The July Flying Monkey Newsletter

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

Flying Monkey Newsletter: July 1, 2016

This edition deals with the assertion that the pathology of “parental alienation” is controversial and not accepted within establishment mental health.

The focus of the newsletter is on professional competence. 

Mental health professionals are not allowed – by established standards of professional practice – to be ignorant and incompetent.  Targeted parents need to begin holding mental health professionals accountable for professional competence.

Mental health professionals cannot be held accountable to Gardnerian PAS. 

Mental health professionals CAN be held accountable for the standard and established, fully accepted and scientifically supported constructs and principles of an attachment-based model for the pathology.

Targeted parents need to begin holding mental health professionals accountable to standards of professional competence in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of their families.

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

Delusions – Encapsulated Delusions – Encapsulated Persecutory Delusions

Google the term “encapsulated 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.”

Encapsulated delusion: An isolated mistaken but unshakable belief in something for which there is neither evidence nor common acceptance, occurring in the absence of other signs or symptoms of psychiatric illness.”


The American Psychiatric Association defines a persecutory delusion as:

“Persecutory Type: delusions that the person (or someone to whom the person is close) is being malevolently treated in some way.” (APA; 2000)


A delusion is a fixed and false belief that is maintained despite contrary evidence.

A delusion is a psychotic pathology. At its core, the pathology we are dealing with in attachment-based “parental alienation” (not PAS) is a psychotic pathology involving an encapsulated delusion that the targeted parent represents an abusive threat to the child.

Delusions can be bizarre (such as a delusion that extraterrestrials are implanting thoughts in the patient’s head) or non-bizarre (such as a husband’s delusional belief that his wife is having an affair when she isn’t – called a “jealousy delusion”; APA, 2000).

There is no point in arguing with a delusion because, by definition, the delusion is a false belief that is maintained despite contrary evidence. No amount of contrary evidence will alter the person’s fixed belief system.

What I find so incredibly troubling from a professional standpoint is that so many mental health professionals – whose job it is to diagnose pathology – are absolutely missing the diagnosis of a psychotic pathology that’s sitting right in front of them. That’s astounding to me.

Diagnosing pathology is the job of a mental health professional. For a mental health professional to entirely miss recognizing a psychotic pathology sitting right in front of them in their office represents astounding professional incompetence. I don’t expect a lawyer to recognize psychotic pathology, or an architect, or a policeman, or an engineer. But a mental health professional? That’s exactly our job. Astounding professional incompetence.

For nearly 15 years earlier in my psychology career I worked on a clinical research project at UCLA involving schizophrenia. Every patient in this project was rated every two weeks on their symptoms using a 7-point scale from “not at all present,” through “moderate symptoms,” to “severe symptoms” (the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale; BPRS).

This symptom rating scale included delusions, called “Unusual Thought Content” on the scale. The cutoff for a delusional belief was a rating of 4 or higher. Below a rating of 4 the patient’s thought content was considered unusual but it was not delusional. Above a rating of 4 the symptom moves into the realm of a delusion.

In order to maintain inter-rater reliability among all the clinicians who were rating patients’ symptoms, every year we had to go through “reliability training” with the Diagnostic Unit located at the VA. This involved a series of lectures from the head of the Diagnostic Unit regarding symptom features and then we each had to watch and rate 10 videos (new videos each year). Our ratings for these 10 videos were then compared with the “gold standard” ratings made by the head of the Diagnostic Unit. If we achieved 90% consistency with the head of the Diagnostic Unit then we were considered reliable symptom raters. If we did not achieve 90% consistency in our ratings with those of the head of the Diagnostic Unit, then we received additional training and rated additional videos until we achieved 90% consistency.

For 15 years I went through this yearly reliability training on rating symptoms on a 1-7 scale, learning the fine-grained analysis of what made a symptom a 3 or a 4 – what the difference was between a severity rating of a 5 or a 6. When was an unusual thought odd but normal-range, and when does it cross the line into a delusional belief… what features of a symptom elevate it from a mild delusion (a rating of 4) to a moderate delusional belief (a rating of 5) or a severe delusional belief (a rating of 6 or 7).

For fifteen years, every year, I underwent training on 10 videos comparing my ratings with the “gold standard” ratings made by the head of the Diagnostic Unit for a major longitudinal research project at UCLA on schizophrenia.

I know what a delusion looks like. The pathology of “parental alienation” (as described in Foundations, not by PAS) represents a delusion.

The professional term for this type of delusion is an encapsulated persecutory delusion. As noted above, the American Psychiatric Association defines a persecutory delusion as:

“Persecutory Type: delusions that the person (or someone to whom the person is close) is being malevolently treated in some way.” (APA; 2000)

In the case of attachment-based “parental alienation” the persecutory delusion centers around “someone to whom the person is close” – i.e., the child.

Beck & Rector (2002) describe the delusional process:

“The pathogenic belief has taken control of the information processing so that the interpretations of events show a systematic bias and appear to others to be contradictory to the evidence or to logic.” (p. 457)

“The dominant beliefs and consequently the interpretations are relatively impervious to reality-testing by the patient. The patient is unwilling or unable to consider that his ideas and interpretations might be wrong. In psychiatric terms, he lacks insight.” (p. 457)

Delusion. Encapsulated delusion. Encapsulated persecutory delusion. Psychotic.

We are dealing with a psychotic level of pathology. That’s what everyone needs to understand.

In our day-to-day lives, people don’t generally expect to run into psychotic distortions to reality. We generally assume that other people are relatively anchored in our same shared reality. But with this particular form of pathology that assumption is NOT warranted.

Delusion. Encapsulated delusion. Encapsulated persecutory delusion. Psychotic.

For 15 years I underwent yearly reliability training at UCLA in rating delusions on a 1-7 scale of severity. I know what a delusion looks like. The pathology of “parental alienation” represents the manifestation of a delusional belief system. An encapsulated persecutory delusional belief system.

Psychotic pathology.

