Attachment-Related Pathology

Standard

The term “parental alienation” is not a defined construct in clinical psychology.  It is a term used in the popular culture to refer to a child’s rejection of a normal-range and affectionally available parent surrounding high-conflict divorce.

Attachment-Related Pathology

The rejection of a parent is an attachment-related pathology.  The attachment system is the brain system for managing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan – including grief and loss experiences such as occurs through divorce.

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is an attachment-related pathology. 

Therefore, all mental health professionals involved in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this form of family pathology must have a strong clinical expertise in the attachment system; its characteristic functioning and its characteristic dysfunctioning.

The pathology called “parental alienation” represents a form of “disordered mourning” (Bowlby, 1980) within the family in which the emotions of sadness and grief surrounding the divorce are being translated into “anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes” (Kernberg, 1975, p. 229).

“Disturbances of personality, which include a bias to respond to loss with disordered mourning, are seen as the outcome of one or more deviations in development that can originate or grow worse during any of the years of infancy, childhood and adolescence.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 217)

“The deactivation of attachment behavior is a key feature of certain common variants of pathological mourning.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 70)

Family Systems Pathology

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture involves family relationships.  The child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent (Haley, 1977; Minuchin, 1974)

The pathology called “parental alienation in the common culture is a family systems pathology.  All mental health professionals involved in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this form of family systems pathology must have a strong clinical expertise in family systems therapy, particularly the recognition, diagnosis, and treatment surrounding a cross-generational coalition in the family.

Parental Personality Pathology

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is created by the narcissistic and borderline personality traits of the allied parent (particularly projection and splitting) that become activated by the inherent rejection (and abandonment) surrounding the divorce.

The addition of the splitting pathology from the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to a cross-generational coalition with the child transmutes an already pathological cross-generational coalition into a particularly malignant form in which the child seeks to entirely terminate the child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

Splitting pathology cannot accommodate to ambivalence (Juni, 1995).  As a result of the splitting pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent who is allied with the child, when the spouse becomes an ex-spouse (an ex-husband or ex-wife), this now ex-spouse must also become an ex-parent as well (an ex-father or ex-mother) in order to maintain the consistency imposed by the splitting pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent who is allied with the child in a cross-generational coalition. 

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is a consequence of parental personality pathology (narcissistic and borderline personality traits) that is severely distorting family relationships following the rejection and abandonment of this parent surrounding the divorce.  All mental health professionals involved in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this form of family pathology must have a strong clinical expertise in the recognition of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology, including role-reversal relationships, manipulation and exploitation of others, and delusional distortions to their perception of relationships, that are characteristics of the narcissistic and borderline personality organizations.

Attachment Trauma Pathology

The personality disorder pathology of the allied parent represents the coalesced product of childhood attachment trauma (disorganized attachment).  This childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is embedded in the “internal working models” (schemas) of this parent’s attachment system in the pattern of:

“abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”

This attachment pattern from childhood has become reactivated in the attachment system of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent due to the loss surrounding the divorce, and this attachment pattern from childhood is being imposed on the current family members by the pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent in a reenactment of the childhood trauma narrative:

Abusive parent = targeted parent

Victimized child = the current child

Protective parent = the role adopted by the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent

But this is a false narrative born in the childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  It’s not true.  The targeted parent is not abusive.  The child is not a victim.  And the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is not a protective parent.  None of this is true.  It’s a delusion.  A false narrative created in the childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic borderline parent.

“Reenactments of the traumatic past are common in the treatment of this population and frequently represent either explicit or coded repetitions of the unprocessed trauma in an attempt at mastery.  Reenactments can be expressed psychologically, relationally, and somatically and may occur with conscious intent or with little awareness. One primary transference-countertransference dynamic involves reenactment of familiar roles of victim-perpetrator-rescuer-bystander in the therapy relationship.  Therapist and client play out these roles, often in complementary fashion with one another, as they relive various aspects of the client’s early attachment relationships.” (Pearlman & Courtois, 2005, p. 455)

It is a false trauma reenactment narrative, transferred from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent into the current family relationships.  This false trauma reenactment narrative represents an encapsulated delusion (google the term encapsulated delusion).

One of the leading experts on personality pathology, Theodore Millon, describes how the narcissistic personality collapses into delusional beliefs under stress:

“Under conditions of unrelieved adversity and failure, narcissists may decompensate into paranoid disorders.  Owing to their excessive use of fantasy mechanisms, they are disposed to misinterpret events and to construct delusional beliefs.  Unwilling to accept constraints on their independence and unable to accept the viewpoints of others, narcissists may isolate themselves from the corrective effects of shared thinking.  Alone, they may ruminate and weave their beliefs into a network of fanciful and totally invalid suspicions.  Among narcissists,delusions often take form after a serious challenge or setback has upset their image of superiority and omnipotence.  They tend to exhibit compensatory grandiosity and jealousy delusions in which they reconstruct reality to match the image they are unable or unwilling to give up.  Delusional systems may also develop as a result of having felt betrayed and humiliated.  Here we may see the rapid unfolding of persecutory delusions and an arrogant grandiosity characterized by verbal attacks and bombast.” (Millon, 2011, pp. 407-408).

This pathology is a delusion, a false narrative, created in the unresolved childhood trauma of the parent and displayed for the benefit of “bystander” therapists and legal professionals.  All mental health professionals who are involved in assessing, diagnosing, and treating this form of delusional trauma reenactment pathology must possess an expertise in the recognition of encapsulated persecutory delusions associated with narcissistic and borderline personality pathology.

To create the false trauma reenactment narrative in the current family, all the narcissistic/(borderline) parent must do is manipulate the child into adopting the role as the “victimized child” in the false trauma reenactment narrative. 

Once the child adopts the role as the “victimized child,” this immediately imposes the “abusive parent” role onto the normal-range targeted parent, irrespective of the actual parenting practices of this parent.  The child’s role as the “victimized child” automatically places the targeted parent into the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent.”

And when the child adopts the role as the “victimized child,” this also allows the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to then adopt and conspicuously display to others the coveted role as the all-wonderful “protective parent.”  The moment the child is manipulated into adopting the false “victimized child” role in the trauma reenactment narrative, then both of the other trauma reenactment roles are immediately assigned to the respective parents and the stage is set for the reenactment of the childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is a trauma-related pathology.  All mental health professionals involved in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this form of trauma-related pathology must have a strong clinical expertise in complex developmental trauma, including the symptom features of authentic trauma and trauma reenactment.

“When the trauma fails to be integrated into the totality of a person’s life experiences, the victim remains fixated on the trauma.  Despite avoidance of emotional involvement, traumatic memories cannot be avoided: even when pushed out of waking consciousness, they come back in the form of reenactments, nightmares, or feelings related to the trauma… Recurrences may continue throughout life during periods of stress.” (van der Kolk, 1987, p. 5)

Professional Competence

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is a complex attachment-related; trauma-related; personality disorder-related; family systems pathology requiring a sophisticated level of professional expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat. 

Due to the complexity of this form of family attachment-related pathology, the children and families evidencing this form of family pathology (i.e., the child’s rejection of a parent surrounding divorce that includes high inter-spousal conflict) warrant the designation as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.

This type of family pathology requires specialized professional knowledge and expertise in the following domains of professional psychology in order to competently assess, diagnose, and treat:

The Attachment System: Particularly the characteristic functioning and characteristic dysfunctioning of the attachment system, including the grief response and “disordered mourning.”

Attachment Trauma: Particularly the indicators reflecting the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma through the creation of a false trauma-reenactment narrative.

Personality Disorder Pathology: Particularly the origins, assessment, and diagnosis of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology; with a particular focus on the associations of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology to childhood attachment trauma;

Family Systems Therapy: Particularly the diagnostic features of the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent.

Key professional literature to establish professional competence with this special population of children and families is:

Bowlby: regarding the attachment system

Ainsworth: regarding the attachment system

Mains & Lyons-Ruth: regarding disorganized attachment

Millon: regarding personality pathology

Beck: regarding personality pathology

Kernberg: regarding personality pathology

Linehan: regarding personality pathology

Minuchin: regarding Structural family systems therapy

Haley: regarding Strategic family systems therapy

van der Kolk: regarding childhood trauma

Failure to possess the necessary professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat this complex form of attachment-related family pathology may represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of Standard 2.01a of the ethics code of the American Psychological Association.

DSM-5 Diagnosis

There is no defined pathology of “parental alienation” within clinical psychology.  The correct and accurate clinical psychology term for the attachment-related pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is pathogenic parenting (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

The construct of pathogenic parenting is a defined construct in clinical and developmental psychology and is typically referenced with regard to attachment-related pathology, since the attachment system never spontaneously dysfunctions but only dysfunctions in response to pathogenic parenting.

The attachment-related pathology involving the trans-generational transmission of attachment-trauma from the childhood of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by personality disorder pathology of the parent that is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma (a pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture) can be reliably and definitively identified by a set of three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display:

1.) Attachment System Suppression: The suppression of the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward a parent represents diagnostic evidence for an attachment-related pathology involving pathogenic parenting.

2.) Narcissistic Personality Symptoms: The presence in the child’s symptom display of five specific a-priori predicted narcissistic personality traits represents the diagnostic evidence for the influence on the child’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior from a narcissistic/(borderline) parent (i.e., the “psychological fingerprints” of control and influence on the child by a narcissistic/(borderline) parent).

3.) Delusional Belief in the Child’s Victimization: The child’s symptom display of an intransigently held fixed and false belief (a delusion) regarding the child’s supposed “victimization” by the normal-range parenting practices of the targeted parent represents diagnostic evidence of the child’s incorporation into the false trauma reenactment narrative of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent who is influencing the child’s attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.

The presence of all three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display represents definitive diagnostic evidence of the pathology.  No other pathology in all of mental health will produce this specific set of three diagnostic indicators in the child’s symptom display other than pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a manifestation of the trans-generational transmission of attachment-trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent that is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma (an attachment-related pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common culture).

