Class Action Lawsuit

Standard

I am a psychologist, not an attorney.  My opinions represent those of an old-school clinical psychologist, not an attorney.  But given the profoundly incompetent and professionally negligent practices surrounding mental health’s involvement with the family law system (sometimes called “court-involved therapy” or “court-involved mental health” services), I’d be open to collaborating with a legal team of substance in exploring the possibility of a class action lawsuit.


Negligent Professional Practice

In my non-legal view… the professional negligence involves the consistent and system-wide failure to apply standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology to the professional work of court-involved mental health professionals working in the family law system, resulting in the system-wide failure by mental health professionals to appropriately and accurately diagnose child psychological abuse and respond with an appropriate child protection response consistent with their “duty to protect.”

As a result of a consistent and negligent disregard for the application of standard and established psychological constructs and principles to their work surrounding the family law system, mental health professionals are failing in their professional “duty to protect” children from psychological child abuse, resulting in significant and potentially irrevocable developmental harm to children, and in significant emotional and psychological trauma to parents.

Is a Test Case Needed?

The Tarasoff case in professional psychology explicated a mental health professional’s “duty to warn” the potential intended victims of violence.  A similar legal landmark case may be needed regarding the mental health professional’s “duty to protect” obligations surrounding the role of professional psychology in family law and child custody decisions made by the court which have profound and lasting impact on the family, centering on the application of standard and established constructs and principles in the diagnosis of child psychological abuse.

The pathology we are discussing (traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common culture but more accurately conceptualized as the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma, mediated by the personalty disorder pathology of the allied parent), conceptually represents psychologically “killing” the targeted parent’s child.  Prior to the enactment of this severe form of delusional-psychiatric pathology by the allied parent, the other parent, the targeted parent, has a child.  After the enactment of this emotionally and psychologically brutal pathology, the targeted parent no longer has a child. This parent’s relationship with the child has been killed.  For all intents and purposes, this parent’s child has been psychologically murdered.

The consistent and negligent disregard by court-involved mental health professionals for the application of standard and established psychological constructs and principles to their work within the family law system is directly responsible for their failure to protect the child and targeted parent victims of this brutal emotional and psychological pathology. 

The psychological murder of one’s child – to lose completely one’s relationship with a beloved child – is a severe emotional and psychological trauma of profound proportions for the targeted parent; and for the child, the loss of a parent (the “psychological death” of this child’s parent for the child) can have profoundly negative developmental repercussions throughout the child’s life, including carrying this emotional and psychological trauma into the child’s own marriage and family. 

Standard and Established Constructs

The rejection of a parent is an attachment-related pathology

This form of brutal family pathology is driven by the narcissistic/borderline personalty disorder pathology of the allied parent, triggered by their perceived rejection and abandonment surrounding the divorce.

This form of brutal family pathology represents the child’s triangulation into the family conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent.

These are standard and established forms of mental health pathology.

Because court-involved mental health professionals are involved in family matters of such profound consequence to the child and targeted parent, a high degree of professional expertise is expected in the relevant domains of pathology which they are tasked with assessing, diagnosing, and treating; i.e., attachment trauma and the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma; the assessment and diagnosis of personality disorder pathology and its impact on family relationships, including the assessment and diagnosis of encapsulated delusional pathology emerging from the personality disorder pathology of the parent; and family systems constructs regarding the causal interrelationships of family behavior.

Child Psychological Abuse

The clinical psychology term for this form of family attachment-related pathology is pathogenic parenting by the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

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, and that results in the loss for the child of a healthy attachment bond to a normal-range and affectionally available parent, represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

A mental health professional’s “duty to protect,” especially under circumstances of such profound developmental consequence to the child and emotional trauma for the parent who is targeted by this brutal family pathology, would seemingly engage the professional’s obligation to apply standard and established psychological principles and constructs in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of this pathology in order to fulfill the professional’s “duty to protect” relative to the psychological abuse of the child and the infliction of potentially lifelong emotional trauma on the targeted parent.

The failure to reasonably employ standard and established psychological principles and constructs (from attachment theory relative to an attachment-related pathology, from the field of personality disorder pathology relative to the impact of parental personality disorder pathology on the family, and from family systems theory relative to the interrelationship of causality for family behavior) would seemingly represent negligent professional practice. 