The accurate diagnosis of this pathology using the ICD-10 diagnostic system of the World Heath Organization is F24: Shared Psychotic Disorder.

The accurate diagnosis of this pathology using the DSM-IV TR diagnostic system of the American Psychiatric Association is 297.3 Shared Psychotic Disorder.

The accurate diagnosis of this pathology using the DSM-5 diagnostic system is V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed.

According to the DSM-IV TR diagnostic description for a Shared Psychotic Disorder:

“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.” (p. 333; empahsis added)

Let that sink in…

“…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” – the American Psychiatric Association.

Delusion. Encapsulated delusion. Encapsulated persecutory delusion. Psychotic.

According to the DSM-IV TR diagnostic description of the course of a Shared Psychotic Disorder:

“Without intervention, the course is usually chronic, because this disorder most commonly occurs in relationships that are long-standing and resistant to change. With separation from the primary case, the individual’s delusional beliefs disappear, sometimes quickly and sometimes quite slowly.” (p. 333; emphasis added)

Diagnosis guides treatment.

The core of the delusional process in attachment-based “parental alienation” is the false trauma reenactment narrative of the psychologically decompensating narcissistic/(borderline) parent which is contained in the pattern “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent.” 

This false trauma reenactment narrative is contained in the internal working models (Bowlby) of the parent’s attachment networks from their own childhood trauma experience.

The internal working models of attachment described by Bowlby are referred to as “schemas” by the renowned psychiatrist, Aaron Beck (2004):

“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.” (Beck et al., 2004, p. 27)

“When schemas are latent, there are not participating in information processing; when activated they channel cognitive processing from the earliest to the final stages.” (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.” (Beck et al., 2004, p 192)

“Young’s schema model… 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 conceptualization of the core pathology of BPD as stemming from a highly frightened, abused child who is left alone in a malevolent world, longing for safety and help but distrustful because of fear of further abuse and abandonment, is highly related to the model developed by Young (McGinn & Young, 1996)… Young elaborated on an idea, in the 1980s introduced by Aaron Beck in clinical workshops (D.M. Clark, personal communication), 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.” (Beck et al., 2004, p. 199)

“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… The abused and abandoned child mode denotes the desperate state the patient may be in related to (threatened) abandonment and abuse the patient has experienced as a child.  Typical core beliefs are that other people are malevolent, cannot be trusted, and will abandon or punish you, especially when you become intimate with them.” (Beck et al., 2004, p. 199; emphasis added)

This is not Dr. Childress making these statements, this is Aaron Beck, one of the preeminent psychiatrists in mental health making these statements.

Internal working models (schemas) of attachment trauma:

“abusive parent” – “victimized child” – “protective parent”

Current targeted parent – current child – current narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

There is a one-to-one psychological correspondence between the internal working models (schemas) in the attachment networks of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent to the current family relationships.

“Abusive parent” = targeted parent
“Victimized child” = current child
“Protective parent” = narcissistic/(borderline) parent

The trauma reenactment narrative.

Delusion. Encapsulated delusion. Encapsulated persecutory delusion. Psychotic.

That’s the pathology we’re dealing with.

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

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

Beck, A. T., & Rector, N. A. (2002). Delusions: A cognitive perspective. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 16(4), 455-468.

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

Diagnosing the Pathology

I recently received an email consultation request from a child custody evaluator who asked if I was also a custody evaluator.  I’m not.  I explained how I became involved in diagnosing and treating the pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” in the common culture.

I then explained how this pathology is not a “new syndrome” but is an expression of well-established, well-defined, and fully accepted forms of psychopathology within the field of professional psychology and how this form of pathology can be reliably diagnosed and differentiated from other forms of parent-child conflict 100% of the time.

My response to this child custody evaluator may be of broader interest to targeted parents and mental health professionals generally, so I am providing it as a post below.

My email response to a child custody evaluator:


Hello Dr., it’s a pleasure to meet you.

To answer your question, I’m not a child custody evaluator because I come out of the ADHD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder realm.  We could control the symptoms of ADHD but never cure them, so I kept working with a younger and younger age group in hopes that if we caught it early enough we could actually cure ADHD.  In the mid-1990s I dropped below the age of 5, which meant that I had to develop a secondary expertise in early childhood, which led to my background with the attachment system.

In 2007 I left my role as the Clinical Director for an early childhood assessment and treatment center working with children in the foster care system to enter private practice with the goal of writing books on a socio-neuro-developmental approach to child therapy and parent-child therapy.  That’s when I ran into my first case of “parental alienation.”

I had never even heard of “parental alienation” or Gardner before.  I immediately recognized the family systems cross-generational coalition, and what was readily apparent to me from my background with the attachment system was that the child’s display of the attachment system was inauthentic to how the attachment system actually works.

Children don’t reject parents.  Children who rejected parents were eaten by predators and their genes were removed from the gene pool.  Bad parenting actually produces an “insecure attachment” that MORE strongly motivates the child to bond to the bad parent.

What was also clearly (and disturbingly) evident was a prominent display by the child of an absence of normal-range empathy.  The absence of empathy is a narcissistic personality symptom not an Oppositional Defiant Disorder symptom.  I then looked for other narcissistic personality symptoms and noted that a variety of narcissistic symptoms were evident in the child’s symptom display; including splitting.

The child was in a cross-generational coalition (Munichin; Haley) with a narcissistic parent (Millon, Beck, Kernberg) against the other normal-range parent.

I met with dad in this particular case, who was the allied parent, and confirmed the diagnosis.  All this took about three to six sessions.  No big deal.  All standard family systems and DSM diagnostic stuff.  What astounded me was how the legal system was totally unable to address the pathology.

When I looked into it more I came across all the controversy surrounding Gardner and PAS.

What struck me first is that Garnder’s model of PAS is really bad.  The eight symptom identifiers are too vague and are not associated with any other form of pathology in all of mental health.  And there is no underlying theoretical formulation for the pathology, it simply exists ex nihilo (out of nothing).