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The complete DSM-5 diagnosis for this form of attachment-related pathology is:

DSM-5 Diagnosis

309.4  Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem

V61.29 Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress

V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed (pathogenic parenting)

Failure to properly assess for this form of attachment-related pathology when a child is displaying a rejection of a parent surrounding divorce would likely represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA’s ethics code which requires that diagnostic statements, including forensic testimony, be based on information “sufficient to substantiate” the findings.  If an appropriate assessment of the pathology has not been conducted, then the diagnostic statements are NOT based on information “sufficient to substantiate” the findings.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

References

Bowlby, J. (1980). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 3. Loss: Sadness and Depression. NY: Basic Books.

Haley, J. (1977). Toward a theory of pathological systems. In P. Watzlawick & J. Weakland (Eds.), The interactional view (pp. 31-48). New York: Norton.

Juni, S. (1995).  Triangulation as splitting in the service of ambivalence. Current Psychology: Research and Reviews, 14, 91-111.

Kernberg, O.F. (1975). Borderline conditions and pathological narcissism. New York: Aronson.

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and Family Therapy. Harvard University Press.

Pearlman, C.A., Courtois, C.A. (2005). Clinical Applications of the Attachment Framework: Relational Treatment of Complex Trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 18, 449-459.

van der Kolk, B.A. (1987). The psychological consequences of overwhelming life experiences. In B.A. van der Kolk (Ed.) Psychological Trauma (1-30). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.

Accountability

Standard

From Wikipedia:

The germ theory of disease states that some diseases are caused by microorganisms.  These small organisms, too small to see without magnification, invade humans, animals, and other living hosts.  Their growth and reproduction within their hosts can cause a disease.  “Germ” may refer to not just a bacterium but to any type of microorganisms, especially one which causes disease, such as protist, fungus, virus, prion, or viroid.   Microorganisms that cause disease are called pathogens, and the diseases they cause are called infectious diseases.  Even when a pathogen is the principal cause of a disease, environmental and hereditary factors often influence the severity of the disease, and whether a particular host individual becomes infected when exposed to the pathogen.

The germ theory was proposed by Girolamo Fracastoro in 1546, but scientific evidence in support of this accumulated slowly and Galen’s miasma theory remained dominant among scientists and doctors.  A transitional period began in the late 1850s as the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch provided convincing evidence; by 1880, miasma theory was still competing with the germ theory of disease.  Eventually, a “golden era” of bacteriology ensued, in which the theory quickly led to the identification of the actual organisms that cause many diseases

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germ_theory_of_disease


The continued use of the Gardnerian PAS construct (Parental Alienation Syndrome) is a major hindrance to enacting the solution for the family pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common culture (i.e., the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent that is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma of the parent).

1.)  The diagnostic indicators of Gardnerian PAS are too vague to be useful in clinical psychology.  The vague and ill-defined diagnostic indicators of Gardnerian PAS allow for the rampant professional incompetence currently displayed by far too many mental health professionals.

2.)  The Gardnerian PAS model is so poorly defined that it is “controversial” and is not accepted by establishment professional psychology.  This allows mental health professionals to discount the solution afforded by AB-PA (attachment-based “parental alienation”) under the false assertion that it is the same as Gardnerian PAS.  The continued existence of Gardnerian PAS prevents mental health professionals from examining the pathology using standard and fully established psychological principles and constructs.

The model of the pathology offered by Gardnerian PAS must die.  It is a bad model and leads to enormous problems. 

I am willing to debate this with any Gardnerian PAS “expert” anytime.  I propose we get a joint WordPress blog and present our arguments.  They can present why they think Gardnerian PAS offers a solution to “parental alienation” and I can offer my arguments as to why Gardnerian PAS needs to die.  I am willing to debate this with any Gardnerian PAS “expert” anytime. 

Or we can debate this in any other forum they’d like.  Anytime.  Gardnerian PAS must die.

The family pathology of “parental alienation” will be unsolvable as long as Gardnerian PAS remains an active paradigm for defining the pathology. 

Thirty years… no solution.  Scoreboard.

The definition of the family pathology of “parental alienation” must switch to an AB-PA model (attachment-based “parental alienation”).  This will provide an immediate solution to the family pathology.

Achieving Professional Competence

The attachment system represents the set of brain networks governing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan.  The attachment system functions in characteristic ways, and it dysfunctions in characteristic ways.

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture is an attachment-related pathology.  A child’s rejection of a parent is a disorder to the attachment system. 

The pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma mediated through a false trauma reenactment narrative in the pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” that is the product of the “internal working models” (schemas) of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent’s attachment-trauma networks.

All mental health professionals must begin assessing for the attachment-related pathology of AB-PA whenever there is evidence of a suppression to the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward a parent, particularly surrounding divorce and high inter-spousal conflict.

Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

All mental health professionals must begin providing an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis when the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA are present in the child’s symptom display:

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and  psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Pathogenic parenting (patho=pathology; genic=genesis; creation) is the accurate clinical psychology term for this form of family pathology – not “parental alienation.” 

Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices. 

All mental health professionals should begin using the accurate clinical psychology terminology to refer to this form of family pathology.  Targeted parents and the general population can still refer to this pathology with the common-culture term of “parental alienation,” but all mental health professionals should use the correct and accurate clinical psychology term for this form of pathology; pathogenic parenting (the creation of psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices).

All targeted parents must begin holding mental health professionals accountable for properly assessing and diagnosing this form of family pathology (i.e., the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the parent which is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma of this parent).

All targeted parents must request a proper assessment of the pathology and should lay the proper “paper trail” to hold the mental health professional accountable under Standard 9.01a and Standard 2.01a of the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct of the American Psychological Association.

These are established standards of professionally competent practice in professional psychology.  Mental health professionals are not allowed to be incompetent.

AB-PA activates for targeted parents Standard 9.01a and Standard 2.01a of the APA’s ethics code. 

Gardnerian PAS does not activate these Standards of professional practice.  Gardnerian PAS proposes an entirely new and unique form of pathology that is unlike any other pathology is all of mental health and which is identified by an equally unique set of poorly defined symptom identifiers.

By analogy, Gardnerian PAS represents “Galen’s miasma theory” of disease which proposed that disease is caused by “bad air.”  Just as Galen’s miasma theory was replaced by a more scientifically accurate germ theory (an accurate identification of the pathogen causing the pathology), Gardnerian PAS needs to be replaced by a more scientifically accurate attachment-based description of the pathology (AB-PA) in order to create the solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” (pathogenic parenting in high-conflict divorce).

Targeted parents need to begin fighting for each other; to eliminate active professional incompetence for the next family and the next child.  To do this, targeted parents need to:

  • Provide involved mental health professionals with my email address (drcraigchildress@gmail.com) and ask that the mental health professional involved with your family seek professional-to-professional consultation with me.

I will provide one hour of professional-to-professional consultation without charge to any mental health professional who contacts me by email requesting this professional-to-professional consultation.

Please Note: I cannot provide consultation to targeted parents directly unless you come and see me in my office in Southern California.  I can only provide professional consultation to other mental health professionals who are diagnosing and treating cases of AB-PA or to attorneys who are litigating cases of AB-PA.  This limitation is based on the guidelines governing professional standards of practice.


Targeted parents should lay the “paper trail” regarding your request to the mental health professional that he or she assess the pathology of… pathogenic parenting (AB-PA).  Be kind, not demanding.  Be respectful, not arrogant.  But be clear in what you want.

And document your request of the mental health professional in a letter to the mental health professional.  This lays the “paper trail” to hold the mental health professional accountable.

Document in this letter that you have provided the mental health professional with the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.

Document in this letter that you have requested that the mental health professional assess for the specific symptoms identified in the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.  

Document in this letter that you have provided the mental health professional with the booklet Professional Consultation and with my email address.

Document in this letter that you are requesting that the mental health professional seek a professional-to-professional consultation with Dr. Childress.

Lay the paper trail.  Remember, your letter is ultimately going to be included with your licensing board complaint.  Don’t be angry.  Be measured, reasonable, and appropriate.

I recommend you read:  Letter to a Stranger

The “Letter to a Stranger” is a strategy for advocacy in a school setting.  I recommend that you apply this strategy in advocating in a mental health setting.  In this specific case the “stranger” is the licensing board who will ultimately review the actions of the mental health professional.  You want to seem reasonable.  Not angry.  Not arrogant.  Not demanding. 

You want to be kind, reasonable, and oh-so-concerned for the emotional and psychological well-being of your child.  And clear in your request.

Dear Dr. So-n-So,

As we discussed in our recent meeting, I am deeply concerned regarding the potential pathogenic parenting of my ex-spouse that is creating significant behavioral and emotional pathology in my child.  I love my child dearly and I am deeply distressed by the changes to my child’s behavior surrounding the divorce that I believe are the product of my ex-spouse triangulating our child into the family conflict surrounding the divorce, in which a cross-generational coalition of my ex-spouse with the child has been formed that is severely distorting my child’s relationship with me.

This letter is to confirm that I have provided you with a copy of the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting developed by Dr. Childress which is designed to specifically assess for the pathology of pathogenic parenting in the family that is of concern to me, and this letter also confirms that I have asked that you specifically assess for the symptom features identified on this symptom checklist.  I love my child dearly and I deeply appreciate your cooperation in assessing specifically for the pathology identified on this symptom checklist, and I look forward to discussing with you the outcome of your assessment.

Dr. Childress is an expert in the attachment-related pathology of pathogenic parenting surrounding high-conflict divorce and he has indicated that he is available for professional-to-professional consultation if this professional consultation is sought by mental health professionals.  His email address is drcraigchildress@gmail.com, and I am also asking that you seek his professional-to-professional consultation that he may more fully describe the nature of the family dynamics that are of concern to me.

Thank you so much for your cooperation with this.  My child means the world to me, and all I want is to restore the loving bonds of affection we shared prior to the divorce.  All children deserve to love both parents and to receive the love of both parents in return, and I truly appreciate your help in restoring the bonds of deep love and affection between my child and me that have been so severely disrupted by the divorce process.