But that’s just my non-legal, psychologist opinion.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe court-involved mental health professionals don’t need to know about the functioning and dysfunctioning of the attachment system when they treat attachment-related disorders.  Maybe court-involved mental health professionals don’t need to know about personality disorder pathology when they treat families whose relationships are being heavily influenced by parental personality disorder pathology.  Maybe court-involved mental health professionals don’t need to know about standard constructs from family systems theory when they are assessing, diagnosing, and treating families.

Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe court-involved mental health professionals don’t need to properly diagnose child psychological abuse, even through V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse is a DSM-5 diagnosis and all mental health professionals are responsible for knowing and properly diagnosing all disorders in the DSM diagnostic system as a standard of professional practice.

Maybe I”m wrong… but personally, I don’t think so.  Personally, I think it’s negligent professional practice to so cavalierly disregard standard and established psychological constructs and principles in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health pathology.  Personally, I think it’s negligent professional practice to not know what you’re doing.

Extended Responsiblity

Again, I’m not a legal professional.  But from where I sit as a simple clinical psychologist, it would seem that by providing professional “guidelines” for the practice of court-involved mental health, both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) have seemingly taken professional responsibility and provided their professional imprimature for the professional practices of court-involved mental health.  But, then again, maybe I’m wrong.

I can’t help but wonder though… in providing guidelines for the practice of court-involved mental health, would their imprimature for the practices surrounding court-involved mental health make the APA and AFCC legally liable for those practices?  I don’t know.  I’m just a psychologist.

However, if a legal team ever wanted to consider a class action lawsuit, I can certainly point out the relevant professional literature regarding attachment theory, personality disorder pathology, and family systems theory which, in my opinion, should reasonably be guiding professional practice in assessing, diagnosing, and treating an attachment-related pathology involving a potentially allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent in a cross-generational coalition with the child against the other parent following divorce.

(Attachment: Bowlby, Ainsworth, Mains, Sroufe, Fonagy, Ruth-Lyons; Bretherton; )

(Personality Disorder: Kernberg, Millon, Beck, Linehan; Dark Triad Personality)

(Family Systems: Bowen, Minuchin, Haley)

According to the ethical code of the American Psychological Association, mental health professionals are not allowed to be incompetent.  I would think this would extend to negligently incompetent.  Profoundly incompetent… resulting in the destruction of children’s lives and the destruction of parent-child relationships.  But what do I know.  Maybe I’m wrong.


Child Custody Evaluations

The professional practices surrounding court-involved mental health lack scientific and professional foundation in the established psychological principles and constructs of professional psychology.  For example, there is not a single research study establishing the validity of the conclusions and recommendations derived from child custody evaluations.  Not one.  Nothing.

No study demonstrating the face validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

No study demonstrating the content validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

No study demonstrating the construct validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

No study demonstrating the predictive validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

No study demonstrating the discriminant validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

Nothing.  Zero.  There is no scientifically established foundation for the validity of the conclusions and recomendations of child custody evaluations.

Nor is there any research study demonstrating the inter-rater reliability of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

If the results of an assessment are not reliable, they cannot, by definition, be valid.  So what is the data regarding the inter-rater reliability of the conclusions and recommendations from child custody evaluations?  There is none.  Nothing.  No data whatsoever.

There is no scientifically established foundation for the validity of the conclusions and recommendations of child custody evaluations.

But it’s even worse…

There are no operational definitions for the key constructs that are supposedly being assessed by child custody evaluations; the “best interests of the child” and “parental capacity.”  The absence of operational definitions for the key constructs of the assessment violates a basic tenet of professional assessment.

I want to be very clear on this, because I teach assessment, and I do assessment as a clinical psychologist.  I know assessment.  The absence of operational definitions for the key constructs of the assessment violates a basic tenet of professional assessment.

Prior to assessing for “intelligence” we must first define what we mean by the construct of “intelligence.”

Prior to assessing for “self-esteem,” we must first define what we mean by the construct of “self-esteem.”  This is a foundational tenet of professional assessment.

We are not allowed to assess first and then define the construct afterwards based on the results of our assessment because then the assessment would be subject to… wait for it… inherent bias.  If I define the construct after the assessment, then I can make the construct be whatever I want the results to be.  That’s not allowed.  We define the construct first, and then we assess.

Child custody evaluations violate this basic tenet of professional assessment practice by not first defining the meaning of the key constructs of the assessment; what represents the “best interests of the child” and what represents “parental capacity.”

Instead, these key constructs are defined idiosyncratically after-the-fact by the child custody evaluator.

