PAS is a Bad Model for a Pathology

Dorcy Pruter takes great delight in annoying me.

I prefer to lead my life in blissful ignorance regarding the activities of the Gardnerian PAS experts.  They are essentially irrelevant.  The paradigm is shifting to an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” which will solve the pathology without requiring targeted parents to prove “parental alienation” in court.  We are rapidly reaching the tipping point in the paradigm shift.

Dorcy seems to enjoy disrupting my peaceful ignorance regarding the activities of the Gardnerian PAS experts.

One is True; the Other is False

This is important to understand: One paradigm is true, and the other is false.  Either AB-PA is true, which makes Gardnerian PAS false.  Or Gardnerian PAS is true, which makes AB-PA false.

Let me explain…

AB-PA proposes that the pathology of “parental alienation” is a manifestation of established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

Gardnerian PAS proposes that “parental alienation” is an entirely unique new form of pathology that requires a new name (“parental alienation”) and a new and unique set of symptom identifiers that are unrelated to any other pathology in all of mental health.

It is a logical impossibility for both of these proposals to be true at the same time.  The pathology of “parental alienation” cannot logically be both a manifestation of existing forms of pathology and, at the same time, also be a unique new form of pathology.   It is a logical impossibility for both to be true.  One model is true, and the other model is false.

Either “parental alienation” is a manifestation of existing forms of pathology, or it is a unique new form of pathology.  It cannot logically be both.

It is my firm belief that the pathology of “parental alienation” is completely understandable as a manifestation of existing forms of pathology – attachment-related pathology, personality disorder pathology, and family systems pathology.  I describe this attachment-based model for the pathology in Foundations

An attachment-based model for the pathology is true. The pathology commonly called “parental alienation” is therefore not a unique new form of pathology.  The PAS model which proposes a unique new form of pathology is therefore false.

Dr. C – Have You Seen This?

So how does Dorcy annoy me?  She seemingly delights in sending me stuff written by the Gardnerians who continue to simply ignore AB-PA and who continue to promote a false model of the pathology as being a unique new form of pathology.  It’s clear to me that Dorcy sends me this stuff just to provoke a response out of me, like poking the slumbering bear because she enjoys seeing the bear rise up on its haunches and growl.

Usually it’s a very short email from her with a link to something Gardnerian saying, “Hey, Dr. C.  Have you seen this?”

No I haven’t, and I’d really prefer not to see it because the ignorance contained in whatever you want to show me is just going to annoy me. 

I know whenever I get an email like this from Dorcy it’s going to be trouble – “Hey, Dr. C.  Have you seen this?”  Curiosity gets the better of me, I follow the link, and sure enough it leads me to something Gardnerian that gets me all in a huff, and I’ll start growling, and ultimately I’ll rise up on my haunches and write a blog post about it… like this one.

If it were up to me, on the other hand, I would simply like to slumber in my blissful ignorance regarding the activities of the Gardnerians.

So what’s the most recent provocation?  “Hey Dr. C.  Have you seen this from Linda Gottlieb?”

Linda Gottlieb: Science Discovers PAS and Declares It Psychological Child Abuse

Uhhh, no, I haven’t seen it.  I don’t think I want to see it.  Oh, okay, I’ll bite.  What’s she saying?… Ahh, geez. Really Linda?  Oh my gosh.  But that’s… But… Alright, this deserves a blog.

First off, let’s just start with the title: “BREAKING NEWS: SCIENCE DISCOVERS PAS and Declares it Psychological Child Abuse.” That’s not true.  Science has not just “discovered” PAS, and science has not declared that PAS is child abuse.  PAS has been around for 30 years and the family systems stuff Ms. Gottlieb discusses has been around for nearly 50 years.  And no, science has not “declared” that Gardnerian PAS is child abuse. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

That headline is so over-the-top false that it makes me wonder if Ms. Gottlieb is losing her grasp on reality.

It’s kind of problematic when the very headline is false.  It absolutely destroys professional credibility to make false claims.   But let’s move on…

Who is this written by?  The byline at the top says “By Linda J. Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R” but it’s written as if someone is interviewing Ms. Gottlieb, but there is no indication of the author’s name.  I’m confused.  If someone else wrote this, as it appears, then why does the byline say, “By Linda J. Gottlieb”?  Most often the voice of the text refers to Ms. Gottlieb as if someone was interviewing her.