Sincerely,
Loving Parent

Become Dangerous to Incompetence

In defining AB-PA from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs, I have made targeted parents dangerous to incompetent mental health professionals.  Become dangerous.  We need to ensure that all actively incompetent mental health professions will – with 100% certainty – face licensing board complaints for their professional incompetence. 

It may not change your specific situation with your specific child, but you must fight for each other.  You must ensure that ALL actively incompetent mental health professionals will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint for their professional incompetence so that the next family they treat will receive professionally competent assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.  You must fight for each other and for each others’ children.  You must fight for the next family.

I guarantee that your allies in mental health, the mental health professionals who properly assess and accurately diagnose the pathology of AB-PA will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint from your narcissistic/(borderline) ex-spouse.

Narcissistic/(Borderline) Parent: “How dare you say I am psychologically abusive of the child.  The child and I have a wonderful bond of shared affection.  You’re incompetent to say our wonderful bond of shared affection is psychologically abusive of the child.  It’s the other parent who is the abusive parent.  You’re incompetent.” – a licensing board complaint will be filed by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

I guarantee that your allies in mental health, the mental health professionals who properly assess and accurately diagnose the pathology of AB-PA, will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint from your narcissistic/(borderline) ex-spouse.

Targeted parents must stand up for us, for your allies in mental health who properly assess for the family pathology of AB-PA and who have the courage to face the licensing board complaint from your narcissistic/(borderline) ex-spouse that is certain to follow from our accurate diagnosis of the family pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed .

The way you can protect your allies in mental health is to become as dangerous to the ignorant and incompetent mental health allies of the pathogen as the pathogen is to your mental health allies.

We must ensure that every single mental health professional who is assessing, diagnosing, and treating this form of family pathology (i.e., attachment system suppression surrounding high-conflict divorce) will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint:

Either from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent if the mental health professional makes the accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed…

Or from the targeted parent if the mental health professional does not assess for the pathology and does not make an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology when the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display.

You, the child’s authentic protective parent, must ensure that one way or the other ALL mental health professionals who are assessing, diagnosing, and treating the pathology of attachment system suppression in high-conflict divorce will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint, either from your narcissistic/(borderline) ex- or from you.

When the field becomes incredibly dangerous for ALL mental health professionals, many mental health professionals may withdraw from practice in this area of specialty.  Good.

If 98 out of 100 mental health professionals stop practicing in this domain of psychology it means that 98 ignorant and incompetent mental health professionals are no longer assessing, diagnosing, and treating your families.  The two remaining mental health professionals will know what they’re doing and they will accurately assess and diagnose the pathology. 

They will use the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting and will document the findings of their assessment in the patient record. 

And they will make an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display.

We will have established a domain of specialized professional expertise and a defensible standard of practice for the assessment and diagnosis of the pathology as child psychological abuse.

Will the licensing board do anything about your complaint?  No, probably not.  But it doesn’t matter what the licensing board does.  We cannot control what they do.  If they choose to allow professional incompetence, so be it. 

But you are not fighting for your child alone; you are fighting for each others’ children.  You are fighting for the next targeted parent and the next child who comes to this mental health professional.  You are demanding professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this pathology.

Gardnerian PAS Must Die

There is no such pathology in clinical psychology as Gardnerian PAS.  It doesn’t exist. 

No one is talking about Gardnerian PAS.  The pathology is AB-PA (i.e., an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” that is fully defined within established and accepted psychological principles and constructs).  Gardnerian PAS must die in order for us to achieve the solution.

We must begin to hold mental health professionals accountable for standards of professional competence defined through fully established, fully accepted, and scientifically validated forms of mental health pathology – an AB-PA definition of the pathology.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation is not a theory.  The application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to a symptom set is called diagnosis.

Assessment leads to diagnosis. Diagnosis guides treatment.

Assessment:  Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

Diagnosis:  Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Professional psychology must return to the solid bedrock of established and scientifically validated constructs and principles in the assessment and diagnosis of the family pathology called “parental alienation” in the common culture (i.e., pathogenic parenting by an allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent)

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Bring Me the Leeches

Standard

From Wikipedia:

Medieval medicine in Western Europe was composed of a mixture of existing ideas from antiquity, spiritual influences and what Claude Lévi-Strauss identifies as the “shamanistic complex” and “social consensus.”

In the Early Middle Ages, following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, standard medical knowledge was based chiefly upon surviving Greek and Roman texts, preserved in monasteries and elsewhere.  Many simply placed their hopes in the church and God to heal all their sicknesses.  Ideas about the origin and cure of disease were not purely secular, but were also based on a world view in which factors such as destiny, sin, and astral influences played as great a part as any physical cause.  The efficacy of cures was similarly bound in the beliefs of patient and doctor rather than empirical evidence, so that remedia physicalia (physical remedies) were often subordinate to spiritual intervention.

The underlying principle of medieval medicine was the theory of humours.  This was derived from the ancient medical works, and dominated all western medicine until the 19th century.  The theory stated that within every individual there were four humours, or principal fluids – black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood, these were produced by various organs in the body, and they had to be in balance for a person to remain healthy.  Too much phlegm in the body, for example, caused lung problems; and the body tried to cough up the phlegm to restore a balance.  The balance of humours in humans could be achieved by diet, medicines, and by blood-letting, using leeches.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_medicine_of_Western_Europe


plague doctorOur current mental health approach to the family pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the popular culture is absolutely medieval. 

“Bring me the leeches.”

The degree of professional ignorance and incompetence is incredibly profound.  Professional psychology should be ashamed of itself.

“The patient’s humours are clearly out of balance. There is too much phlegm.  We must balance the patient’s humours to restore good health.  Bring me the leeches, we must bleed the patient.”

There is no such thing as “reunification therapy.”  Nowhere in any of the professional literature is there a defined model for what “reunification therapy” entails.  No theorist.  No description.  Nothing.  Nowhere.  They are just making stuff up – completely making stuff up.  Any mental health professional who says they do “reunification therapy” is selling snake oil.  Who knows what’s in the bottle of elixir they’re selling.

There is no such thing as “reunification therapy.”  It doesn’t exist. 

“Bring me the leeches.”

There are NO studies – not one – demonstrating the validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.  Child custody evaluations spend extensive amounts of time collecting data and writing reports, but when it comes to interpreting what the data means – they just make it up.  Really.  They just make it up.  Whatever they feel like.

“The patient has too much black bile which is causing the patient to be overly melancholic.  Bring me the leeches.”

Seriously, it’s that bad.

I continually receive requests from targeted parents for help. 

“What can I do?  Do you know any therapists in wherever?”

I’m sorry, but as long as our mental health professionals are “diagnosing” an imbalance in humours, there is no hope whatsover.

It’s like going to a physician and being diagnosed with diabetes and being treated with insulin.  The problem is… what the patient actually has is cancer.  So the patient is treated with insulin and dies from the undiagnosed and untreated cancer.

That’s the state of our current mental health response to the family pathology traditionally called “parental alienation.”

But it’s even worse than that, because instead of receiving an even remotely accurate diagnosis and possibly effective treatment, the patient is actually diagnosed with an imbalance in their humours and is treated with leeches.  Oh my God.  I am astounded by the degree of professional ignorance and incompetence.

Because of the profound degree of professional ignorance – “bring me the leeches” – the patient is left to educate the professional.  Targeted parents must EDUCATE the mental health professional regarding the nature of the pathology.  Oh my God.  What sort of upside-down world is that?

Imagine going to a physician with symptoms of a disease and having to EDUCATE the physician regarding the nature of the disease you have.  That’s absurd.  Yet that’s exactly the situation targeted parents face.  Because the degree of professional ignorance is so incredibly profound, the patient has no choice but to try to educate the professional.  Bizarre.  Truly bizarre.

Imagine going to an architect and having to instruct the architect on the intricacies of load-bearing structures and blueprint design.

Imagine going to an attorney and having to instruct the attorney in the nature, precedent, and interpretations of the law.

Imagine going to a cardiac surgeon and having to instruct the surgeon on the nature of the circulatory system and then educate the surgeon on surgical procedures.

Imagine having to instruct the mental health professional regarding the nature of the mental health pathology and its treatment.

Bizarre.  Truly bizarre.  Professional psychology should be ashamed of itself.

The current state of professional psychology with regard to the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the family pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” is absolutely medieval.  Bring me the leeches.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

August Flying Monkey Newsletter

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The August edition of the Flying Monkey Newsletter is now available on my website:

Flying Monkey Newsletter: August 1, 2016

This edition deals with the false assertion that protectively separating the child from the psychologically abusive pathogenic parenting of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent is not “standard of practice” in professional psychology.

This line of argument comes from the Garnderian PAS model and is not applicable to an attachment-based reformulation of the pathology (AB-PA).

Diagnosis guides treatment.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3), in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

In all cases of child abuse – physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse – the standard of practice is to protectively separate the child from the abusive parent.  We never abandon a child to an abusive parent.  The standard of care is to protectively separate the child from a physically abusive parent.  The standard of care is to protectively separate the child from a sexually abusive parent.  The standard of care is to protectively separate the child from a psychologically abusive parent.

This is called a “duty to protect.”

Notice in this diagnostic formulation, the construct of “parental alienation” is not used.  Pathogenic parenting.  The focus is entirely on the child’s symptoms, using accepted symptom indicators in professional psychology – NOT a set of unique diagnostic indicators as proposed by Gardnerian PAS.

When we remain grounded in the Foundations of fully established – scientifically validated – and fully accepted psychological principles and constructs, this leads to an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology, and diagnosis guides treatment.  This is how professional psychology is supposed to work.

Gardner took everyone off track when he proposed a new form of pathology – a new syndrome – instead of applying the professional rigor necessary to diagnose the nature of the pathology using standard and established, scientifically validated constructs and principles.  An attachment-based model of the pathology corrects this error and reestablishes the discussion on the firm Foundations of established and accepted – scientifically validated – constructs and principles.