In their analysis of child custody evaluations, Stahl and Simon (2013) describe the absence of any coherent operational definition for the key construct of the best interest of the child:

“A critical subject facing those working in the field of family law, whether they are legal professionals or psychological professionals, is the concept of the best interests of the children.  Even recognized experts in this concept differ with regard to what it means, how it should be determined, and what factors should be considered in determining what is in the best interest of a child.  Thus, this ubiquitous term escapes consensus and remains fundamentally vague.” (Stahl & Simon, 2013, p. 10-11)

If you have not defined the central construct of the assessment PRIOR to the assessment, then the assessment lacks scientific credibility.  You can’t just do an “assessment” and then make up what it means after-the-fact based on personal whims and biases (this form of bias is called “counter-transference” in the clinical psychology literature).

Bias:  Counter-Transference

Q:  If a child custody evaluator has “mother-issues” or “father-issues” from his or her own childhood and family of origin, what protection is there that these buried psychological issues from the evaluator’s own childhood won’t influence his or her interpretation of the data? 

A:  None.  There are no protections whatsoever against this subtle but pervasive – and indeed expectable – form of bias from entering into the current practice of child custody evaluations.

Q:  Is it possible that these “mother-issues” or “father-issues” from the evaluator’s own childhood might color the evaluator’s interpretations of the data from the child custody evaluation? 

A:  Yes.  Absolutely. In fact, from all the scientific research on schemas and internal working models within the attachment system, it is extremely likely that these subtle forms of personal bias will influence the evaluator’s interpretation of the data.  This form of inherent bias should be expected.

Q:  Child custody evaluators are typically confronted with differing and conflicting narratives about what is occurring within the family.  What protections are there that the potential “mother-issues” or “father-issues” of the evaluator won’t influence the evaluator toward accepting and co-constructing a narrative of the family conflict influenced by the evaluator’s own family-of-origin issues? 

A:  There are no protections against this form of bias whatsoever.  And this bias can be 100% unconscious for the evaluator.  The evaluator may 100% believe that he or she is being “objective” because the source of the bias in the family-of-origin issues of the child custody evaluator can be unconscious.   This is called “counter-transference” in the psychological literature.

The protection against this form of inherent, 100% expectable, and likely pervasive “counter-transference” bias in ALL child custody evaluations is to follow the standard and established professional practices for creating assessment protocols:

1.)  Operational Definition:  Operationally DEFINE the construct being assessed in terms of how the construct is to be measured – whether it’s “intelligence,” or “self-esteem,” or the “best interests of the child” in the case of child custody evaluations.

2.)  Construct the Protocol to the Operational Definition:  Construct the collection of data to address the operational definition of the construct by defining how the data leads to a conclusion about the construct (e.g., high scores compared to the general population on a visual puzzle task are evidence of the construct of “intelligence” – endorsing a pre-specified level of positive or negative self-statements from a list of positive, negative, and neutral self-statements is evidence for the construct of positive or negative “self-esteem.”).

3.)  Establish the Reliability and Validity of the Protocol:  Collect reliability and validity data on the assessment protocol.  In the case of child custody evaluations, it would likely be inter-rater reliability data and at least face validity data (the assessment protocol superficially “looks like” it measures what it purports to measure). 

Construct and content validity data would be recommended.  This might involve subjecting the assessment protocol to a panel of experts to critique the operational definition of the construct (construct validity) and whether the assessment protocol actually measures the definition of the construct (content validity).

Given the importance of the decisions involved for the family, predictive validity data for the assessment would be recommended.  This might involve follow-up assessments of family functioning regarding whether the assessment was successful in predicting outcome based on some pre-defined outcome criteria.

That’s how professional assessment practices protect against the introduction of inherent bias into the assessment practice.  Professional psychology knows how to construct assessments.  Child custody evaluations have followed none of these procedures.


Reunification Therapy

From what I can see, many, most, nearly all, court-involved therapists are simply making things up without reliance on any standard or established constructs of child development and family pathology, and then they are using vague psychological words to cover their nearly complete absence of the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs from unknowing legal professionals and the general public, who unfortunately simply trust that the mental health professional knows what he or she is doing.

From what I can see, this public trust is unwarranted.

Take, for just one example, the ubiquitous use of the term “reunification therapy.”  There is no such thing as “reunification therapy.”  No such thing exists.  There is no model anywhere that has ever been defined or described about what “reunification therapy” is, what it entails, or or how it accomplishes “reunification.”   Nothing.  Zero.