“When this newspaper reporter interviewed Ms. Gottlieb, she affirmed that parental alienation is triangulation, but only more so, and this is the explanation she provided…” (Someone, 2016, the author did not identify themselves)

But then at other times the article (is it an article, or an essay?) seems to directly quote Ms. Gottlieb but does not use quotes to separate these portions:

How does Ms. Gottlieb respond to the naysayers about the existence of PAS? She is very affirmative about this:

Let me be very clear–there is no basis in science for the claims that PAS is not a valid syndrome and that it has also been overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community.

(Gottlieb, 2016, I think, I can’t be sure because the original author didn’t use quote marks)

Even a basic “newspaper reporter” knows to use quote marks to differentiate statements that are quotes from someone else.  Was this written by a fourth-grader?  Yet Ms. Gottlieb posted this to her Facebook page.  Come on, Ms. Gottlieb.  If you’re going to participate in serious professional dialogue about this pathology you’ve got to be more professional.  Quote marks please.  Accurate attribution of authorship please.  This is just basic professional stuff here.  By the way, the tenor and tone taken by the “newspaper reporter” hardly seems unbiased.  This isn’t fake news with an agenda posing as unbiased objective reporting is it?  You wouldn’t stoop to that, would you Ms. Gottlieb?

I haven’t even gotten to the content yet, and already I’m spinning.  Oh well, let’s move on…

Overall Impressions

My overall impression is that Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis is fairly primitive and, to be frank, conceptually lazy.  What she says (or the reporter says, I can’t figure out which is which without quote marks) is accurate regarding family systems constructs from Bowen and Minuchin, but she does not address the attachment system level of the pathology and she only passingly notes the personality disorder component of the pathology.  Nor does she integrate the family systems constructs with the attachment level constructs and with the personality disorder pathology.

By analogy, if AB-PA represents the Apollo space program putting a man on the moon (a complex analysis of the pathology across three distinct levels of professional constructs, the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs), I find Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis to be sort of rudimentary, kind of like rubbing two sticks together to get fire.  Will rubbing two sticks together produce fire?  Uh, yeah, okay.  But that’s kind of a primitive level of professional discussion.  And rubbing two sticks together to get fire is a far cry from putting a man on the moon.  In my view, if Ms. Gottlieb wants to remain relevant, she needs to step up her game.

In order for Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis to enter the domain of professionally responsible discourse, she would need to address the attachment system level of the pathology as well as a more comprehensive integration of the family systems pathology she describes with the personality disorder pathology of the parent.

Until she raises her level of professional discourse, she’s welcome to rub two sticks together to create fire and think she’s actually accomplished something.  Congratulations, Ms. Gottlieb, fire.  Science, according to Ms. Gottlieb, has just “discovered” that there are actually family systems constructs available from the 1970s that address triangulation and enmeshment.  Great.

I’m going to pass over the fact that some of the discussion of triangulation by Minuchin and Bowen cited by Ms. Gottlieb referred to the coalition of the parents against the child, not a cross-generational coalition.  But there is only so much critique I can get into, and for the most part her characterizations of the family systems constructs were accurate.

But I’ve got to raise one point, Ms. Gottlieb apparently asserts (I can’t quite tell who’s saying what without quote marks) that,

“Traditional family therapists represent triangulation to be a 50-50-process meaning that the parents contribute equally”

Uhhh, that’s not quite true.  In a cross-generational coalition, the targeted parent is not a 50-50 co-contributor to the “perverse triangle.”  In the alternative triangle involving a coalition of the two parents against the child, this 50-50 distribution of parental responsibility may or may not be accurate, but it’s not true of the cross-generational coalition.  You’re not allowed to just make stuff up, Ms. Gottlieb.  If you’re going to assert this 50-50 causal attribution for cross-generational coalitions by “traditional family therapists,” I’m going to need a citation please.

And Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis also relies on the highly dubious construct of “brainwashing.”