This pathology is not a “new syndrome” – Gardner was simply a very poor diagnostician.  He too quickly abandoned standard and established psychological principles and constructs in proposing a “new syndrome” that was unique in all of mental health, with a proposed set of eight equally unique new symptom identifiers which he simply made up out of anecdotal clinical experience.

In proposing a unique “new syndrome,” Gardner took everyone down the wrong path.  He skipped the step of diagnosis.

So looking at the situation and what was needed, I decided to fix the step that Gardner skipped – diagnosis.  This meant that I had to define the pathology from entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs.

A child’s rejection of a normal-range parent is clearly an attachment-related disorder (i.e., a trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma – mediated by the narcissistic/(borderline) personality traits of the allied parent).

It involves a family systems cross-generational coalition (the child’s symptoms maintain a homeostatic balance in a family which is having difficulty transitioning from an intact family structure united by the marriage to a separated family structure united by the continuing parental roles with the children).

It involves the influence on the child by a narcissistic/(borderline) personality parent in which the child acquires the narcissistic personality traits (attitudes and beliefs) of the parent.

Once I worked out the pathology, I identified the most parsimonious set of child symptom identifiers that could reliably differentiate this form of pathology from ODD and other forms of parent-child and family conflict.

  • Attachment system suppression: indicative of the attachment-related core of the pathology.
  • Narcissistic personality traits in the child’s symptom display: indicative of the influence on the child by a narcissistic personality allied-parent.
  • A fixed and false belief (encapsulated delusion) regarding the supposedly “abusive” parenting of a normal-range (targeted) parent: indicative of the child’s incorporation into a false trauma reenactment role as the supposedly “victimized child,” reflecting the overall attachment trauma reenactment narrative the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent.

False trauma reenactment narrative: “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent”

No other pathology in all of mental health will produce this specific set of three child symptoms.  This specific set of child symptoms represents definitive diagnostic evidence of the child’s cross-generational coalition with a narcissistic parent and the child’s incorporation into this parent’s false attachment trauma reenactment narrative of “abusive parent”/”victimized child”/”protective parent” which is designed to stabilize the collapsing psychological structure of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent surrounding the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce.

In clinical psychology, there is no such thing as “parental alienation.”  The correct clinical psychology term for this pathology is “pathogenic parenting” (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation).  Pathogenic parenting is the creation of significant psychopathology in the child as a result of aberrant and distorted parenting practices.

The construct of pathogenic parenting is an established construct in early childhood mental health and attachment-related pathology since the attachment system ONLY dysfunctions in response to pathogenic parenting (the term “pathogenic caregiving” was used in the DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for a Reactive Attachment Disorder).

Diagnosis guides treatment:

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

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

All mental health professionals, including child custody evaluators, need to begin assessing for this pathology under Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code:

9.01 Bases for Assessments

(a) Psychologists base the opinions contained in their recommendations, reports and diagnostic or evaluative statements, including forensic testimony, on information and techniques sufficient to substantiate their findings.

All mental health professionals, including child custody evaluators, need to begin making an accurate DSM-5 diagnosis of the pathology as V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed when the three definitive diagnostic indicators of severely pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display.

All mental health professionals have a “duty to protect” and all mental health professionals are mandated reporters of child abuse.  When a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 is made, all mental health professionals incur a professional obligation under their duty to protect to take affirmative actions to protect the child, and these affirmative actions to protect the child must be documented in the patient record.

This obligation is in addition to any other function or role the mental health professional may have.

A failure to properly assess for the pathology may represent a violation of Standard 9.01a of the APA ethics code, and a failure to properly diagnose the pathology when the three diagnostic indicators of severely pathogenic parenting are present in the child’s symptom display may represent a violation of Standard 2.01a regarding boundaries of competence and the professional’s “duty to protect.”

Gardner was correct in identifying a form of pathology, but he was incorrect when he proposed that it represents a new form of pathology; a “new syndrome.”  It doesn’t.  It is a manifestation of well-established and fully accepted forms of pathology.

Gardner was a poor diagnostician.

I have simply corrected Gardner’s diagnostic inaccuracy.

I have submitted proposals for APA and AFCC presentations for the past two years without being accepted.  I will apply again this next round.  I suspect they just lump me in with PAS been-there-done-that sort of proposals.

I have presentations regarding the theoretical foundations of the pathology up online which I did for the Master’s Lecture Series of California Southern University:

Parental Alienation: An Attachment-Based Model (7/18/14)

Treatment of Attachment-Based Parental Alienation (11/21/14)

I am also attaching a Diagnostic Checklist of Pathogenic Parenting that is available on my website.

Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

The pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” is readily solvable once we turn away from Gardnerian PAS and return to standard and established principles and constructs of professional psychology.

Diagnosis guides treatment.

Best wishes,

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

Dorcy Pruter & the High Road Protocol

The narcissistic Dark Triad personality is an empirically validated constellation of personality traits involving:

  1. Narcissism
  2. Psychopathic personality traits
  3. Machiavellian manipulativeness

Psychopathic narcissistic manipulation.  Cold, unfeeling, uncaring – manipulative cruel and deceitful.

At the clinical level of this pathology, this particular personality constellation is extremely dangerous because it is extremely vengeful

And it lies.  It manipulatively weaves a veil of lies to conceal its malevolence as it enlists and exploits naïve allies into colluding with the pathology.

The psychopathy presents as superficially charming and engaging.  The Dark Triad personalty uses its superficial charm and its wholesale distortions to truth to manipulate other people into becoming allies who it then exploits to achieve its desired ends.  Psychopathic.  Narcissistic.  Manipulative.  The Dark Triad.

That’s the nature of the pathology.