The term “reunification therapy” is snake oil, pure and simple.  It’s a term that sounds like it has meaning when used by a mental health professional to a parent or attorney, but which, in truth, is an unknown concoction of unknowable ingredients that’s guaranteed to “cure what ails ya” but which actually winds up killing the patient.  Snake oil pure and simple.  It allows mental health professionals to do whatever they want, without any reference to established psychological or psychotherapeutic models, under the guise of so-called “reunification therapy.”

“Reunification therapy” doesn’t exist.  There is not one professional description of what “reunification therapy” entails.  Zero.  Nothing.  If any mental health professional uses the term “reunification therapy,” ask for a citation reference to the theorist who describes what “reunification therapy” is.

Parent or Attorney:  I’d like to know more about reunification therapy.  Can you please direct me to a book or author who describes the process of reunification therapy.

MH Professional:  Well, that’s just a term we use to describe this, and there isn’t really one place that… obfuscate, double-talk.  Bottom-line… no reference.

The correct psychological term for the therapy is family systems therapy.  Family systems therapy is fully defined and described by such preeminent figures in professional psychology as Murray Bowen, Salvador Minuchin, Jay Haley, Chloe Madanes, Virginia Satir, and others.  Family systems therapy describes both the origin of the family relationship problem and its solution.

Family systems therapy is one of the four primary schools of psychotherapy (the others being psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral, and humanistic-existential), and family systems therapy is the only school of psychotherapy that deals with resolving current interpersonal relationships within the family – the others are all forms of individual therapy.  Family system therapy is the correct and applicable model to use in conceptualizing and resolving family-related problems.

I’m a clinical psychologist.  I teach models of psychotherapy.  I know what I’m talking about.

Central to family systems therapy is the construct of the triangle; the child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict.  This is the technical clinical psychology term for the child being “put in the middle.”

There are two forms of triangulation.  In one, the parents unite to form a coalition against the child.  This occurs when the level of inter-spousal conflict threatens to tear the marriage apart in divorce, so the child develops symptoms that divert and distract the parents’ attention away from the spousal conflict over onto the child’s behavior problems.  The child (who is called the “identified patient” in this form of triangulation) develops a symptom in order to bring the parents together in their shared concern over the child’s symptom, thereby saving the marriage by diverting the attention and conflict away from the marital conflict and onto the child.

The second type of triangulation is a cross-generational coalition in which one parent forms a coalition with the child against the other parent.  This is the type of triangulation involved in the pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the general-culture.  It is a cross-generational coalition of one parent (the allied and supposedly “favored” parent) against the other parent (the targeted and rejected parent).

From a professional diagnostic standpoint, this is no big deal.  This is all standard and fully established principles of family therapy that are amply described and explained in the family systems literature.

But from what I see, many, most, nearly all court-involved mental health professionals do not rely on family systems constructs in their case conceptualization, diagnosis, and treatment.  Instead, they just make stuff up based on their whims and fancies.  But then they use the term “reunification therapy” to hide from parents and legal professionals that they’re actually just making stuff up.  By using vaguely defined terms that sound as if they had meaning, these court-involved therapists can essentially make up whatever they want and do whatever they want, in complete ignorance and without any reference to any standard principles or constructs of professional psychology.

Oh, and by the way, did I mention that court-involved mental health professionals can make a lot of money off of this, because families are so desperate for solutions and the court often mandates the family’s participation in court-involved mental health services.  Hmmm, who reviews the practices of court-involved mental health professionals?  Oh, other court-involved mental health professionals.  Sweet deal.

But I have a question, by providing guidelines and, through these guidelines, their official imprimature for the practice of court-involved mental health services, do the APA and AFCC incur any liability for the system-wide negligent conduct of court-involved mental health services?  Maybe not.  What do I know.  I’m just a psychologist.


Standard and Established Constructs

A child’s 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.

Court-involved mental health professionals should therefore be relying on constructs from attachment theory – a fully established and well-researched domain of professional psychology – for the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

In the pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common-culture, the child is being triangulated into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with one parent against the other parent.

Court-involved mental health professionals should therefore be relying on constructs from family systems therapy – a fully established and well-documented domain of professional psychology – for the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

The pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common-culture represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent which is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma of this parent.

Court-involved mental health professionals should therefore be relying on constructs from personalty disorder pathology – a fully established and well-documented domain of professional psychology – for the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

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.

Court-involved mental health professionals should therefore be relying on constructs from the DSM-5 diagnostic system – a fully established professional diagnostic system – for the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

But that’s just the non-legal opinion of a clinical psychologist.