“As a result of the brainwashing, alienated children loose [sic] critical reasoning skills and thereby confuse love with hate, protection with abuse, attention with stalking, gifts with bribery, caring with intrusiveness, discipline with tyranny, and affection with sex abuse.”

(I think Ms. Gottlieb said this.  I can’t be sure because the original author didn’t use quote marks.  I’ve inserted quote marks in my blog because I do use quote marks when I quote from another source)

No, Ms. Gottlieb. Please don’t tell me you are relying on the construct of “brainwashing” as a supposedly defined construct in clinical psychology.  Not “brainwashing.”  Please don’t take us down that conceptual and highly controversial rabbit hole.  Use the established construct of “psychological control” as defined by Barber instead (Barber, 2002):

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

Family Systems Pathology

But moving on, in addition to being a conceptually lazy analysis of the pathology, there are several logical leaps in this… article (?) essay (?) that are not justified.

Ms. Gottlieb argues (persuasively – although I could do without the over-the-top cheerleading by the author, whoever it is) that PAS is essentially the family systems constructs of triangulation, coalition, and enmeshment.  Exactly.  So why do we need a “new form of pathology” called “parental alienation”?   Uhhh, we don’t.   Even Ms. Gottlieb apparently admits as much in this essay (?), this article (?), that the construct of Gardnerian PAS is superfluous:

“Gardner’s conception of alienation—a dysfunctional cross-generational coalition between a parent and a co-opted child to marginalize and dismiss the other parent—is identical to the family therapists description of triangulation.” (Gottlieb?, 2016)

So if the two constructs are “identical” why do we need the second one?

“Ms. Gottlieb states in several of her articles that she could find no better description for parental alienation and its detrimental effects on children than the description of triangulation by founding family therapists and their consensus determination that it inflicts disastrous effects on children.”

Uhhh, okay then.  If there is “no better description” of the pathology than that offered by the family systems constructs, let’s just stick with the family systems constructs that are extensively defined and described by some of the most preeminent figures in professional psychology.

But Ms. Gottlieb seemingly contends that Gardner extended the work of these preeminent family systems theorists by proposing an entirely new form of pathology called “parental alienation” rather than relying on “identical” established family systems constructs of triangulation, cross-generational coalition, and enmeshment.

“Returning to Ms. Gottlieb’s discussion of PAS in its historical context, she describes Dr. Richard Garner [sic] as a brilliant scientist who—like any good scientist—built on the findings of those who went before him”

Mmmmm, that’s not quite true.  Gardner didn’t “build on the findings” of Bowen, and Minuchin, and Haley, he ignored the findings of Bowen, and Minuchin, and Haley by proposing an entirely “new form of pathology” that is unique in all of mental health, so unique in fact that it requires an equally unique new set of symptom identifiers that Gardner made up specifically for this unique new form of pathology. Gardner isn’t describing how to diagnose triangulation or cross-generational coalitions. Gardner is proposing an entirely new form of pathology.

So as much as Ms. Gottlieb would like to sort of re-write history to present Gardner as extending family systems theory so that she can support her starry-eyed adulation of Richard Gardner as a “brilliant scientist,” he actually simply ignored family systems theory in proposing a new form of pathology. 

And if, as Ms. Gottlieb seemingly suggests, the construct of “parental alienation” is essentially “identical” to the pre-existing and far more elaborated constructs from family systems therapy, and if, as Ms. Gottlieb seemingly asserts, “she could find no better description for parental alienation… than the description of triangulation by founding family therapists,” then we really don’t need the construct of “parental alienation.” 

The pathology traditionally called “parental alienation” is simply the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of an enmeshed cross-generational coalition with the allied parent against the targeted parent.  Add a dash of narcissistic or borderline personality pathology from the parent (originating in this parent’s childhood attachment trauma history) and, voila – everything is explained and there’s no need for a “new form of pathology.”

What’s more, as long as we’re describing the pathology using family systems constructs, one of the foundational constructs Ms. Gottlieb did not address is the “homeostatic balance” that the family achieves with the symptom present.

Homeo=the same; static=no change.  Homeostatic balance is a stable state of sameness that resists change. 