Assessment leads to diagnosis.

Diagnosis guides treatment.

That’s how things are supposed to work.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Pathology Markers in Case I Leave

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My current focus is on the battle to solve “parental alienation” by establishing professional competence throughout mental health.  The extent of profound professional ignorance and incompetence in mental health surrounding the pathology commonly called “parental alienation” is astounding.

In this post, however, I want to take a step to the side for a moment to place “pathology-markers” down that can serve as guides for other mental health professionals to follow in unraveling the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA).  Once we’ve solved the pathology of “parental alienation,” once all of the children are returned to their loving and authentic parents targeted by this horrific pathology, once we’re able to prevent “parental alienation” within the first six months when it emerges, then I’ll hopefully have time to walk more fully down the paths of these pathology-markers.  But for right now, I just want to set the markers, because right now the most important goal is simply achieving basic competence in mental health.

Ultimately, we need to achieve “special population” status for targeted parents and their children so that mental health professionals will be required to possess specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose, and treat this form of pathology.  It’s when we accomplish that phase of the solution – when mental health professionals who work with AB-PA (attachment-based “parental alienation”) have a high level of specialty expertise – that the pathology-markers I’m currently putting down can be more fully unpacked.

But right now, the goal is simply to move from abject professional incompetence to just basic professional competence.

I’m over 60 years old and have already had one stroke.  Hopefully, I’ll be around for another decade or so, but perhaps I could leave tomorrow.  There is a lot about this pathology that I know but am not sharing because it’s too far beyond where everyone is right now.  I’m waiting for mental health professionals to catch up to the most basic constructs of the cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent and the addition of the splitting pathology to the coalition, and to the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma in the schema pattern of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” (contained in the internal working models – schemas – of the attachment system).

The attachment system is the brain system for managing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  What we’re dealing with is an attachment-related pathology (a love-and-bonding pathology) involving distorted information structures (schemas; relationship patterns) in the attachment system of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent that are being transmitted to the child’s attachment-related behavior with both the allied and the targeted parent. 

Once we move away from defining the pathology of “parental alienation” as a new form of pathology that’s unique in all of mental health and instead recognize that the pathology is an attachment-related and parental personality disorder pathology, a truly amazing amount of insight emerges regarding both the origins and the symptom manifestations of the pathology.

But we’re still waiting for all mental health professionals to release from the conceptually flawed and dead-end construct of Gardnerian PAS and return to standard and established, scientifically validated constructs and principles of the attachment system and personality disorder pathology so that we can then solve this pathology.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3), in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

This is not a child custody issue; this is a child protection issue.

But the extent of professional ignorance and incompetence is stunningly profound, and it may outlive me.  So while I’m still here I want to at least put down some pathology-marker signposts, breadcrumbs on the path if you will, for others to follow should it take too long for the rest of mental health to catch up.

Personality Pathology-Marker

The personality pathology is the Dark Triad and Vulnerable Dark Triad (see references). 

The Dark Triad Personality is comprised of:

  1. Narcissistic personality traits
  2. Psychopathic personality traits
  3. Machiavellian manipulation

The Vulnerable Dark Triad (Miller, et al., 2010) is a variant of the Dark Triad which is comprised of:

  1. Vulnerable rather than grandiose narcissism
  2. Psychopathic manipulation
  3. Borderline personality traits

The Dark Triad personality pathology is associated with the use of four types of high-conflict communications, contempt; criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness (Horan, Guinn, & Banghart, 2015).  In the research literature on communication, these four destructive high-conflict communication patterns are called the Four Horsemen of destructive communication :

According to Gottman (1992):

“Contempt involves “statements that come from a relative position of superiority…‘You’re an idiot’”; criticism entails “stating one’s complaints as a defect in one’s partner’s personality…‘You always talk about yourself. You are so selfish’”; stonewalling describes “the listener’s withdrawal from interaction;” and defensiveness describes self-protection in the form of “righteous indignation or innocent victimhood.” (Gottman, 1993, p. 62)

The empirical research of Horan, Guinn, and Banghart (2015) link the Dark Triad personality to the Four Horsemen of high-conflict communication:

“Hypotheses 1a–1c examined the relationships among the Dark Triad personality structure and general nature of romantic partner conflict.  Results demonstrated that individuals reporting higher levels of Machiavellianism, subclinical psychopathy, and subclinical narcissism tended to have higher levels of romantic partner disagreement and that such conflict discussions were both intense and hostile.” (Horan, Guinn, & Banghart. 2015, p. 165; emphasis added)

“Hypothesis 2 explored the relationships among the Dark Triad personality structure and use of the Four Horsemen during romantic partner conflict.  Correlations revealed that individuals reporting higher levels Machiavellianism and subclinical psychopathy also reported greater use of contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness.  A similar picture was painted for narcissism, with the exception of stonewalling.” (Horan, Guinn, & Banghart. 2015, p. 165; emphasis added)

The use of the Four Horsemen of high-conflict communication has also been linked to insecurity in attachment bonding:

“Recently, Fowler and Dillow (2011) examined how attachment orientations predicted the enactment of Four Horsemen.  They found that attachment anxiety predicted an increased use of the Four Horsemen and attachment avoidance predicted the use of stonewalling.  Their findings underscore the importance of studying individual personality traits, or predispositions, in conjunction with the Four Horsemen; a similar approach was adopted here by studying the Dark Triad.” (Horan, Guinn, & Banghart. 2015, p. 160; emphasis added)

Pathology-marker:  Given these empirically demonstrated linkages in the research literature between the Dark Triad personality and high-conflict communication, ALL mental health professionals – including child custody evaluators – who are diagnosing and treating family pathology involving high-conflict divorce need to assess for potential parental Dark Triad and Vulnerable Dark Triad personality pathology as being responsible for creating the high-conflict patterns of communication in the family.

Scientifically based practice grounded in the empirical research, not unique new made up forms of pathology.

Pathology-marker:  Currently, there are self-report measures for the component pathologies of the Dark Triad (narcissism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism), and for the Dark Triad personality as a whole.  There is also a scale on the HEXACO personality inventory (low scores on the H scale for Humility and Honesty) which is associated with the Dark Triad personality.  However, since these are all self-report inventories they will be vulnerable to self-serving bias in the self-report of the Dark Triad personality when being assessed as part of a custody evaluation, so these measures may currently be of limited utility for direct use in custody evaluations.

An alternative approach in child custody evaluations would be to have each parent rate the other parent’s personality characteristics on the HEXACO – called “informant ratings” – with the goal of assessing specifically for a low-H score.  These informant ratings would still be vulnerable to the self-serving reporting bias of one ex-spouse rating the other ex-spouse (this time in a negative way), but these informant ratings on the HEXACO potentially could reveal the possible presence of a Dark Triad personality in one of the parents, which could then be confirmed by additional supportive evidence from history and symptom information, creating an overall pattern of the Dark Triad personality within the data.

(The informant ratings by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent regarding the personality traits of the other ex-spouse would be fascinating research, and may actually reveal a characteristic pattern of distortion that may be more diagnostic of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent than anything else we might develop.  Rather than assessing the Dark Triad personality directly, this would be assessing the characteristic distortion to perception created by the Dark Triad personality pathology.)

The association of the Dark Triad personality with high-conflict patterns of communication also highlights the extremely high importance that all child custody evaluators – who are specifically assessing families in high-conflict divorce – need to be exceptionally knowledgeable and skilled in the clinical assessment and recognition of narcissistic personality traits, borderline personality traits, psychopathic personality traits, and evidence of Machiavellian manipulation.

Typologies of AB-PA

There appear to be two patterns of AB-PA (attachment-based “parental alienation”), the first is associated with a more prominent narcissistic-style personality parent (the Dark Triad personality) and the second is associated with a more prominent borderline-style parent (the Vulnerable Dark Triad).  Based on my experience, there tends to be a gender association with these two differing styles, with “alienating” fathers tending to show the more narcissistic pattern of the pathology and “alienating” mothers tending to show the more borderline pattern of the pathology. 

While there may be a gender association with these different variants, this would by no means be an absolute association, so that some pathogenic mothers may evidence a more narcissistic-style and some pathogenic father’s may be along the borderline continuum.  But I have noticed in my work a tendency toward a gender association, in which pathogenic “alienating” fathers’ tend to present a more narcissistic-style pathology while pathogenic “alienating” mothers tend to present a more borderline-style pathology.

Pathology-Marker Narcissistic-Style AB-PA:  The pathogenic “alienating” parent in this variant tends to be the father, and this pattern has a stronger domestic violence feel to the pathology (evidencing themes of power, control, and domination). The mother in this variant typically was led into marriage by the seductive narcissistic-psychopathic charm of the Dark Triad father, believing that emotional intimacy would develop as the marriage progressed. However, once married, the father’s emotional abuse of her and his increasing exercise of power, control, and domination became evident.

In this variant, the mother often reports that the marriage included degrading and demeaning treatment of the mother in front of the children.  The mother in this variant typically tries to put up with the verbally demeaning treatment from her Dark Triad husband during the marriage, but ultimately seeks a divorce (often when the eldest child is between the ages of eight and 14 years old).  At this point, the father’s overt contempt for the mother escalates, although he will present to the children that he is the aggrieved party in the divorce, that he still wants to keep the family together, and that the mother is “breaking up the family” because of her own “selfishness.”  The narcissistic-style father will sometimes enlist the allied child as an emissary to try to get the mother to call off the divorce – sometimes providing the child with the extraordinarily manipulative narrative: “Tell your mother that I forgive her and that I still love her, and I want to work things out for the sake of the children and family.”

In the presentation to therapists and attorneys, the father in the narcissistic-style of AB-PA tends to use the children’s rejection of their mother as evidence of the grandiose magnificence of the father as the “all-wonderful” and ideal parent, and his reporting to therapists and the Court will often include descriptions of his wonderful parenting and the wonderfully idyllic bond of love he shares with his children.  The narcissistic-style father’s parenting is often notable for the frequent use narcissistic indulgences with the children as rewards, such as providing the children with expensive gifts and adult-like privileges.