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

References

Stahl, P.M. and Simon, R.A. (2013). Forensic Psychology Consultation in Child Custody Litigation: A Handbook for Work Product Review,Case Preparation, and Expert Testimony, Chicago, IL: Section of Family Law of the American Bar Association.

 

Not a New Pathology

Standard

The pathology typically called “parental alienation” in the popular culture is NOT some “new form” of pathology.  It is all standard and established stuff.

Rejection of a parent is an attachment-related pathology.

The attachment system is the brain system that manages all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.

Within attachment theory (Bowlby, 1969, 1973, 1980), this family attachment-related pathology would be considered a form of “pathological mourning” surrounding the divorce.

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

The pathology is fundamentally the inability of the family (of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent within the family) to process the grief and loss surrounding the divorce.  Instead, the narcissistic/(borderline) personality transforms the sadness and grief into anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes:

“They [narcissists] are especially deficient in genuine feelings of sadness and mournful longing; their incapacity for experiencing depressive reactions is a basic feature of their personalities.  When abandoned or disappointed by other people they may show what on the surface looks like depression, but which on further examination emerges as anger and resentment, loaded with revengeful wishes, rather than real sadness for the loss of a person whom they appreciated.” (Kernberg, 1975, p. 229)

The characterological inability of the narcissistic/(borderline) personality to process sadness and grief creates the “pathological mourning” and “deactivation of attachment behavior” in the family – in the child – through the child’s cross-generational coalition with this parent.

Cross-Generational Coalition: “The people responding to each other in the triangle are not peers, but one of them is of a different generation from the other two… In the process of their interaction together, the person of one generation forms a coalition with the person of the other generation against his peer.  By ‘coalition’ is meant a process of joint action which is against the third person… The coalition between the two persons is denied.  That is, there is certain behavior which indicates a coalition which, when it is queried, will be denied as a coalition… In essence, the perverse triangle is one in which the separation of generations is breached in a covert way. When this occurs as a repetitive pattern, the system will be pathological.” (Haley, 1977, p. 37; emphasis added)

This is not some “new form” of pathology.  We already know exactly what it is.  It’s just that many, most, almost all, current mental health professionals are simply incompetent.  They are misdiagnosing the pathology.

(Gardnerian PAS experts… are you correctly diagnosing the pathology?)

The personality pathology of the allied parent is the product of childhood attachment trauma (a disorganized attachment) that coalesced in late adolescence and early adulthood into their narcissistic and borderline personality traits.

“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 rejection and abandonment by the attachment figure of the spouse surrounding the divorce reactivates the “internal working models” (the schemas) of the childhood attachment trauma for the narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent.

Internal Working Models

“No variables, it is held, have more far-reaching effects on personality development than have a child’s experiences within his family: for, starting during the first months of his relations with his mother figure, and extending through the years of childhood and adolescence in his relations with both parents, he builds up working models of how attachment figures are likely to behave towards him in any of a variety of situations; and on those models are based all his expectations, and therefore all his plans for the rest of his life.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 369; emphasis added).

“Every situation we meet within life is construed in terms of the representational models we have of the world about us and of ourselves.  Information reaching our sense organs is selected and interpreted in terms of those models, its significance for us and for those we care for is evaluated in terms of them, and plans of action conceived and executed with those models in mind.” (Bowlby, 1980, p. 229; emphasis added)

Schemas

“How a situation is evaluated depends in part, at least, on the relevant underlying beliefs.  These beliefs are embedded in more or less stable structures, labeled “schemas,” that select and synthesize incoming data.” (Beck, et al., 2004, p. 17)

“The content of the schemas may deal with personal relationships, such as attitudes toward the self or others, or impersonal categories… When schemas are latent, they are not participating in information processing; when activated they channel cognitive processing from the earliest to the final stages… When hypervalent, these idiosyncratic schemas displace and probably inhibit other schemas that may be more adaptive or more appropriate for a given situation.  They consequently introduce a systematic bias into information processing.” (Beck, et al., 2004, p. 27)

“In personality disorders, the schemas are part of normal, everyday processing of information.” (Beck, et al., 2004, p. 27)

“Arntz (1994) hypothesized that childhood traumas underlie the formation of core schemas, which in their turn, lead to the development of BPD [borderline personality disorder].” (Beck, et al., 2004, p 192)