The dysfunctional family is in “homeostatic balance” with the symptom present.  The family will therefore resist efforts to remove the symptom because the symptom is actually serving a function, it is stabilizing the dysfunctional family system.

According to established family systems theory, families develop symptoms when they are faced with a transitional event that they cannot successfully master.  The symptom develops to stabilize the dysfunctional family system faced with an unmanageable transition.

What is the transition faced by the family evidencing the symptom of “parental alienation” (a child’s rejection of a normal-range and affectionally available parent)?  The divorce, of course.  A major family transitional event.

Why is the family having difficulty transitioning from the previous intact-family structure to the new separated-family structure?  Because the narcissistic or borderline personality pathology of one of the parents (the allied parent in a cross-generational coalition with the child) is characterologically unable to process the emotions of sadness, grief, and loss surrounding the divorce.

“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)

Why is the narcissitic/(borderline) parent unable to process sadness, grief, and loss?  It has to do with the childhood attachment trauma and disorganized attachment that produced the narcissistic and borderline personality pathology.

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

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)

There we have it.  Right there.  Pathological mourning that is preventing the family from successfully transitioning from the intact family structure to a separated family structure following the divorce.  The symptom of the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition with the allied narcissistic/(borderline) personality is emerging in order to stabilize the psychological structure of the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent that is threatened with collapse as a consequence of the rejection and abandonment by the spousal attachment figure surrounding the divorce.  Ta-da.  All described using standard and established constructs and principles.  No need to propose a “new form of pathology.”

AB-PA offers a full description of the pathology from within standard and established family systems constructs, with an assist from standard attachment-related constructs and personality disorder constructs.  Why do we need a proposal for a “new form of pathology”?  We don’t.

And see what happens when we stay anchored in established psychological constructs and principles?  The family systems constructs of Ms. Gottlieb’s more simplistic analysis are extended and become pathological mourning through the addition of attachment-related and personality pathology constructs.  We can go even further in our analysis if we want by adding the splitting pathology characteristic of narcissistic and borderline personality pathology to the cross-generational coalition, and further still if we shift to the trauma reenactment narrative originating in reactivated internal working models of attachment representations.

My frank assessment of Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis is that she needs to seriously up her game.  There is absolutely no need for the construct of “parental alienation.”

Attachment Constructs

Ms. Gottlieb briefly touched on Cluster B personality disorders, and vaguely addressed the attachment system with her discussion of “survival needs” and children not rejecting a parent.  But both of these discussions warrant greater elaboration using standard and established constructs.

For example, her discussion of “survival needs” is based in the attachment literature.

“The paradoxical finding that the more punishment a juvenile receives the stronger becomes its attachment to the punishing figure, very difficult to explain in any other theory, is compatible with the view that the function of attachment behavior is protection from predators.” (Bowlby, 1969, p. 227)

The attachment system is called a “goal-corrected” motivational system.  Meaning that it ALWAYS maintains the goal of forming an attached bond to the parent.  In response to problematic parenting, the attachment system alters HOW it attempts to form this bond, but it ALWAYS maintains the goal of forming an attached bond to the parent. Children do not reject parents.  Children who rejected parents were eaten by predators.

There are only a limited number of situations in which extremely pathogenic parenting (such as incest or extremes of parental violence) can disrupt the attachment bonding motivations of the child leading to the child’s rejection of the parent, but these are very limited and specific forms of extreme pathogenic parenting by the rejected parent.

In all other cases, problematic parenting produces what’s called an “insecure attachment” that MORE strongly motivates the child to bond to the problematic parent.  Problematic parenting more fully exposes children to predation and other environmental dangers.  Children who were MORE strongly motivated to bond to problematic parents were more likely to receive parental protection, and were therefore more likely to survive than children who rejected problematic parents.  Genes that MORE strongly motivated the child to bond to the problematic parent increased in the collective gene pool, while genes that motivated child rejection of the problematic parent were selectively eliminated from the gene pool.

Ms. Gottlieb vaguely touched on these features, but her discussion was imprecise.  Step it up, Ms. Gottlieb.  The attachment system.  Goal-corrected motivational system.  Insecure attachment.