  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with the capacity for human cruelty (Jonason & Krause, 2013; Wai & Tiliopoulos, 2012).
  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with vengefulness (Giammarco & Vernon, 2014; Rasmussen & Boon, 2014).
  • Empirical research has demonstrated that this constellation of personality characteristics is associated with lying, with fabrication, and with manipulative deceit for self-serving motivations (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014)
  • Empirical research has even associated the core of this constellation of personality characteristics with the definition of “evil” (Book, Visser, & Volk, 2015)

In their article, Unpacking ‘‘evil’’: Claiming the core of the Dark Triad, Angela Book and her colleagues identify the core of the Dark Triad personality as representing the core of evil:

“Researchers have proposed various models to account for the common core of these antisocial personalities [of the Dark Triad] – a core that might well be considered the psychological equivalent of the core of “evil.” (Book, Visser, & Volk, p. 29)

“Our two studies represent the first empirical comparison of all the major theories explaining the core of the Dark Triad, a cluster of traits that fits the English definition of evil.” (Book, Visser, & Volk, p. 35)

This pathology is extremely malevolent and extremely dangerous.

And that’s why Dorcy Pruter’s courage is so remarkable.  Dorcy has the courage – the courage – to walk straight up to this dark and malevolent pathology, stare evil directly in the eye, and say, “Give me back the child.”

I am in awe of her courage.

Dorcy Pruter is placing herself at personal risk in order to protect your children.  Dorcy is directly challenging the vengeful malevolence of this dark pathology in order to rescue your children from the evil and malignant grasp of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.  She is remarkable.

And for her courage in facing this malevolent pathology to recover your loving children for you, for her courage in fighting to rescue your children from the vicious and dark psychopathic and narcissistic pathology of the allied parent, she is now being slandered and viciously attacked in an effort by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology to destroy her personally and professionally, and destroy her ability to rescue your children.

The High Road Protocol

I am a licensed clinical psychologist.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol.  I have had extensive professional-level discussions with Dorcy Puter.  I consider her to be a professional colleague and a well qualified expert in the resolution of this form of pathology.  All of the accusations made against her and the High Road protocol are false.

They are lies and malicious slander born in the manipulative and malevolent psychopathy of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology that seeks to remain hidden by attacking with lies, distortions, and fabrications those who seek to protect and rescue the child from the psychological control of the manipulative psychopathy of the Dark Triad parent.  The malicious attacks against Dorcy and the High Road protocol are a symptom of the pathology.

The power of this particular pathogen – the narcissistic and psychopathic power to manipulate and exploit –  comes from remaining concealed.  From its hidden place of concealment the narcissistic Dark Triad personality weaves its lies, falsely accusing others of alleged “abuse” – falsely accusing the normal-range targeted parent of being an “abusive” parent – falsely accusing the High Road workshop of being “abusive” – falsely accusing those who seek to protect the child from the manipulative narcissistic pathology of the Dark Triad parent of somehow “forcing” the child to have a loving relationship with a normal-range and lovingly affectionate parent.  Lies, falsehood, distortions, deceit; all designed to manipulate from its place of concealment those who are naïve and unknowledgeable into becoming allies of the pathology – the narcissistic, psychopathic, manipulative pathology of the Dark Triad personality.

The manipulation of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent falsely accuses the normal-range parent of “abuse,” and immediately the normal-range parent is placed on the defensive.  That’s the manipulative intent of the allegation, to immediately place the other person on the defensive.  The allegation is a SYMPTOM of the manipulative pathology of the Dark Triad personality.

By placing the other person on the defensive, the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology distracts away from a focus on its pathology by alleging that it is the other person who is pathological, that it is the other person who is “abusive.”

The narcissistic Dark Triad pathology seeks to manipulate and exploit the “child protection response” that the allegation of “abuse” immediately provokes in others.  The focus of attention immediately becomes whether the other person is “abusive” – the other person is (manipulatively) placed on the defensive and the “child protection response” of others is exploited by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology to enlist them as allies in enacting the pathology.  The allegation is a SYMPTOM of the manipulative exploitation of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology.

When this manipulative exploitation of others is directed against the normal-range and loving targeted parent, the “child protection” response of others prevents the child from being with the normal-range parent while an “investigation” is conducted.  The narcissistic pathology of the Dark Triad parent has successfully manipulated and exploited the system though lies and deception into giving the child solely to the Dark Triad parent.

Empirical research has demonstrated that the Dark Triad constellation of personality characteristics is associated with lying, fabrication, and manipulative deceit for self-serving motivations (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014)

When the investigation is finally completed and the allegations are determined to be “unfounded,” the damage is already done.  The narcissistic Dark Triad parent has had months of sole-possession of the child during which to work the parent’s manipulation, and to clearly demonstrate to the child the power of the Dark Triad parent. 

The Dark Triad parent has the power to nullify Court orders for shared custody and visitation.  The Dark Triad parent has the power to take the child away from the other parent… and the child is powerless to escape.  The narcissistic Dark Triad parent has also clearly and definitively shown the child that the other parent is powerless to protect the child.

Power – control – and domination; the hallmarks of domestic violence.  This is a form of unrecognized and undiagnosed domestic violence involving the psychological intimidation, manipulation, and control of the child.

The child is alone in coping with the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology of the parent.  In the child’s psychological isolation, the narcissistic Dark Triad parent psychologically forces the child to surrender to the dark and manipulative psychological control of the Dark Triad parent, or else the child will face this parent’s vengeful emotional and psychological retaliation.

Manipulation through lies and false allegations are a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad personality pathology.

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

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

The false allegation being leveled against Dorcy Pruter that the High Road protocol is somehow “abusive” toward the child represents a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad pathology at work. 

The false allegation that Dorcy Pruter is not an eminently qualified expert in resolving the influence of this form of Dark Triad pathology on the child’s attachment system represents a SYMPTOM of the Dark Triad pathology at work.

The Truth

The Basis of My Professional Opinion: I am a licensed clinical psychologist with an expertise in child and family therapy, diagnosis and psychopathology, and child development.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol and I have had extensive professional-level discussions with Dorcy Pruter.  

My Conclusions Regarding Ms. Pruter’s Professional Expertise:  I consider Dorcy Pruter to be a professional colleague of the highest caliber and an expert in resolving the effects of attachment-based “parental alienation” (i.e., the psychological manipulation and control of the child by a Dark Triad narcissistic parent) on the child’s attachment bonding motivations toward a normal-range and affectionally available parent (i.e., the targeted parent).