“BPD patients process information through a specific set of three core beliefs or schemas of themselves and others, i.e., ‘I am powerless and vulnerable’, ‘I am inherently unacceptable’, and ‘Others are dangerous and malevolent’.  Needing support in a dangerous world but not trusting others brings BPD patients into a state of hypervigilance.  Schema-specific information is highly prioritized or difficult to inhibit in this state, resulting in biases in early information processing phases.” (Sieswerda, Arntz, Mertens, & Vertommen, 2006, p. 1011)

“Patients with BPD were characterized by higher self-reports of beliefs, emotions, and behaviors related to the four pathogenic BPD modes (detached protector, abandoned/abused child, angry child, and punitive parent mode).” (Beck, et al., 2004, p 192)

The “internal working models” for the childhood attachment trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent are in the pattern, “abusive parent“/”victimized child“/”protective parent

“Young elaborated on an idea, in the 1980s introduced by Aaron Beck in clinical workshops, that some pathological states of patients with BPD are a sort of regression into intense emotional states experienced as a child.  Young conceptualized such states as schema modes… Young hypothesized that four schema modes are central to BPD: the abandoned child mode (the present author suggests to label it the abused and abandoned child); the angry/impulsive child mode; the punitive parent mode, and the detached protector mode.” (Beck, et all, 2004, p. 199)

“One primary transference-countertransference dynamic involves reenactment of familiar roles of victimperpetratorrescuer-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)

These patterns of “internal working models” become overlaid onto the current family members.  The current child is assigned the role as the supposedly “victimized child,” the targeted parent is assigned the trauma reenactment role as the “abusive parent,” and the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent adopts and conspicuously displays to others the coveted role as the all-wonderful “protective parent.”

The “bystander role” is assigned to the various mental health professionals, attorneys, parenting coordinators, judges, and school personnel whose role becomes to validate and legitimize the false trauma reenactment narrative created by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

The trauma-roles (the “internal working models” of attachment trauma) are all in place to reenact the childhood trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent into the current family relationships. All that’s required to initiate the trauma reenactment narrative is to convince the child through manipulative communication techniques to adopt the role of “victimized child” relative to the parenting practices of the targeted parent.

This is important to understand… the rejection of the targeted parent is not created by the allied parent “bad-mouthing” and saying negative things about the other parent.  The child’s rejection of the targeted parent is created by convincing the child through manipulative techniques of subtle psychological influence and control to accept the role as the “victimized child.”  The allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent gets the child to believe that the child is being victimized by the supposedly inadequate, insensitive, and “abusive” parenting practices of the other parent.

This is accomplished by first eliciting from the child a complaint about the other parent through motivated and subtly directive questioning by the narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  Once the child offers a criticism, no matter how small, the narcissistic/(borderline) parent then responds with distorted and exaggerated displays of concern regarding the supposedly inadequate and insensitive parenting practices of the other parent, thereby distorting the normal-range parenting practices of the targeted parent into supposed evidence of “abusive” parental inadequacy – “Oh you poor thing.  I can’t believe the other parent treats you so horribly.”  The key is to convince the child that the child is a “victim” of the other parent’s inadequate and insensitive parenting. 

To all external appearances, however, the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent is not “badmouthing” the other parent; it’s the child who is criticizing the other parent.  The allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent presents as simply being a nurturing and protective parent (or so it appears) – “I’m just listening to the child.”  Manipulative, manipulative, manipulative.  The narcissistic/(borderline) parent is first eliciting a criticism from the child thorough motivated and directive questioning, and then is hiding their manipulation behind this elicited criticism – “I’m just listening to the child.  It’s not me, it’s the child who is saying these bad things about the other parent. I’m just listening to the child.”

The moment the child surrenders to the manipulation of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent and adopts the (false) “victimized child” role relative to the other parent, this immediately imposes the “abusive parent” role in the trauma reenactment narrative onto the targeted parent, irrespective of the targeted parent’s actual parenting behavior, and the child’s presentation as the “victimized child” allows the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to adopt and conspicuously display to the “bystanders” the coveted role as the all-wonderful “protective parent.

But none of this created storyline is true. It is all a kabuki theater display of a false drama created in the childhood trauma of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent, embedded in the internal working models – the schemas – of this parent’s attachment networks.  It is a reenactment of childhood attachment trauma into the current family relationships.