Her vague description of these constructs was almost as if she didn’t want to use the construct of attachment.  That’s so odd.  I wonder why she would avoid the construct of attachment?  The attachment system is the brain system governing all aspects of love and bonding throughout the lifespan, including grief and loss.  A child’s rejection of a parent is clearly a form of attachment-related pathology.  So why didn’t she even mention the construct of the attachment system?  Puzzling.

Parental Alienation “Experts”

Which brings me to another critique of Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis about what constitutes an “expert” in “parental alienation.”  Clearly, Ms. Gottlieb is a “parental alienation” expert.  How do we know that?  Because she tells us so right at the top of her analysis, “In a speech presented on 12/4/16 by Parental Alienation Expert, Linda J. Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW-R.”  Good to know who’s an “expert” and who’s not.

It must be pretty special to be a bonafied “parental alienation” expert.  You see, I wouldn’t know since I don’t seem to be qualified as an expert in “parental alienation.”  Ms. Gottlieb asserts that,

“Dr. Gardner’s eight symptoms or manifestations exhibited by an alienated child have been accepted by overwhelming consensus among those who are experts on alienation.” (Gottlieb?, 2016)

I reject Gardner’s eight symptoms of “parental alienation” because I find them to be irrational diagnostic indicators for a pathology.  In fact, I believe they are horrific symptom identifiers for a variety of reasons.  So either I’m not considered an expert on “parental alienation” or I’m outside the “overwhelming consensus” of “experts on alienation.”

(Personally, I believe that the “overwhelming consensus” of which Ms. Gottlieb speaks is simply an echo chamber of Gardnerians talking to themselves.)

Ms. Gottlieb also seemingly suggests that,

“…a small—but very vocal—group of naysayers persist in rejecting science by denying the existence of PAS. There are likely a variety of rationales—or combination thereof—for the naysayers’ denial. These include but are not limited to: ignorance, laziness, incompetence, a rescue fantasy, self-interest, and/or bias.”

Mmmm.  I wonder if “very vocal” is referring to me?  I seem to be one of these supposedly science-rejecting naysayers who deny the existence of PAS.  I wonder which category of motivation I belong in for my “naysaying”?  Am I ignorant?  Or maybe I’m just lazy.  Can you please clarify for me, Ms. Gottlieb, which category of motivation do I fit into because of my science-rejecting proclivities to reject Gardnerian PAS as an actual form of pathology?

From where I sit, there is simply no need for a “new form of pathology.”  The pathology commonly referred to as “parental alienation” can be fully explained using standard and established constructs of the attachment system, personality disorder pathology, and family systems constructs.  There is absolutely zero need for proposing a new form of pathology.

Poof.  New pathology vanishes, and in its place is a description of the pathology from entirely within standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

Oh well, I guess I’m just not part the “overwhelming consensus” of experts on “parental alienation” who accept Gardnerian PAS.  Pity.  It must be nice to be a bonafide expert.

Psychological Child Abuse

Well what about Ms. Gottlieb’s asssertion that science declares that PAS is psychological child abuse? (and “Breaking News” no less).

Ms. Gottlieb asserts that the pathology of “parental alienation” warrants a DSM-5 diagnosis of psychological child abuse. I agree.

But here’s the thing, we can’t get to the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse through Gardnerian PAS.  Let me explain;

God help any clinical psychologist who makes a DSM-5 diagnosis of child abuse based on the presence of Gardner’s eight symptoms, because the allied narcissistic/(borderline) parent will absolutely file a licensing board complaint against the therapist who makes that diagnosis based on PAS.

N/(B) Parent:  How dare you say that my wonderfully bonded relationship with the child is child abuse.  You’re incompetent.  It is clear that the child and I love each other very much.  On what basis are you calling the clear love the child and I share as being child abuse?

Therapist:  Because the child is rejecting the other parent, and it is my opinion that the child’s rejection of the other parent is caused by you.

N/(B) Parent:  The child doesn’t like the other parent because the other parent is a bad parent.  Just ask the child.  I constantly tell the child to get along with the other parent.  But what can I do?  I can’t force the child to get along with the other parent.  I can’t make the other parent be a better parent.  Just ask the child.  To claim that because the child doesn’t like the other parent that’s child abuse on my part, when clearly the child and I share a wonderful bond of love and affection, is absolutely absurd.  You’re incompetent and your diagnosis is incompetent.  You’ll have to defend your diagnosis to the licensing board and in a malpractice lawsuit.