My Conclusions Regarding the High Road Protocol: Any allegation that the High Road protocol is coercive is false.  Any allegation that the High Road protocol is “abusive” is false.  Any allegation that the High Road protocol is in any way problematic for the child is false.

False allegations represent a symptom of the Dark Triad pathology that are designed to manipulate and exploit others (Jonason, Lyons, Baughman, & Vernon, 2014; Baughman, Jonason, Lyons, & Vernon, 2014), and represent a professional occupational hazard of working with this severe form of highly malignant and dangerous psychopathology.

As a clinical psychologist, I have described the content of the High Road protocol in an Appendix to my book, Single Case ABAB Assessment and Remedy, and have posted this Appendix to my website for both public and professional review and scrutiny:

Analysis of the High Road Protocol

This description of the High Road protocol is designed to provide an appropriate explanation of the protocol’s nature and its effectiveness while at the same time protecting Ms. Pruter’s intellectual property rights regarding the exact structure of the protocol.  Respect for Ms. Pruter’s intellectual property rights regarding the exact nature of the protocol is warranted and necessary in order to maintain the fidelity of the intervention.

Professional Presentation:  Ms. Pruter and I have submitted proposals to the APA and AFCC for professional conference presentations at which Ms. Pruter will present and describe the structure of the High Road protocol to a professional audience.  A professional conference presentation to the APA or AFCC is the appropriate professional venue for a more complete discussion of the protocol’s structure and effectiveness.

My Introduction to the High Road Protocol

I first met Dorcy several years ago during a period when I was working on a model for “reunification therapy” to address the form of family pathology I describe in Foundations (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 pathology of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent which is itself a product of the childhood attachment trauma of this parent).  Our professional-level conversation that day lasted about six hours as we extensively discussed and exchanged ideas regarding the nature of this form of pathology and its resolution.  About three hours into this professional-level discussion, Dorcy showed me the High Road protocol. I immediately recognized how this structured psychoeducational workshop achieves its success in restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. 

It is unlike how psychotherapy achieves change.  The High Road protocol is a catalytic intervention, in which the child is led through a series of structured activities that have the catalytic effect of restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. 

There is no blaming of either parent for family problems, and there is no effort to resolve prior family conflict.  That’s not how the intervention works.  It is a solution-focused catalytic intervention.

A direct result of my professional review of the High Road protocol is that I discontinued my work on developing a model for “reunification therapy.”  There was no longer a need for “reunification therapy” since the High Road protocol could gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.  It is really quite an elegant intervention.  I’m impressed.  And it’s unlike anything we do in psychotherapy.

By way of disclosure, I have no financial interest in the High Road protocol nor do I have any association with the Conscious Co-Parenting Institute of Dorcy Pruter.  In fact, it would likely have been in my personal financial and professional interest to continue my work in developing a model for “reunification therapy.”  However, after reviewing the High Road protocol I believe it would be professionally unethical to conduct “reunification therapy” that would require months of extended therapy involving parent-child conflict when an alternative intervention model exists that can gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.

Let me be entirely clear on this…

I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol as a professional clinical psychologist.  Based on this professional review of the protocol, I believe it would be unethical professional practice NOT to use the High Road protocol as the first-line intervention to restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system (which has been distorted by the psychological manipulation and control of the child by a narcissistic Dark Triad parent).

What Dorcy Does

Dorcy is not a mental health professional.  Dorcy does not diagnose.  When a mental health professional makes a diagnosis of pathogenic parenting, Dorcy will work with the mental health professional.  Dorcy will conduct the four- to five-day High Road workshop – a structured psycho-educational intervention of watching videos of family stories, much like one would see on Saturday morning television, integrated with a series of structured communication and problem-solving activities.  Once the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system is recovered through this structured series of family activities, Dorcy turns over the follow-up recovery stabilization care to the mental health professional.

That’s what Dorcy does.  She conducts a four- to five-day structured psycho-educational workshop that gently and effectively restores the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system through a series of catalytic interventions of watching videos and participating in structured family problem-solving communication exercises. 

Restoring the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment bond to a loving and affectionally available parent is a good thing.  It is healthy for the child.

The parent-child bond that has been reestablished after having been distorted by the highly manipulative and psychologically controlling parenting practices of the formerly allied Dark Triad narcissistic parent requires a period of recovery stabilization before the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent is reintroduced.  This “recovery stabilization therapy” is conducted by a mental health professional.

A premature reintroduction of the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent will result in the child’s relapse into pathology.  A period of protective separation of the child from the manipulative and psychologically controlling pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent is needed in order to provide follow-up therapy the opportunity to stabilize the recovery of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system.

Pathogenic parenting that is creating significant psychopathology in the child is not a child custody issue; it is a child protection issue.

The period of the child’s protective separation from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent requires a Court order from a judge.  Dorcy Pruter is not a judge.  Dorcy does not order protective separations of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.

If a judge, after hearing the evidence in the case, reaches a conclusion that the child’s relationship with the targeted-rejected parent would benefit from the restoration of the child’s normal-range attachment-bonding motivations toward this parent (which were distorted by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic Dark Triad parent), then the judge can order a protective separation of the child from the pathogenic parenting of the allied parent, and the judge can order the implementation of the High Road protocol to gently and effectively restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system within a matter of days.

The judge orders a protective separation; not Dorcy. 

When a judge orders a protective separation and the High Road workshop, Dorcy will conduct the workshop in accord with the Court order, and she will restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system. That’s what Dorcy does.

Once she has restored the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system, then Dorcy will turn over follow-up recovery stabilization therapy to a licensed mental health professional.  If there is a premature breach in the protective separation that allows the child to be prematurely re-exposed to the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent, then the child symptoms will relapse.