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.” (Pearlman & Courtois, 2005, p. 455; emphasis added)

“Freud suggests that overwhelming experience is taken up into what passes as normal ego and as permanent trends within it’ and, in this manner, passes trauma from one generation to the next.  In this way, trauma expresses itself as time standing still…  Traumatic guilt — for a time buried except through the character formation of one generation after the next — finds expression in an unconscious reenactment of the past in the present.” (Prager, 2003, p. 176; emphasis added)

“Victims of past trauma may respond to contemporary events as though the trauma has returned and re-experience the hyperarousal that accompanied the initial trauma.” (Trippany, Helm, & Simpson, 2006, p. 100)

“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; emphasis added)

None of this trauma reenactment narrative is true.  The child is not a victim.  The targeted parent is not abusive.  And the narcissistic/(borderline) parent is not a protective parent.  None of it is true.

It is a fixed and false belief that is maintained despite contrary evidence.  It is a delusion.  An encapsulated delusion.  An encapsulated persecutory delusion.

Encapsulated Delusion:  “A delusion that usually relates to one specific topic or belief but does not pervade a person’s life or level of functioning.” (www.medilexicon.com)

Persecutory Delusion: “Delusions that the person (or someone to whom the person is close) is being malevolently treated in some way” (American Psychiatric Association; DSM-IV TR)

It is an encapsulated persecutory delusion.  This is called diagnosis.  This is not a theory.  The application of standard and established psychological constructs and principles – and, by the way, these are all scientifically validated and fully peer reviewed psychological constructs and principles – to a set of symptoms is called diagnosis.  Diagnosis.

This is not Dr. Childress saying this stuff, it’s some of the most respected figures in the field of professional psychology: Aaron Beck, John Bowlby, Otto Kernberg, Bessel van der Kolk, the American Psychiatric Association, and in a moment one of the top experts in personality disorder pathology, Theodore Millon.  This is all standard and fully established stuff.

This pathology represents an encapsulated persecutory delusion of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is being transferred to the child through the distorted parenting practices of the narcissistic/(borderline parent):

ICD-10 Diagnostic System of the World Health Organization. Diagnostic Description of a Shared Psychotic Disorder Diagnosis (F24): “A condition in which closely related persons, usually in the same family, share the same delusions.  A disorder in which a delusion develops in an individual in the context of close relationship with another person who already has that established delusion.”

This pathology is a delusional disorder – a shared delusional disorder.  It is a psychotic disorder created by the psychological collapse of a narcissistic/(borderline) personality surrounding the divorce.

From Theodore Millon:

“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; emphasis added).

This is NOT some “new form” of pathology.  We absolutely understand exactly what it is.

From the American Psychiatric Association; DSM-IV TR Shared Delusional Disorder:

“The essential features of Shared Psychotic Disorder (Folie a Deux) is a delusion that develops in an individual who is involved in a close relationship with another person (sometimes termed the “inducer” or “the primary case”) who already has a Psychotic Disorder with prominent delusions (Criteria A).” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 332)

“Usually the primary case in Shared Psychotic Disorder is dominant in the relationship and gradually imposes the delusional system on the more passive and initially healthy second person.  Individuals who come to share delusional beliefs are often related by blood or marriage and have lived together for a long time, sometimes in relative isolation.  If the relationship with the primary case is interrupted, the delusional beliefs of the other individual usually diminish or disappear.  Although most commonly seen in relationships of only two people, Shared Psychotic Disorder can occur in larger number of individuals, especially in family situations in which the parent is the primary case and the children, sometimes to varying degrees, adopt the parent’s delusional beliefs.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000,p. 333; emphasis added)

“especially in family situations in which the parent is the primary case and the children, sometimes to varying degrees, adopt the parent’s delusional beliefs.”

This is NOT some “new form” of pathology.  We absolutely 100% understand what this pathology is.  It’s simply that some – many – most – nearly all – mental health professionals are misdiagnosing the pathology because of their profound professional ignorance and incompetence.

A psychotic disorder is sitting right in front of them in their offices, right there, in the chair right across from them, and they are entirely missing the diagnosis of a psychotic disorder sitting right in front of them.  Incompetence, incompetence, incompetence.  Profound professional incompetence.  A psychotic disorder.  Inexcusable.

This is NOT some “new form of pathology.”  We absolutely know what it is.  It’s just that profound professional incompetence is entirely missing the diagnosis of a psychotic pathology that is sitting right in front of them.

The pathology commonly referred to as “parental alienation” in the common culture represents an encapsulated persecutory delusion of a narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is being transferred to the child by the manipulative psychological influence and distorted pathogenic parenting practices of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent in a cross-generational coalition with the child.