Are you kidding me?  No rational psychologist will make a DSM-5 diagnosis of child psychological abuse based on Gardner’s eight symptoms of PAS and then have to face that counter-accusation from the narcissistic/(borderline) parent. 

I have a question for Ms. Gottlieb.  She indicates that she’s treated over 550 cases of “parental alienation.”  In how many cases did she give the diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse?  You’re a mandated child abuse reporter, Ms. Gottlieb.  In how many of those 500+ cases did you file a suspected child abuse report with Child Protective Services?  In how many cases of “parental alienation” over the past 30 years of PAS did CPS remove a child because of PAS?  Are you now giving the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse in every case you treat, Ms. Gottlieb?  If you’re relying on PAS for your DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, Ms. Gottlieb, good luck with your licensing board complaints for professional incompetence regarding your diagnosis.

What about AB-PA?  How does AB-PA lead to the DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed?

The pathology of concern in AB-PA is not “parental alienation,” it’s pathogenic parenting; it’s the creation of significant psychopathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices.  I clearly lay out, in detail and using standard and established constructs and principles of professional psychology (no “new form of pathology” proposal), exactly why we see the specific set of three diagnostic indicators for AB-PA.

No other pathology in all of mental health will evidence this specific set of three diagnostic indicators other than AB-PA as defined and described in Foundations, and all of these symptom indicators represent standard and established forms of pathology in professional mental health (NO unique new symptoms developed specifically for some supposedly “new form of pathology”).

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.

AB-PA is 100% defensible.

Ms. Gottlieb (and other Gardnerians) are seemingly trying to co-opt the child abuse diagnosis provided by AB-PA and apply it to Gardnerian PAS.  It doesn’t work.  Gardnerian PAS does not lead to a DSM-5 diagnosis of psychological child abuse.  God help the mental health professional who makes a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse based on Gardner’s symptom set.  It doesn’t work.  Try it if you want, Ms. Gottlieb.  It’s your license on the line, not mine.

All of the child abuse research cited by Ms. Gottlieb at the end of the article (?), essay (?), only states that child abuse is bad.  None of it states that PAS is a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse. 

Misleading titles aside, science has not declared that PAS represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse, because PAS doesn’t exist. Triangulation exists. Cross-generational coalitions exist.  Personalty disorder pathology exists.  The attachment system exists.  A new form of pathology that is unique in all of mental health and is identifiable by an equally unique new set of symptom identifiers that have no relationship to any other pathology in all of mental health… does not exist.

Both AB-PA and PAS cannot simultaneously be true models for the pathology.  If one is true, then the other is false.

If AB-PA (existing form of pathology) is true, then PAS (unique new form of pathology) is false.

If PAS (unique new form of pathology) is true, then AB-PA (existing form of pathology) is false .

AB-PA is true.

Conclusion

So let me wrap this up with my broad overall analysis of this… article?  essay? concerning Ms. Gottlieb’s analysis entitled, “Science Discovers PAS and Declares It Psychological Child Abuse.”

First, that’s not true.  And saying things that aren’t true undermines professional credibility.  Science has not “discovered” PAS – PAS has been here for 30 years and there are no new developments.  The family systems constructs of triangulation and enmeshment are from the 1970s.  That hardly represents science suddenly discovering PAS.

Second, no, science has not declared that PAS is psychological child abuse.  Pathogenic parenting as documented by the three diagnostic indicators of AB-PA is a confirmed DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse, but PAS is not. Sorry.  I know you wish it was true that science declared that PAS is psychological child abuse, but wishing does not make it so.

AB-PA represents an accurate and true model of the pathology.  No model of pathology could explain the pathology within each of three separate domains of analysis (the family systems level, the personality disorder level, and the attachment system level) and also integrate this description across all three levels of analysis (the attachment system pathology creates the personality disorder pathology, and the personality disorder pathology then creates the family systems pathology), unless that description of the pathology were true.  AB-PA is true.

