin with here I’d like to just review some of the theoreticalfoundations. For a more thorough discussion of that you can go back to my other previoustalk. The construct of parental alienation was first put forward by a psychiatrist RichardGardner back in the 1980s, who identified this process involved in family dynamic involvedin high conflict divorce that he called quot;Parental Alienation Syndromequot;. It was a set of anecdotalal indicators that he identified related
to one parent inducing the child’s rejectionof the other parent. Since the time that Gardner put forth theidea of Parental Alienation Syndrome, it’s received a lot of controversy. There are supportersfor it, but there’s also a number of detractors. It was labelled junk science, it didn’t havea scientific foundation to it. He also put forward some ideas about false allegationsof sexual abuse that also generated considerable controversy. The construct of Parental AlienationSyndrome from my perspective is a failed paradigm. In the thirty years since its first been introducedit has failed to solve the problem associated with parental alienation in high conflictdivorce, and from my perspective, while Gardner
was accurate in identifying a al construct,he too quickly abandoned establish psychological principles and constructs in defining whatwas going on. He proposed, in my view, too quickly thisidea of a new syndrome out there that was not based in any established psychologicalprinciples, and because of that we have been unable to leverage the construct of ParentalAlienation Syndrome to solve the problem. Over thirty years we are still mired in alot of controversy, and a lot of difficulty for the targeted parents who are rejectedby their children. Gardner’s model for Parental Alienation Syndrome, is in my view, a failedtheoretical paradigm, because it does not
establish what the processes are within establishedand accepted psychological principles and constructs that we can then use to understandwhat’s happening in the family. It’s a failed diagnostic paradigm, becausehis anecdotal set of eight al indicators, things like a campaign of denigration, orborrowed scenarios don’t have any foundation in any other theoretical principles, and sowhether or not it’s present or absence is open to debate, and often times leads to thethird problematic issues regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome is that it’s a failedlegal paradigm, because it requires that we litigate whether or not parental alienationis occurring. That can be tremendously expensive
Parental Alienation An Attachmentbased Model
Childress: Well thank you so much. I want to start by thanking California Southern Universityfor this opportunity to talk today. The issues surrounding what has traditionally been definedas parental alienation are extremely tragic family circumstances and to the extent thatthis talk today might help lead to a resolution of those family tragedies it is much appreciated.Now today, I’m going to be talking about the theoretical underpinnings for a differentapproach to defining what parental alienation is than what has traditionally offered ordescribed. I have limited time today, only about an hour and a half or so and then somequestions period. I’m going to limit my discussion
today to just those theoretical underpinningsand the theoretical framework and structure for an attachmentbased model to understandingwhat’s traditionally been defined as parental alienation.I’ll be talking next week at a different seminar for about five hours where I will apply themodel then to the diagnosis, to treatment, to the legal setting. I won’t be able to getinto those issues today, but if you’re interested on more information along those lines I suggestI have my website, I have a lot of writings up on my website. I also have a blog thatyou can access and I recommend that. I’ve already got what I believe are some interestingposts up there and I anticipate getting some
more very intriguing posts on my blog.To start today regarding an attachmentbased model to parental alienation, I’m going tostart by talking about the current or the previous structure that was purposed for understandingparental alienation. The construct of parental alienation is essentially a child initiatedcutoff in the child’s relationship with a normal range and affectionally available parentand this typically occurs as part of highconflict divorce.Now in the mid 1980s psychiatrist Richard Gardner proposed a model, he recognized aal phenomena having to do with what he called parental alienation and he proposeda model by which it would be identified. He
referred to it as Parental Alienation Syndrome.He discussed a set of anecdotal al indicators by which it could be recognized and he alsowent into describing how oftentimes in these situations there are false allegations ofchild abuse involved in this. His model however has generated a great dealof controversy. First because it moved beyond standard and accepted psychological principlesand he proposed this new syndrome of al indicators that weren’t really based in anystandard or established psychological constructs or principles. Then secondly by purposingthat parental alienation could often involve false allegations of child abuse the wholedialogue and discussion with array, away from
parenting into child abuse allegations andthose sorts of things. It’s generated a lot of controversy. It’s been about thirty yearsnow and it’s still semiaccepted in the professional community.In my view, Gardner’s model of PAS while he did identify a al phenomenon, it representsa failed paradigm. It’s a failed legal paradigm because it fails to produce the changes necessaryto solve the family problems. Families have to litigate whether or not there’s parentalalienation. That can takes years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees.If families can’t litigate, then it simply is unsolvable.It’s a failed theoretical paradigm because
he too quickly abandoned established psychologicalconstructs and principles and the rigor necessary to define what the al phenomenon iswithin those principles. By doing that, he’s constructed a model that’s founded on theshifting sands of anecdotal al indicators. When we try to leverage his model in the legalsystem or in the mental health system, the sands shift beneath our feet and the wholestructure collapses. We’re not able to leverage the model because it’s not based in establishedpsychological constructs. It’s a failed diagnostic model, because bygoing to anecdotal al indicators rather than established constructs it’s hard to determinewhether or not parental alienation exists.