It is my professional recommendation, after professionally reviewing the content and structure of the High Road protocol, that the High Road protocol should be Court ordered in every case in which the Court seeks to restore the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system when, in the Court’s determination (and in appropriate consultation with diagnostic information provided by mental health professionals) the child’s relationship with the targeted parent was damaged by the pathogenic parenting of a narcissistic Dark Triad parent. 

It is my professional recommendation, after professionally reviewing the content and structure of the High Road protocol, that the High Road protocol of Dorcy Pruter should be the first-line intervention ordered by the Court in cases of attachment-based “parental alienation” (as described in Foundations):

i.e., the trans-generational transmission of attachment trauma from the childhood of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent (the Dark Triad/Vulnerable Dark Triad parent) to the current family relationships, mediated by the personality pathology of the parent which is itself a product of the parent’s childhood attachment trauma (i.e., a disorganized attachment).

Slander and Lies Are a Symptom

The Dark Triad narcissistic personality lies, distorts, and makes false allegations as a manipulative tactic to place the other person on the defensive and thereby take pressure off of having its manipulative control of the child exposed from its concealment.  It does this with the targeted parent, and it does this with anyone who seeks to protect the child and expose the pathogenic parenting of the narcissistic Dark Triad parent.

The unfounded, distorted, and malicious attacks on Dorcy Pruter and the High Road protocol are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology, just like the false, distorted, and malicious attacks on the normal-range and affectionally available targeted parent are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology. 

The Dark Triad pathology seeks to maintain its concealment so that it can manipulate and exploit naïve and unknowledgeable mental health and legal professionals into becoming allies of the pathology.  Once the manipulative deceit and distortions of the narcissistic Dark Triad personality are exposed, and once they are recognized for what they are, a symptom of pathology, then the pathology will lose its power. 

But until the distorted and false attacks are recognized as a manipulative symptom of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology, naïve mental health and legal professionals will continue to be exploited by the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology of the pathogenic parent, and they will continue to collude with the pathology and with the psychological abuse of the child.

Dr. Jean Mercer

Dr. Jean Mercer’s false innuendos and allegations directed toward Dorcy Pruter are a SYMPTOM of the narcissistic Dark Triad pathology that we are diagnosing and attempting to resolve.  In making these false and distorted innuendos and allegations, Dr. Mercer becomes an ally of the manipulative distortions and lies inherent to the pathology of the narcissistic Dark Triad personality.

It is incumbent upon mental health professionals to be knowledgeable about the pathology they are addressing.  Dr. Mercer does not appear to possess an adequate professional knowledge of the narcissistic Dark Triad (and borderline Vulnerable Dark Triad) personality pathology needed to render professionally responsible statements.  Dr. Mercer’s innuendos and allegations appear professionally ill-informed and evidence a deeply concerning irresponsible and reckless disregard for the impact of her statements in impugning the professional reputation of Ms. Pruter.

Dr. Mercer’s statements are a symptom of the pathology.

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


References for the Dark Triad Personality:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miller, J.D., Dir, A., Gentile, B., Wilson, L., Pryor, L.R., and Campbell, W.K. (2010). Searching for a Vulnerable Dark Triad: Comparing Factor 2 psychopathy, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality, 78, 1529-1564.

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

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

Really, Dr. Mercer? Really?

Holy cow, Jean Mercer is still at it.  In her most recent post on her “ChildMyths” blog (you know, I’m beginning to think her blog title is self-referential), she takes on Dorcy Pruter because Dorcy is not a psychotherapist.

Are “Coaches” the Same as Psychologists or Psychotherapists

She concludes by somehow trying to use my testimony in support of Dorcy Pruter to imply some sort of questionable ethical malfeasance by Ms. Pruter:

“Craig Childress’ statement that a coach does not have to conform to ethical guidelines tells us much about the possible outcomes of choosing a coach over a licensed mental health professional.”

So let me be abundantly clear on this:

I consider Dorcy Pruter to be a professional colleague of the highest caliber.  I consider Ms. Pruter’s ethical standards to be exceptional.  Ms. Pruter and the High Road protocol have my 100% complete and unqualified endorsement.  I have personally reviewed the High Road protocol and I understand exactly how it achieves its record of 100% success in gently and effectively restoring the child’s normal-range attachment bonding motivations toward the normal-range and affectionally available parent.  And I AM held to the ethical standards of the APA.

Clear enough?

Oh, by the way, Dr. Mercer… Dorcy doesn’t have to conform to the ethical standards of architects either (American Institute of Architects), or dentists for that matter (American Dental Association).

Outside of my testimony in support of Dorcy Pruter, the only time I have ever discussed the issue of Untitled 3coaching is in the Proposed Treatment Team essay up on my website, in which I propose a model of treatment that incorporates a coach-consultant acting as the organizing interface between the parent and a comprehensive treatment team of legal and mental health professionals.

Proposed Treatment Team Model

Note that this essay was written two years ago, in 2014.  I’d also like to note in particular a statement I made in this essay:

“The goal of mental health assessment should never be to establish the presence of attachment-based “parental alienation.”  The goal should ALWAYS be the accurate diagnosis of the child’s symptom display. All possible differential diagnoses should be considered and diagnostic determinations should be based on the constellations of clinical evidence.

“In some cases the diagnosis may be an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” involving the induced suppression of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system as a product of distorted parenting practices from a narcissistic/(borderline) parent.  In other cases the diagnosis will be that some other causative agent is responsible for the excessive parent-child conflict within the family.  Mental health assessment should always be balanced and should always evaluate all possible differential diagnoses under consideration.  The assessment and diagnosis should then follow the clinical evidence and be based on the emerging constellations of the clinical evidence. This approach will result in an accurate diagnosis of the child’s needs, on which effective treatment can be delivered to resolve the child’s symptoms and restore the child’s healthy emotional and psychological development.” (Childress, 2014, p. 4)

So with this general framework for clinical assessment and diagnosis in mind, let me address Dr. Mercer’s latest efforts to continue the professional collusion of mental health with the psychological abuse of children.  I will address Dr. Mercer’s unfounded and unprofessional slander of Dorcy Pruter in two blog-post responses:

Part 1:  Jean, you need to answer my questions. 