The children of narcissistic-style AB-PA tend to show extremes of contempt and hostility toward their mother, which may rise to the level of physically threatening her, which prompts the mother to call the narcissistic father and sometimes the police for help with a child who is exceedingly angry, threatening, or assaultive.  When called, the father’s response to the mother’s requests for help in disciplining the angry child is to admonish the child, “I know she’s difficult, but try to get along with your mother, okay?” and he will respond as being put-out by always having to deal with the “consequences of the mother’s bad parenting.” The oft-heard refrain from the narcissistic Dark Triad father is, “I’m always telling the child to get along with his (her) mother, but what can I do, I can’t force the child to… xyz.”  In the narcissistic-style of AB-PA, the children’s reasons for rejecting the mother tend to emphasize the inadequacy of the mother as a person. 

When the eldest child is a daughter and the narcissistic-style father is not remarried, narcissistic-style AB-PA can sometimes evidence an “uncomfortable-creepy” spousification of the daughter by the father.  In the “spousification” of the daughter there are uncomfortable non-sexualized but incestuous undercurrents where the eldest daughter replaces the mother in the spousal role in a non-sexualized but affectionally bonded “spousal” relationship with the father.

For mental health professionals knowledgeable about attachment, this narcissistic “domestic violence” variant of AB-PA is the product of the parent’s disorganized attachment with anxious-avoidant overtones.  The psychodynamic origins for the prominent angry-aggressive display of this “domestic violence” variant of AB-PA is in the narcissistic parent’s underlying (unexpressed) hostility and rage at the rejecting “mother” of childhood (the rejecting attachment figure) who emotionally abandoned the narcissistic parent as a child into the avoidant attachment surrounding an absence of parental nurture.  This psychodynamic attachment rage toward the abandoning mother is currently being vented toward the current wife-and-mother, the current attachment figure/mother.

(This underlying rage of the narcissistic Dark Triad father toward his own mother (which is being displaced onto the targeted parent) can be present even if the father reports having a “close” relationship with his own mother.  Upon closer inspection this “close” relationship with his own mother is likely to be an enmeshed psychological relationship in which his mother dominates, controls, and invalidates the separate authenticity of her son; the father – creating the inner rage that cannot be expressed toward her but which is instead vented toward the targeted parent as the attachment figure and “mother”.)

Pathology-Marker Borderline-Style AB-PA:  The borderline-style pattern tends to emanate from an “alienating” pathogenic mother and is characterized by the mother’s exceedingly elevated anxiety and threat perception. In this variant the father was typically led into marriage by the emotionally expressive and sexually seductive charms of the mother’s borderline-style personality, and only after their marriage did the emotional instability, emotional neediness, and high-conflict/high-drama of the mother’s borderline-style personality emerge.  In some cases, this form of the AB-PA pathology will remain dormant after the divorce until the father remarries – i.e., replaces the mother as a “spouse” with a new wife – at which time the “alienation” of the children begins in earnest, often with the children expressing a theme of being rejected by their father’s time spent with his new wife.

In this borderline-style variant of the AB-PA pathology, the mother flamboyantly characterizes the father as dangerous and “abusive,” and prominently displays that the children need the mother’s “protection.”  However, when this threat perception is examined in more specificity, the father’s parenting practices are assessed to be normal-range and the children are in no objective need of “protection.”  The elevated perception of threat is emanating from the mother (from her trauma history) not from objective reality.  As a result of the mother’s (childhood trauma-related) elevated and unrealistic perception of threat, the prevalence of restraining orders and unfounded and unsubstantiated Child Protective Services abuse allegations is higher in the borderline-style AB-PA than in the narcissistic-style AB-PA.

The “protective” theme will often find expression as the mother sending food and clothing with the children when they go to their father’s home, which represents a subtle but clear signal to the children (emanating from the mother’s own belief in the father’s parental inadequacy) that the father is unable to provide adequate care for the children. The mother will also frequently query the children with an anxious emotional tone regarding their level of “safety” with the father (“Are you okay?  Did anything bad happen?”) which communicates to the children both an expectation that the father is dangerous and also that the mother is the “protective parent.”  The mother will also frequently make unwarranted “safety plans” with the children (“You can call me if anything bad happens and I’ll come pick you up”) which also clearly communicates to the children that the mother perceives the father as being dangerous to them and simultaneously creates an “us-versus-him” shared in-group/out-group bond between the “protective” mother and the children.

In the borderline-style of AB-PA, the mother’s presentation to therapists and the Court is filled with frequent assertions of threat perception regarding the father’s parenting and with frequent characterization of her own parenting as “protective” of the children.  The over-riding emotion is one of excessive maternal anxiety regarding her perception of threat, and the mother’s anxiety is notably not reassured by any reality-based evidence, argument, or intervention.

The children of the more prominently borderline-style of AB-PA also tend to present more strongly with anxiety symptoms, sometimes reaching the level of phobic anxiety displays (a “father phobia”), saying that they don’t feel “safe” when they are with their father.  When specificity is sought as to the source of their anxiety, the children’s reports will typically become vague and diffuse or linked to a low-level parent-child conflict or display of parental anger in the past, sometimes years in the past.

An intriguing symptom presentation of borderline-style AB-PA is when the mother asserts that the father was an uninvolved parent prior to the divorce and that this is the reason the children don’t want to be with him now (the children will sometimes echo this justification as a reason for current rejection of their father).  In these cases, the mother will spend a fair amount of time describing to therapists and custody evaluators how the father was an uninvolved parent prior to the divorce and how the mother was the much more involved and better parent, as if custody was a “competition” about who was the “better” parent, and since the father was not as involved as the mother, she is therefore the “winner” as the “better” parent so she should be awarded the “prize” of the children.

However, the illogic of this idea which is prominently presented by the mother escapes her (and many mental health professionals, I might add).  Even if we grant that “the problem” was the father’s prior lack of involvement with the children before the divorce (which is a big if and is often disputed by the father), but even IF, then the SOLUTION is to give the father MORE time with the children not less, so that the father and the children can now develop a healthy and loving bond.  The idea that the problem is that the father wasn’t involved before so the solution is to now restrict the father’s involvement is bizarre.

Note to all therapists:  If the problem asserted by the mother and children is the father’s lack of prior involvement, then the SOLUTION is to give the father MORE TIME with the children so that they have the opportunity to affectionally bond and develop positive parent-child relationships.

In the borderline-style of AB-PA, the mother typically evidences a prominent identity fusion with the child in which there is a severe loss of psychological boundaries between the mother and the child.  This seems particularly true when the eldest child is a daughter, creating an identity fusion enhanced by an equality of gender identification as well.  In borderline-style AB-PA families where the eldest child is a daughter, there is often an intensely enmeshed relationship between the mother and eldest daughter, and younger children in the family are often not as affected by the “alienation” split within the family for the first two or three years following the divorce, and so are better able to maintain an affectionate bond with the father.  As time passes, however, the younger children will be pulled into the coalition of the mother and eldest child as well.

Excessive text messaging between the mother and the children when they are in the care of their father is also extremely characteristic of the borderline-style of AB-PA.  Sometimes the mother will put the allied oldest child “in charge” of ensuring the “safety” of the younger children.  While excessive text messaging is also characteristic of the narcissistic style of AB-PA, it is almost always a very prominent feature of the borderline-style of AB-PA.

On a clinical psychology note, there are also often a variety of soft clinical signs of a sexual abuse history with the mother.  I’m not going to elaborate on these soft clinical signs here, but if I should die before this pathology gets solved and before I’m able to get to this clinical issue, other mental health professionals should follow up on this pathology-marker.  In the borderline-style of AB-PA, a history sexual abuse trauma in the mother’s childhood is a strong possibility as the source for the mother’s elevated threat perception in the current family situation.


I cannot emphasize enough that this really is a pathology that warrants the designation as a “special population” requiring specialized expertise in the attachment system, trauma, personality pathology, and family systems pathology in order to competently assess, diagnose, and treat.  Right now in mental health we’re allowing plumbers and traffic cops to do open heart surgery, and guess what… patients are dying because plumbers and traffic cops are wonderful plumbers and traffic cops, but they’re not competent to do open heart surgery.


Attachment System Pathogen

This pathology is the result of distorted information structures (schema patterns) in the attachment system – the brain system that governs all things love-and-bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  This is not a pathology like ADHD or autism.  This is fundamentally an interpersonal pathology.  It is an attachment-related pathology.

Prior to my work with “parental alienation” I was the Clinical Director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center that worked primarily with children in the foster care system.  I am trained to clinical competence in the two primary early childhood diagnostic systems that incorporate attachment-related pathology, the DC-03 and the ICDL-DMIC.  These are alternative diagnostic systems to the DSM system that are specifically designed for early childhood related disorders, which includes attachment-related disorders.  I am also trained to clinical competence in the two primary attachment-related therapies of early childhood: Watch, Wait, and Wonder and the Circle of Security.  I know attachment-related disorders.

I also have direct experience working with the attachment system that has been exposed to severe neglect – such as the child psychologically abandoned and exposed to severe physical neglect by meth-addicted parents. 

I have direct experience working with the attachment system that has been exposed to severe physical abuse – such children beaten with electrical cords and burned with cigarettes as “discipline.” 

I have direct experience working with the attachment system of children who have been sexually abused – the cruel and malevolent violation of the child’s self-integrity and trust. 

As a clinical psychologist tasked with diagnosing and fixing the traumatized attachment system, I know what trauma does to the attachment networks, and I know what each type of trauma looks like and does to the relationship systems of attachment. 

I know what the various forms of childhood trauma look like in the attachment networks, and I know what each of these forms of childhood trauma do to the information structures of the attachment system.

