One is True – The Other is False

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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