I have asked you three questions, Dr. Mercer.  If you don’t answer my very simple and very basic questions, then you will have demonstrated that you really don’t have anything relevant to add to the discussion.  

My three very simple questions to you are:

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree that parental psychological control of children exists? (as defined in the scientific research literature I’ve previously cited, e.g., Barber, 2002; Kerig, 2005)

That is a very simple question, Dr. Mercer.  A quick yes or no will suffice.  Do you believe that the psychological control of children exists? (e.g., through manipulative guilt induction, contingent withdrawal of love, things like that).

If you don’t think that parental psychological control exists, I’d be interested in hearing why you don’t accept the findings of over 40 empirically based scientific studies cited by Barber in his book Intrusive Parenting: How Psychological Control Affects Children and Adolescence (published by the American Psychological Association) in Table 1 on pages 29-32.  Forty scientific studies, Dr. Mercer.  Forty. 

But I’ll accept a simple yes or no to my question. 

Question 2: Do you believe narcissistic and borderline pathology exists?  Will you please describe for us the psychological response of a narcissistic or borderline parent to the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce?

I’ll admit, the answer to this question does take a tiny bit of professional thought in conceptualizing and describing the response of a narcissistic/borderline parent to rejection and abandonment.  But actually, this is pretty simple too.  Basically what I’m asking is that you demonstrate that you know the basics of personality disorder pathology.  What happens to a narcissistic personality in response to rejection; and what happens to a borderline personality in response to abandonment.  Pretty basic clinical psychology stuff.

Question 3: Do you agree or disagree that pathogenic parenting which is creating significant developmental pathology in the child, personality disorder pathology in the child, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

Again, this isn’t tough, Dr. Mercer.  A simple yes or no is all it requires.

Although again, if you think that a parent who is creating significant developmental pathology, personality pathology, and delusional-psychiatric pathology is not psychologically abusive, then I’d be interested in your reasoning as to why you believe inducing significant psychopathology in the child is acceptable parenting.

In my next post, Part 2, I’ll address Dr. Mercer’s using the credibility of her professional degree to specifically slander Dorcy Pruter (pretty unseemly and unprofessional Dr. Mercer, considering you’ve never reviewed the High Road protocol so you have absolutely no understanding whatsoever for what you’re talking about).  But I don’t want to distract from the basic issue that Dr. Mercer is avoiding my questions.

Question 1: Does parental psychological control of children exist?

Question 2: Please describe the response of the narcissistic and borderline personality to the rejection and abandonment inherent to divorce.

Question 3: Is pathogenic parenting that is creating significant developmental pathology in the child, personality disorder pathology in the child, and delusional-psychiatric pathology in the child in order to meet the emotional and psychological needs of the narcissistic/(borderline) parent psychological child abuse?

Because if you don’t answer my questions, Dr. Mercer, then your blog posts are not designed to engage in a professional illumination of the issues, as you deceptively present them to be, but are instead designed simply to advance a personal agenda through slander and innuendo under the guise of false “professionalism” – an agenda, by the way, that is colluding with the psychological abuse of children by narcissistic and borderline personality parents.

Are you familiar with the construct of projection, Dr. Mercer?  I find it intriguing that “ChildMyths” appears self-referential about the content of your blogs, and you express concern about mental health professionals colluding with child abuse when your own expressed position is to collude with the psychological abuse of children by a narcissistic/borderline parent (a Dark Triad and Vulnerable Dark Triad personality parent).

Projection is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as:

“The individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses, or thoughts.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 812)

“… falsely attributing to another…”

I’ll address your unprofessional slander of Ms. Pruter in my next post.  But let me preface my next post with one additional question:

Question 4:  Dr. Mercer, have you ever personally reviewed the content of the High Road intervention protocol of Ms. Pruter?

Because if you haven’t – and you haven’t – then I would respectfully submit that you don’t know what you’re talking about. 

Talking about things that you know nothing about is called ignorance.

From Dictionary.com:

       Ignorance:

  1. lacking in knowledge or training
  2. lacking knowledge or information as to a particular subject or fact
  3. uninformed
  4. due to or showing lack of knowledge or training

“Lack of knowledge,” Dr. Mercer, “lacking in knowledge.”

At this point, Dr. Mercer, I’m calling your professional knowledge of the relevant domains of clinical psychopathology into question.  You need to answer my three questions or else you will have demonstrated that you are inappropriately using your professional degree to advance a personal rather than professional agenda that colludes with the psychological abuse of children by narcissistic and borderline personality parents.

I posed my questions to you over a month ago.  I’m waiting…

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


References for Psychological Control:

Barber, B. K. (Ed.) (2002). Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Barber, B. K., & Harmon, E. L. (2002). Violating the self: Parenting psychological control of children and adolescents. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting (pp. 15-52). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Soenens, B., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2010). A theoretical upgrade of the concept of parental psychological control: Proposing new insights on the basis of self-determination theory. Developmental Review, 30, 74–99.

Stone, G., Buehler, C., & Barber, B. K.. (2002) Interparental conflict, parental psychological control, and youth problem behaviors. In B. K. Barber (Ed.), Intrusive parenting: How psychological control affects children and adolescents. Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.