Pathology-Marker: For nearly a decade now, I have studied the fundamentally interpersonal, damaged and distorted attachment information structures of the “parental alienation” pathology, working out the various levels of the pathology.  For nearly a decade now, I’ve been studying in detail the pathogen that is inhabiting the attachment networks of AB-PA.

What I noticed early on is that the pathogen (the characteristic pattern of distorted and damaged information structures in the attachment system) contains particular sets and types of damage that are highly characteristic of sexual abuse trauma – particularly of incest.  But they’re not the complete set of damaged information structures, just fragments of the themes, like fragments from the source code of incest trauma in the attachment system.

This pattern of fragmentary damage in patterns characteristic of sexual abuse trauma suggests that the pathology of AB-PA had its origins in sexual abuse trauma, but not in this generation.  The sexual abuse trauma likely entered the family system a generation or two earlier, and only fragments of the trauma remain in the current attachment networks.  Let me be clear, AB-PA is NOT due to sexual abuse of the child.  But there are fragments of damaged information structures that are typically only found in sexual abuse, suggesting that the original trauma that entered the family a generation or two earlier was sexual abuse.

Based on my analysis of the pathology, I strongly suspect that the pathology of AB-PA represents the trans-generational transmission of sexual abuse trauma…

… from the generation prior to the current “alienating” parent…

… into the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child through the trauma-influenced pathogenic parenting of the sexually abused parent (the parent of the current narcissistic/(borderline) parent)…

… which then created the disorganized attachment in the narcissistic/(borderline) parent as a child…

… that then led to the formation of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality pathology…

… which is now being manifested into the current family as the symptoms of AB-PA.

This is just a hypothesis – a professionally informed guess – born in my background with attachment trauma and my years spent analyzing the attachment-related pathology of AB-PA.  And just as there appear to be variants of the pathology, there are almost certainly alternative variants in the origins of the pathology.  But if I leave the planet tomorrow I have at least placed these pathology-markers like breadcrumbs on the path so that others could explore the leads pointed to by these markers.

Shades of Color

The attachment system is the brain system responsible for managing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  It functions in characteristic ways, and it dysfunctions in characteristic ways.  The brain is a complex organization of neural networks that are both genetically and environmentally wired.  Nothing is black-and-white, everything is complex shades of integrated colors.  I’m simply placing some pathology markers for others to follow should I leave earlier than anticipated.

Now that these pathology-markers are down, I’m going to go back to the work of obtaining professional competence from current mental health professionals in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of AB-PA; attachment-based “parental alienation.”

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

References for the Dark Triad

Baughman, H.M., Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M., and Vernon, P.A. (2014). Liar liar pants on fire: Cheater strategies linked to the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 71, 35–38.

Book, A., Visser, B.A., and Volk, A.A. (2015). Unpacking ‘‘evil’’: Claiming the core of the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences 73 (2015) 29–38.

Christie, R. C., & Geis, F. L. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.

Giammarco, E.A. and Vernon, P.A. (2014). Vengeance and the Dark Triad: The role of empathy and perspective taking in trait forgivingness. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 23–29.

Horan, S.M., Guinn, T.D., and Banghart, S. (2015). Understanding relationships among the Dark Triad personality profile and romantic partners’ conflict communication. Communication Quarterly, 63, 156-170.

Jonason, P. K. and Krause, L. (2013). The emotional deficits associated with the Dark Triad traits: Cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and alexithymia. Personality and Individual Differences, 55, 532–537.

Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M. Baughman, H.M., and Vernon, P.A. (2014). What a tangled web we weave: The Dark Triad traits and deception. Personality and Individual Differences, 70, 117–119.

Jonason, P.K., Lyons, M., and Bethell, E. (2014). The making of Darth Vader: Parent–child care and the Dark Triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 67, 30–34.

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Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563.

Rasmussen, K.R. and Boon, S.D. (2014). Romantic revenge and the Dark Triad: A model of impellance and inhibition. Personality and Individual Differences, 56, 51–5.

Wai, M. and Tiliopoulos, N. (2012). The affective and cognitive empathic nature of the dark triad of personality. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 794–799.

One is True – The Other is False

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There are currently two models of “parental alienation,” the Gardnerian PAS model and the attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA).

These two models are incompatible. They cannot both be true. 

The basic premise of the Gardnerian PAS model is that the pathology of “parental alienation” is a unique new form of pathology unrelated to any other form of pathology in all of mental health, and that this unique new form of pathology requires an equally unique set of symptom identifiers that also have no relation to any other form of pathology in all of mental health.

The basic premise of an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA), on the other hand, is that the pathology commonly referred to as “parental alienation” in the popular culture is an expression of standard and established forms of attachment-related pathology (the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma), personality disorder pathology (parental narcissistic and borderline personality pathology that is the product of childhood attachment trauma), and family systems pathology (the child’s triangulation into the family conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the narcissistic/(borderline) parent against the targeted parent), and that the pathology can be reliably identified by a set of three diagnostic indicators that are based in the attachment system and personality disorder origins of the pathology.

These two models are fundamentally incompatible.  The pathology of “parental alienation” cannot simultaneously be an entirely unique new form of pathology unrelated to any other type of pathology in all of mental health – so unique in fact, that it requires its own unique set of diagnostic symptom identifiers made up specifically for this pathology alone – AND, at the same time, be an expression of standard and established forms of existing psychopathology with an entirely different set of diagnostic symptom identifiers.  It’s either one or the other. 

The pathology cannot logically be BOTH a unique new form of pathology and also an existing form of standard and established pathology.  It’s either one or the other.

These two models are fundamentally incompatible.  It is a logical impossibility for both to be true.  If one is true, the other must be false.  If it’s a unique new form of pathology, then it’s not an expression of standard and established forms of pathology.  If it’s an expression of standard and established forms of pathology, then it’s not a unique new form of pathology. 

One model is true and the other model is false.  I know the Gardnerians would like both models to be true, but that’s a logical impossibility.  One model is true, and the other model is false.

These two models also lead to two different sets of diagnostic symptom identifiers: 

The Gardnerian PAS model proposes a set of eight diagnostic symptoms which were made up by Gardner based on his anecdotal clinical experience.  According to the PAS model, these diagnostic indicators may or may not be present in any specific case and can vary in degree, leading to a vaguely defined set of potential symptom identifiers and an arbitrarily defined continuum from mild to severe “parental alienation,” in which the operational definitions for what constitutes mild or moderate or severe “parental alienation” are not specified.

In addition, since the Gardnerian PAS diagnostic indicators are unique symptoms created just for this form of pathology alone, with no association to any other form of pathology in all of mental health, they do not lead to any defined DSM-5 diagnosis.

The attachment-based (AB-PA) model, on the other hand, identifies three diagnostic indicators based on a conceptual analysis of the pathology.  The first diagnostic indicator involves attachment system suppression, which reflects the attachment-related origins of the pathology.  The second diagnostic indicator of five specific a-priori predicted narcissistic personality traits in the child’s symptom display is evidence of the psychological influence on the child by a narcissistic parent.  The third diagnostic indicator is a delusional belief regarding the child’s supposed “victimization” by the normal-range parenting practices of the targeted parent, which reflects the child’s incorporation into the false trauma reenactment narrative of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

In an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA), all three of these diagnostic indicators must be present in the child’s symptom display for the diagnosis of pathogenic parenting to be made, and the diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA) yield a dichotomous diagnosis as either present or absent (although a sub-threshold category can also be defined).

In addition, since the diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” are all standard symptoms within mental health, they lead directly to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.  Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

You can tell which model a mental health professional is using by which diagnostic indicators are being used to define the pathology, the eight diagnostic indicators of Gardnerian PAS or the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA).

One model is true.  The other model is false.  The question then becomes, which model is true and which is false? 

Is the pathology commonly referred to as “parental alienation” a unique new form of pathology in all of mental health, unrelated to any other form of pathology, requiring eight equally unique diagnostic indicators that may or may not be present in any individual case and may be present to varying degrees?

Or is the pathology a manifestation of standard and established forms of attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems pathology; and is the pathology identifiable by a set of three definitive diagnostic indicators which must all be present, which result in a clearly defined categorical diagnosis as either present or absent, and which lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

Only one of these two definitions of the pathology is true.  Whichever model is true, the other model is false.

Obviously, I am of the firm opinion that an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is true, which makes the Gardnerian PAS model false.  In Foundations I provide a comprehensive conceptual description of the pathology across three levels of analysis, the family systems level, the personality disorder level, and the attachment system level, detailing the origins of the symptoms evidenced in the pathology, including a detailed description of how the child’s symptoms are induced by the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  Foundations also provides an integration of the pathology across all three levels, in which the attachment system level creates the pathology at the personality disorder level, and the personality disorder level creates the pathology at the family systems level.  No definition of a pathology could provide such a comprehensive and integrated definition of the pathology within each of three separate levels of analysis and also across all three levels of analysis unless the definition of the pathology is accurate.

The descriptive definition of the pathology is so comprehensive that it actually predicts specific sentences used by the child and narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  No description of a pathology could make specific predictions of specific sentences if the model of the pathology was not accurate.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is absolutely an accurate definition of the pathology from within standard and established, fully accepted, and scientifically validated constructs and principles of professional psychology.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” is true.  Which means the Gardnerian PAS model is false.  I know this is hard for the Gardnerian PAS experts to accept, but it is reality.

If the Gardnerians want a different reality to be true, then they’re going to have to make the argument that an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) is false.  Although I’m not sure why they would want to fight against adopting a model of the pathology that provides an immediate DSM-5 diagnosis of confirmed Child Psychological Abuse in order to hold on to a failed model that has provided no solution whatsoever in 30 years – 30 years.

Or the Gardnerian PAS experts can simply try to live in a parallel universe in which both models are simultaneously true; where the pathology of “parental alienation” is both a unique new form of pathology with unique symptom identifiers developed specifically for this unique new form of pathology AND, at the same time, where the pathology is a manifestation of standard and established forms of existing pathology with an entirely different set of symptom identifiers.  La-la-la, both are true, both are true, would you like another cup of tea?