The pathology commonly referred to as “parental alienation” in the common culture represents the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships (through the creation of a false trauma reenactment narrative), mediated by the personality disorder pathology of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent which is itself a product of this parent’s childhood attachment trauma.

It is an attachment-related pathology.  It is a trauma-related pathology.  It is a delusional-psychotic pathology.

The complexity of this attachment-related, trauma-related, and personality disorder pathology warrants the designation of children and families evidencing this form of pathology as a “special population” requiring specialized professional knowledge and expertise to competently assess, diagnose and treat.

Failure to possess the necessary professional competence in attachment-related pathology, trauma-related pathology, and personality disorder pathology required to properly assess, accurately diagnose, and effectively treat this form of attachment-related, trauma-related, and personality disorder pathology would very likely represent practice beyond the boundaries of professional competence in violation of Standard 2.01a of the APA ethics code.

Failure to properly assess for this form of attachment-related pathology, trauma-related pathology, and personality disorder pathology would likely represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code which requires that “Psychologists base the opinions contained in their… diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.”  If the psychologist has not even assessed for the attachment trauma pathology of a shared encapsulated delusion (the false trauma reenactment narrative), then the diagnostic statements (or forensic testimony) of the psychologist cannot possibly be based on “information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.”

Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

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.

Pathogenic parenting is not a child custody issue; it is a child protection issue.

Because of their profound professional incompetence, many, far too many, mental health professionals are colluding with the psychological abuse of children.

Holding Mental Health Accountable

Targeted parents must begin holding ALL mental health professionals accountable to standards of professional competence (Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the APA ethics code).  Mental health professionals are NOT ALLOWED to be incompetent.  It’s not me saying this, it’s the American Psychological Association saying it.  Mental health professionals are not allowed to be incompetent.

All actively incompetent mental health professionals must be made to understand that they will – with 100% certainty – face a licensing board complaint for their professional incompetence when they fail to properly assess and accurately diagnose this form of attachment-related, trauma-related, and personality disorder pathology.

I don’t care what the licensing board chooses to do.  If they choose to collude with the psychological abuse of children by allowing professional incompetence, there is nothing we can do about that.  But we need to make it clear to every single mental health professional that they are playing Russian roulette with their license. 

“Did the licensing board do anything this time?  No?  Lucky you.  How about this time, did the licensing board do anything this time?  No?  Lucky you.  How about this time, did the licensing board do anything this time?…”

We need to make all actively incompetent mental health professionals play Russian roulette with their professional career.  There may not be a bullet in the chamber this time, but what about the next board complaint, and the next one, and the next one…

We will not abandon the children to professional incompetence.  We will fight.  We will Standard 2.01 BannerStandard 9.01 Bannerfight with Standards 2.01a requiring professional competence, and we will fight with Standard 9.01a requiring appropriate assessment.  These are the professional practice Standards of the American Psychological Association.  These Standards belong to you.  They are to protect you.  Use them.

Eventually, the licensing boards will begin to grow weary of colluding with professional incompetence, eventually the licensing boards will grow uncomfortable allowing the psychological abuse of children. 

We will not abandon your children. 

We will not stop and we will not relent until we have achieved professional competence in the professional assessment and diagnosis of this attachment-related, trauma-related, and personality disorder pathology. 

This is not a “new form” of pathology.  We know exactly what it is.  We just need an accurate diagnosis.

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.

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

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Psychologist, PSY 18857

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Beck, A.T., Freeman, A., Davis, D.D., and Associates (2004). Cognitive therapy of personality disorders. (2nd edition). New York: Guilford.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 1. Attachment. NY: Basic Books.

Bowlby, J. (1973). Attachment and Loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and Anger. NY: Basic Books.

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.

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

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.

Prager, J. (2003). Lost childhood, lost generations: the intergenerational transmission of trauma.  Journal of Human Rights, 2, 173-181.

Sieswerda, S., Arntz, A., Mertens, I., and Vertommen, S. (2006). Hypervigilance in patients with borderline personality disorder: Specificity, automaticity, and predictors. Behavior Research and Therapy, 45, 1011-1024.

Trippany, R.L., Helm, H.M. and Simpson, L. (2006). Trauma reenactment: Rethinking borderline personality disorder when diagnosing sexual abuse survivors. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 28, 95-110.

van der Kolk, B.A. (1987). The separation cry and the trauma response: Developmental issues in the psychobiology of attachment and separation. In B.A. van der Kolk (Ed.) Psychological Trauma (31-62). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.

Attachment-Related Pathology

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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

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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

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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

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