From Stone, Buehler, and Barber:

“The central elements of psychological control are intrusion into the child’s psychological world and self-definition and parental attempts to manipulate the child’s thoughts and feelings through invoking guilt, shame, and anxiety.  Psychological control is distinguished from behavioral control in that the parent attempts to control, through the use of criticism, dominance, and anxiety or guilt induction, the youth’s thoughts and feelings rather than the youth’s behavior.” (Stone, Buehler, and Barber, 2002, p. 57)

From Soenens and Vansteenkiste:

“Psychological control can be expressed through a variety of parental tactics, including (a) guilt-induction, which refers to the use of guilt inducing strategies to pressure children to comply with a parental request; (b) contingent love or love withdrawal, where parents make their attention, interest, care, and love contingent upon the children’s attainment of parental standards; (c) instilling anxiety, which refers to the induction of anxiety to make children comply with parental requests; and (d) invalidation of the child’s perspective, which pertains to parental constraining of the child’s spontaneous expression of thoughts and feelings.” (Soenens & Vansteenkiste, 2010, p. 75)

From Barber and Harman:

“Numerous elements of the child’s self-in-relation-to-parent have been discussed as being compromised by psychologically controlling behaviors such as…

individuality (Goldin, 1969; Kurdek, et al., 1995; Litovsky & Dusek, 1985; Schaefer, 1965a, 1965b, Steinberg, Lamborn, Dornbusch, & Darling, 1992);

individuation (Barber et al., 1994; Barber & Shagle, 1992; Costanzo & Woody, 1985; Goldin, 1969, Smetana, 1995; Steinberg & Silverberg, 1986; Wakschlag, Chanse-Landsdale & Brooks-Gunn, 1996 1996);

independence (Grotevant & Cooper, 1986; Hein & Lewko, 1994; Steinberg et al., 1994);

degree of psychological distance between parents and children (Barber et all, 1994);

and threatened attachment to parents (Barber, 1996; Becker, 1964)” (Barber & Harmon, 2002, p. 25; emphasis added).

From Kerig in the Journal of Emotional Abuse:

“Rather than telling the child directly what to do or think, as does the behaviorally controlling parent, the psychologically controlling parent uses indirect hints and responds with guilt induction or withdrawal of love if the child refuses to comply.  In short, an intrusive parent strives to manipulate the child’s thoughts and feelings in such a way that the child’s psyche will conform to the parent’s wishes.” (Kerig, 2005, p. 12)

References for the Dark Triad Personality:

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

Miller, J.D., Dir, A., Gentile, B., Wilson, L., Pryor, L.R., and Campbell, W.K. (2010). Searching for a Vulnerable Dark Triad: Comparing Factor 2 psychopathy, vulnerable narcissism, and borderline personality disorder. Journal of Personality, 78, 1529-1564.

Research has linked the Dark Triad personality constellation with the absence of empathy:

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

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

To vengefulness in romantic relationships:

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

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

To lying, manipulative fabrication, and deception:

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

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

To attachment-related pathology:

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

To high-conflict patterns of communication:

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

And to the core of evil:

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

Treatment Related Considerations

I am sometimes asked to provide professional consultation reports on materials submitted to me for review.  In one of these consultation reports I recently described treatment-related considerations surrounding the resolution of a cross-generational coalition of the child with one parent (the allied and supposedly “favored parent”) against the other parent (the targeted-rejected parent).

These treatment-related considerations are based in established principles and models of psychotherapy, and I thought that they may be of broader general interest to targeted parents and other professionals.

I have therefore excised this general-description section of my consultation report and posted a version of it on my website:

Cross-Generational Coalition: General Treatment-Related Considerations

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

A New Resource

I am doing what I can to bring the tragic nightmare of “parental alienation” to an end.  The battle to reclaim professional mental health as your ally has been engaged.  We are demanding professional competence in the mental health assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of the pathogenic parenting referred to as “parental alienation” in the common-culture.  It’s time now to also start turning our attention to the failures of the legal system as well.

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.

It is a child protection issue.

It is the professional responsibility of ALL mental health professionals to appropriately assess and to accurately diagnose the pathology.  This is an expectation of professional competence consistent with Standards 9.01a and 2.01a of the ethics code of the American Psychological Association.

Yet even as the battle to reclaim professional mental health as your ally is underway, it is time to also turn our attention to solving the current failures of the legal system to appropriately respond to the pathology of “parental alienation.”  One of the greatest challenges faced by targeted parents is explaining the pathology to legal professionals, such as minor’s counsel and guardians ad litem, as well as to family law judges.

In an effort to address this issue I have written a 40-page booklet for legal professionals describing the pathology of the narcissistic parent using standard and established psychological principles and constructs.  This booklet relies on descriptions of the narcissistic pathology drawn directly from the established literature of professional psychology to both describe the pathology of the narcissistic parent and to highlight its characteristic features.  This booklet is now available on Amazon.com:

The Narcissistic Parent: A Guidebook for Legal Professionals Working with Families in High-Conflict Divorce

My goal is to provide targeted parents with a resource that they can provide to legal professionals involved with their families, such as minor’s counsel and guardians ad litem, which will explain the pathology of the narcissistic parent in high-conflict divorce.  I wanted to make this resource brief enough to be easily accessible yet also substantial enough to be authoritative and accepted.  To accomplish this I relied on quotes drawn directly from the professional literature woven amidst my narrative framework.

I do not use the term “parental alienation” at any point in the booklet.  The description of the pathology relies entirely on standard and established psychological principles and constructs grounded in the professional literature.

The brief 2-4 page Chapters of The Narcissistic Parent are:

  • Introduction
  • The Narcissistic Parent
  • A Hidden Pathology
  • Blame and Projection
  • Triangulation of the Child
  • Disregard for Truth and Authority
  • Trauma Reenactment Narrative
  • Processing Sadness and Grief
  • The Co-Narcissistic Child
  • The Attachment System
  • Child Testimony
  • Epilogue: The Dark Triad
  • References

This booklet:

The Narcissistic Parent: A Guidebook for Legal Professionals Working with Families in High-Conflict Divorce,

is now available through Amazon.com.

The School

I’m aware that many targeted parents have asked that I produce a similar resource that they can provide to school personnel.  I’m still working on conceptualizing what school personnel would need to know about families and children in high-conflict divorce.  It hasn’t yet framed itself into my mind.  But in the meantime, this booklet, The Narcissistic Parent, may also be useful to educate school personnel regarding the pathology until I can develop a booklet which is more directly focused on issues relevant for school personnel.

I’m doing what I can as quickly as I can because I understand that each day that passes without a solution to the pathology of “parental alienation” is one day too long.

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