Gardnerian PAS is a failed model.  That’s reality.  Thirty years of PAS as the primary definition of the pathology has produced EXACTLY the situation we have right now – no solution whatsoever, and Gardnerian PAS has led us into the rampant and unchecked professional incompetence and gridlock that surrounds us.  In addition, Gardnerian PAS offers no plan whatsoever for a solution except another thirty years of controversy, incompetence, and gridlock.

Switching to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA), on the other hand, provides an immediate solution, today, right this instant. 

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

The DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed provides the entry into the solution. Diagnosis guides treatment.  The mental health response to all forms of child abuse, physical child abuse, sexual child abuse, and psychological child abuse, is to protectively separate the child from the abusive parent, treat the consequences of the parent’s abuse of the child, require that the abusive parent receive collateral individual therapy to gain and demonstrate insight into the causes of the prior abuse, and then to restore the child’s relationship with the formerly abusive parent with appropriate safeguards to ensure that the abuse doesn’t resume upon reintroducing the child to the abusive parent.

This is the standard mental health response to all forms of child abuse.  This is the standard mental health response to physical child abuse.  This is the standard mental health response to sexual child abuse.  This is the standard mental health response to psychological child abuse.  Diagnosis guides treatment.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality disorder pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) provides an immediate solution to “parental alienation” right now, today.  Diagnosis guides treatment.

So why are any “parental alienation” experts still holding on to the false and failed Gardnerian PAS model for the pathology?  Beats me.  There is no scientifically or rationally based reason to hold on to the failed and false Gardnerian PAS model for the pathology.  It makes no sense whatsoever.

You will know which model the mental health professional is using by the diagnostic indicators they use to define the pathology; the eight diagnostic indicators of Gardnerian PAS, or the three diagnostic indicators of attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA)

So let me propose this challenge to any “parental alienation” expert who still uses the eight Gardnerian symptoms to define the pathology:

I propose that we have an online debate regarding the respective models.  We can jointly set up a WordPress blog and each of us can then post our opening position.  We can then take turns posting blogs and commenting on the other’s blog posts, creating a documented record of the discussion.

My position is that the continued use of the Gardnerian PAS model delays the solution to “parental alienation,” and that the sooner we stop using the Gardnerian PAS model and the sooner we switch to an attachment-based model (AB-PA), the sooner we will have the solution; as soon as today, right this instant.

My position is that we need to put a bullet in the brain of Gardnerian PAS because Gardnerian PAS needs to die as an active definition of the pathology. 

Disagree?  Let’s debate.  WordPress.  I’m ready.  This is an open challenge to any “parental alienation” expert who is continuing to use the Gardnerian PAS model.  Email me with the heading – “Debate Challenge Accepted” – and we can set up the joint WordPress blog.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

 

I am not your warrior

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I received a comment from a targeted parent regarding my last blog on recovering the adult children of alienation.  I believe my response to be of sufficient importance to all targeted parents that I have decided to make my response a full blog post.  I have removed the comment from my blog because I don’t want to put the parent in an uncomfortable position. I fully understand the frustration, helplessness, and deep sorrow that gave rise to the comment.  However, I also want to use the comment to address a larger issue.

Here is the comment:

“As nice as this is, it is not the least bit helpful. Not one parent out here has any idea whatsoever how to reach their alienated older teenage or young adult child. Can you please, try to come up with some ideas for that. Thanks”

Here is my response:

This attitude highlights a fundamental problem in creating the solution to “parental alienation.”  As long as targeted parents wait for me, or for anyone else, to rescue their children there will be no solution.

The fundamental and primary responsibility of a parent is to protect the child.  I am not the parent.  You are.  Your children are waiting for you to protect them.  Your children are waiting for you to rescue them.  I am not the parent, you are.

I am not your warrior.  I am your weapon.

I have given you everything you need to protect and rescue your children. 

The solution to parental alienation is available right now, today, this instant.  All that needs to happen is for the paradigm to shift from the failed and inadequate PAS model of Gardner to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA).  As long as Gardnerian PAS remains the dominant paradigm, there will be NO solution to “parental alienation.”  The moment the paradigm shifts to an attachment-based model, the solution becomes available immediately.

I’ve collaborated with Jason Hofer (mostly Jason’s work) on creating a list of the

Top 15 Things Targeted Parents Need to Know About Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA)

I thought he did a wonderful job of presenting all of the important information.  I just tweaked a word here and there and added my name to make the list “official.”

Attachment-based “parental alienation” is not a theory.  It is diagnosis.  The application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to a set of symptoms is called diagnosis.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

This is not a theory.  This is diagnosis.

I have given you rock-solid Foundations on which to stand, based on well-established, fully accepted, scientifically validated constructs and principles of professional psychology.

I have given you three definitive diagnostic indicators of the pathology that can reliably and consistently distinguish attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA) from all other forms of child and family pathology, including authentic child abuse, normal-range parent-child conflict, and child oppositional-defiant behavior.

I have given you booklets to provide to the mental health and legal professionals involved with your families describing the pathology of the narcissistic parent and the pathology of attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA).

I have activated for you Standard 9.01a and Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code for psychologists so that you can now hold ALL psychologists (and other therapists under their separate ethical codes of conduct) accountable for the competent assessment and accurate diagnosis of the pathology when the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display.

I have given you the rationale to seek a change in the APA Position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome that will immediately restore professional psychology as your ally.

I have given you everything you need.  But I am not your warrior.

You are the warrior.  You, the children’s authentic parents, you must rise up, you must unite, and you must become an unstoppable force for change.  You, together, must protect ALL of your children.

I know this pathology better than anyone on this planet.  The pathogen is located in the attachment system (the brain network responsible for governing all aspects of love and bonding across the lifespan, including grief and loss) and it has a specific meme-structure – a specific information structure – that acts to keep the victim isolated and alone.  As long as the pathogen can keep you isolated and alone it can keep you powerless.

As long as each of you fights only to protect your specific child, then the pathogen and its allies can keep you powerless; helpless.  You must come together.  You must stop fighting to recover your specific child and begin fighting to recover each others’ children, the children of your colleague and neighbor, the children of other targeted parents.   You must begin fighting to recover each others’ children.

Just like I am fighting for your children, you must mirror this and also fight for each others’ children.

Fighting just for your own situation is a reflection of a narcissistic attitude of personal self-interest.  We cannot fight narcissism with narcissism.  We must fight narcissistic pathology with self-sacrifice to each other.  Fight for your neighbor’s children, for your colleague’s children, fight for the children of other targeted parents.

We cannot solve parental alienation in any single specific family until we solve it for ALL families.

“What about MY situation?”

“What’s the solution for MY situation?”

“How can I recover MY child?”

Stop it. 

I am not working for my own children – my Jack and my Annie are fine.  They’re in college, my wife and I are married.   We’re fine.  I’m not fighting for MY children… I’m fighting for YOUR children.  You need to begin fighting for each others’ children. 

The mental health system is broken.  The legal system is broken.  There is no solution.  Gardnerian PAS is a failed model.  It provides no solution.  There is no solution.

We must put a bullet in the brain of Gardnerian PAS and return to established and accepted psychological principles and constructs. 

In proposing a “new syndrome” which is supposedly unique in all of mental health, and which, according to Gardner, is identifiable by an equally unique made-up set of symptom identifiers, Richard Gardner skipped the crucial step of professional diagnosis. He did not apply the professional rigor necessary to define the pathology using standard and established, scientifically validated constructs and principles within professional psychology.

Gardner and PAS have taken us down a dead-end road of controversy which only leads us to rampant and unchecked professional incompetence and gridlock.

Foundations corrects this.  Foundations defines the pathology of “parental alienation” from entirely within standard and established, scientifically validated constructs and principles in professional psychology.  The application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to a set of symptoms is called diagnosis.

Diagnosis.  AB-PA is not a theory.  It’s diagnosis.

Gardner constructed a model on the shifting sands of his personal assertions.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) is built on the solid bedrock of standard and established, fully accepted, and scientifically validated constructs and principles. In Foundations  you can stand on the solid bedrock of established and scientifically validated constructs and principles in your fight for your children.

So stand and fight.  Wake up from your slumber of helplessness created by 30 years of Gardnerian PAS.  You are more powerful than you can imagine.  But only if you come together, and only if you begin to fight for each other rather than for yourself alone.

We cannot solve “parental alienation” in any one specific family until we solve it for ALL children and ALL families.   This is crucial for you to understand.

We need to put a bullet in the brain of Gardnerian PAS.  It is a dead paradigm.  It gives away your power through poorly defined diagnostic indicators and endless controversy.

Re-own your power.  Join together in a movement of unstoppable power.  In a single isolated voice you are helpless.  When you come together into 100 you have reclaimed your voice.  In 1,000 you reclaim your power.  In 10,000 you become an unstoppable force for change. Become that unstoppable force.  Your children need you to become that unstoppable force.

Write to the APA – your leadership has the contact information.  Demand a revision to the APA position statement on “parental alienation” because there is a new model of the pathology, an attachment-based model, which must be considered.  The APA Position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome ONLY and specifically addresses PAS, it doesn’t address an attachment-based definition of the pathology.  The AB-PA model makes the APA position statement too narrow, the APA position statement must now be revised to take into account a second model and second definition of the pathology.  I have given you your weapon… but you must use it.

I am NOT your warrior.  These are your children.  You must be their warrior.  I am your weapon.  I have given you everything you need.  But it is up to you to use what I have given you… NOT for your own child, but for each others’ children.  We cannot solve this for YOUR child until we solve it for ALL children.  Don’t be narcissistically self-absorbed, thinking only of yourself.  You must act each for the other.  Let others fight for your specific child while you fight for theirs.

Standard 9.01 BannerStandard 9.01a and Standard 2.01a of the ethics code of the APA are active for you.  You can now demand – you can now demand – professional competence from ALL psychologists using the rock-solid Foundations of established, fully accepted, and scientifically validated constructs and principles.

Will you get professional competence?  Of course not.  But you’re not fighting for your child, you’re fighting for your neighbor’s child. 

If you file a licensing board complaint, will Standard 2.01 Bannerthe licensing board do anything?  Of course not.  But you’re not fighting for your child, you’re fighting for your neighbor’s child.  

When the next targeted parent comes to this therapist and asks the therapist to assess for the pathology, the therapist will now assess for the pathology because the therapist wants to avoid another licensing board complaint, and the therapist will now accurately diagnose the pathology because the therapist wants to avoid another licensing board complaint. 

Did your complaint, did your malpractice lawsuit, change anything in your specific family?  No.  Did it help solve “parental alienation” for all families, for your neighbor’s family?  Absolutely yes.

I have made you dangerous.  Be dangerous.  Demand professional competence.  Be kind, but demand competence.  Lay the paper trail.  Document in a letter to the mental health professional your request that the therapist or child custody evaluator assess for pathogenic parentingnot “parental alienation” – pathogenic parenting – use the words of power I’ve given you.

Document in this letter that you provided the therapist with a copy of the booklet Professional Consultation.

Document in this letter that you provided the therapist with the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting – note it’s not called the Diagnostic Checklist for Parental Alienation – use the words of power I have given you.

Document in this letter that you are giving the therapist my email address (drcraigchildress@gmail.com) and that you are asking the therapist to contact me to schedule a professional-to-professional consultation.

Lay the paper trail.  Will the therapist assess for the pathology?  Of course not.  But when this therapist does not assess for the pathology (and does not document in the patient record the results of the assessment), then file a licensing board complaint citing Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the APA ethics code.  Will the licensing board do anything?  Of course not.  But you’re not fighting for your child, you’re fighting for ALL children.  Do you think that the next targeted parent who asks that this therapist assess for pathogenic parenting is going to get an assessment for pathogenic parenting?  Absolutely.  If not, then this parent is also going to file a licensing board complaint so that the next targeted parent will get an assessment for the pathology.  Fight for each other.

“But what about Master’s level therapists?”

Really?  Are you kidding me?  You can’t figure this out?   Master’s level therapists have their ethics codes as well, and all of these ethics codes have a Standard regarding professional competence.  Figure it out.  I’ve listed these ethics codes and the specific standard in a previous post (Demanding Professional Competence). This is your fight, not mine.  I am not your warrior.  You are the warrior.  Will their licensing board do anything?  No, of course not.  But what do you think the Master’s level therapist is going to do the next time a targeted parent requests an assessment of pathogenic parenting? 

The goal is to provoke a risk-management response throughout ALL of mental health, a system-wide change, in which ALL mental health professionals take responsibility for becoming professionally competent from their personal self-interest to AVOID a licensing board complaint (and possible malpractice lawsuit) if they continue to remain incompetent.

They can be incompetent, and they can remain incompetent, but from now on they do so at their own peril.

The licensing board may collude with allowing them to be incompetent, but we’re going to make the licensing board collude with professional incompetence over-and-over again until the licensing board eventually stands up and fulfills its responsibility by no longer colluding with professional incompetence and the blatant refusal by incompetent mental health professionals to assess for and diagnose child abuse when they are mandated reporters and have a “duty to protect.”

I have made you dangerous to professional incompetence.  So be dangerous to professional incompetence.  NOT for your child, but for your neighbor’s child, for each other’s children.

Unsheathe your sword and take a swing.

“I did, but it missed.  Nothing happened.”

Stop thinking of yourself.  Stop being narcissistically self-involved.  Okay.  So nothing happened in your specific situation.  Your specific situation wasn’t solved.  But in taking out your sword, in taking a whack at the pathogen, you have improved the chances that your neighbor’s blow will strike home.  You have improved the chances that your neighbor’s efforts with his specific case or her specific case will succeed.  Work for each others’ children.

And your neighbors’ efforts in their specific cases may not succeed for their specific children, but in taking out their sword and in their taking a whack at professional incompetence they will be improving the chances that you will succeed in your fight for your child.  Fight for each other.  Stop saying “what about me, what about me.”  This isn’t about you.  We don’t fight narcissism with narcissism, we fight narcissism with empathy and self-sacrifice.  Fight for each other.

Come together – 10,000 strong.  The recent Petition to Change the APA Position Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome has 4,000 signatures.  Really?  There are only 4,000 targeted parents in the world?  If you are not willing to expend the minimal effort necessary to sign an online petition, then there is nothing I can do for you.  I am not your warrior.  YOU are the warrior.  This is your fight.  I am your weapon.

4,000 signatures.  Really?  You should be ashamed of yourselves.  This means that there are less than 4,000 families in the world who are affected by “parental alienation, assuming that targeted parents who signed the petition also asked friends and family to sign the petition, or it means that there are less than 4,000 targeted parents, friends, and extended family who are willing to actually fight for their children.  “What about me?  The petition won’t change my situation.” – What about all the children.  We cannot solve the pathology of “parental alienation” until you start fighting for each other, for all families, for all children.

But what about the now-adult children of childhood alienation? How do we also recover them when their parents can’t contact them.

“What about me?  How do we solve my situation?”

We solve this by solving “parent alienation” for ALL families.  And in solving “parental alienation” for ALL families we need to create and generate as much media attention as possible – lots and lots of media attention.  And we need to actively encourage the formation of online support groups of recovered adult children of alienation who can help each other. 

How about this for an idea… form a closed online peer support group for adult survivors of childhood alienation… and invite me in as a participating consultant…  I’m willing.

The targeted parents of now-adult children of alienation cannot contact their children.  This is a fact.  We must do it for them, our movement must do it for them.  Don’t worry about your specific child, that will be the responsibility of the rest of us – all of us – together.  Worry about your neighbor’s child.  How are the targeted parents of now-adult children going to restore their relationship with their children?

We need to work to get articles in the local papers, in the national media.  Targeted parents have a great “hook” for the media.  The human pathos of your personal stories are heartbreaking. 

The rampant professional incompetence provides a “hook.” 

An “epidemic” of undiagnosed child abuse provides a “hook.” 

The lack of action from the APA to enforce their own professional ethical standards for professional competence by not recognizing your children and families as a “special population” who require specialized professional knowledge and expertise to assess, diagnose, and treat, provides a “hook.” 

A grassroots movement of targeted parents hellbent on recovering their children, who are now consistently filing licensing board complaints and malpractice lawsuits against all mental health professionals who refuse to assess for the pathology of pathogenic parenting (use the words of power) and who refuse to accurately diagnose the pathology as Child Psychological Abuse when the three diagnostic indicators of pathogenic parenting are present, provides a “hook.”

This isn’t my fight, it’s yours.  Not for ten of you, or even one hundred of you.  It’s the fight for ten thousand of you.  You are more powerful than you know… if you come together and fight for each other.  Become an unstoppable force, become a tsunami of 10,000 voices, 20,000 voices.

We need to surround the now-adult children of alienation with information, and with an invitation to recovery.   And we need to give them a path to recovery.  We need to create competent mental health professionals who are able to help the adult child of alienation when that now-adult child wants to recover the lost relationship with the targeted-rejected parent.  We need to encourage the formation of online peer support groups of recovered adult children of alienation.  We need to flood the media with advocacy and awareness.

None of this… NONE of this… is possible using Gardnerian PAS.  We need to put a bullet in the brain of Garnerian PAS.  It is a failed paradigm that offers no solution whatsoever.  In over thirty years since its introduction it has given us exactly what we have right now – no solution whatsoever.  We must kill Gardnerian PAS.

An attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) provides an immediate solution, today. 

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 1), personality pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 2), and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child (diagnostic indicator 3) represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

We start by getting an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology in all cases of AB-PA.  We then build on that.

Diagnosis begins with assessment:  The Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.

Step-by-step we construct the solution.

There is no reason your current mental health professional cannot assess for the pathology of pathogenic parenting today, right now.  There is no reason your current mental health professional cannot make an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed today, right now.  There is no reason your current mental health professional cannot file a suspected child abuse report with Child Protective Services today, right now when a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse is made.

There is nothing standing in the way of a solution to attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA) occurring today, right now.

I want you to let that sink in… 

Everyone has been so captivated by needing to have something “accepted” – i.e., the new and unique pathology of Gardnerian PAS – that people are failing to comprehend that the moment we give up the Gardnerian PAS model and switch to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” (AB-PA) there is nothing to accept or reject – because all of the component pathology in attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA) has ALREADY been accepted, and it is ALREADY scientifically established fact.

Jason gets it.  Look at item 6 of the Top 15 Things Targeted Parents Need to Know About Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (AB-PA)

There is nothing – nothing – standing in the way of the solution offered by attachment-based “parental alienation” (AB-PA) occurring today, right now:

A DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed and a child abuse report filed with CPS by the mental health professional… as just the beginning of the solution that then unfolds.

We need to put a bullet in the brain of Gardnerian PAS so that it goes away and mental health professionals stop using this failed and utterly inadequate model of the pathology.

We need to demand professional competence in the assessment and diagnosis of the pathology (pathogenic parenting – not “parental alienation”), and you need to become extremely dangerous to continued professional incompetence under Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the APA ethics code, not for your child in your specific case but for your neighbor’s child; for all children. 

We must expect and achieve professional competence in the assessment and accurate diagnosis of the pathology – every single time in every single case.  Now.  Today.  Or else the mental health professional who fails to conduct the assessment for pathogenic parenting and who fails to make an accurate diagnosis when the three definitive symptoms of pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display needs to be held accountable.  What happens at the licensing board is not our concern.  They’ll do what they’ll do.  If they wish to collude with professional incompetence, there’s nothing we can about that… except continue to file complaints over-and-over again in each case of professional incompetence in the assessment and diagnosis of pathogenic parenting, until eventually mental health professionals step-up to their professional obligation to be competent and until they begin to assess and accurately diagnose the pathology.

I am not your warrior.  Don’t expect me to solve this.  Your children need you to protect them.  I am your weapon.  You are the warrior.  Fight for each other.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857