I am more than happy to debate AB-PA versus PAS with any Gardnerian PAS expert.  Anytime.  Anywhere.

This would be a wonderful debate for the Parental Alienation Study Group to sponsor.  Dr. Childress versus whomever.  A two-hour moderated debate, using an online platform for everyone to watch.

The AB-PA / PAS Debate

Opening Statements

  • 10 minutes:  Opening Statement by Gardnerian PAS expert
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Dr. Childress
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Gardnerian expert
  • 10 minutes:  Opening Statement by Dr. Childress on AB-PA
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Gardnerian expert
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Dr. Childress

Solutions

  • 10 minutes:  Gardnerian expert on the PAS roadmap for solution
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Dr. Childress
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Gardnerian expert
  • 10 minutes:  Dr. Childress on the AB-PA roadmap for solution
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Gardnerian Expert
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Dr. Childress

Cross-Analysis

  • 10 minutes:  Gardnerian expert analysis of AB-PA
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Dr. Childress
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Gardnerian expert
  • 10 minutes:  Dr. Childress analysis of PAS
  •   5 minutes:  Rebuttal by Gardnerian expert
  •   5 minutes:  Follow-up response by Dr. Childress

Wouldn’t this be exciting?  Wouldn’t this be enlightening?  If properly publicized this could draw a huge audience of mental health professionals (child custody evaluators and therapists), and perhaps even legal professionals (family law attorneys, guardians ad litem, and minor’s counsels), and because it would be on the Internet, it could be a globally attended event.

I’m in.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  Parental Alienation Study Group?  Whaddya say?  Want to sponsor the debate?

Oooo, but we’ll have to find a Gardnerian PAS expert willing to debate.  But clearly if they are maintaining that the Gardnerian PAS model is true and AB-PA is false, there must be at least one Gardnerian PAS expert willing to display his or her expertise.  After all, I’m only one of a “small – but very vocal – group of naysayers who persist in rejecting science” by going against the collective wisdom of an “overwhelming consensus” of “experts on parental alienation.”  Surely we could find one bonafide PAS expert willing to expose the fallacy of AB-PA as being an accurate model for the pathology of “parental alienation.”

An online moderated debate.  Two hours.   I’m in.  Contact my second, Dorcy Pruter, to schedule the event.  She’ll send me an email, “Hey Dr. C.  Have you heard about the plans for a debate?”

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

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.

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

11 thoughts on “PAS is a Bad Model for a Pathology”

  1. They’d rather let my daughter continue suffering than risk “legitimizing” you by taking the time to investigate your claims. That is the legacy they are about to leave behind for my daughter to read about someday. She will read how these “experts” could have protected her, but instead chose to protect their own interests.

  2. I am sorry that Dr. C becomes so offensive when he engages in conversation with professional colleagues. Why would anyone agree to debate a person whose goal is to insult his opponent? Dr. C has made some useful and interesting proposals regarding parental alienation, so it would be nice if he could discuss his ideas in a friendly and collaborative manner.

    1. Dr. Bernet,  with all due respect–and I have a great deal of it for you–please stop. There will be plenty of time to punish Dr. Childress later, after our children are safe. You and the others can take him out back and spank him all you want after that, but right now focus on finding the solution. Focusing on finding the solution may involve adopting the solution of someone you don’t like. My daughter is going to age out in May of 2018. She doesn’t have much time. If Dr. Childress has a workable solution, a solution that has very little to do with Dr. Childress himself when you actually lay it out, why, why, why does it matter whether he behaves himself or not? He’s not claiming to have some good ideas to share, he’s claiming he has the solution, a solution that–unfortunately for you–involves scrapping PAS so that the mental health powers-that-be don’t get distracted by all the baggage that comes with PAS. If a solution already exists in the mental health system, like Dr. Childress claims, then let them use their own labels and terms for it. Drop everything and promote that solution like crazy so that we can get our children back. Our children. That is your focus.  Not the mannerisms of the crazy old bald guy who just happened to put the puzzle together. The focus on Dr. Childress *must end*. The focus on AB-PA as a workable solution, *must begin*.

      What are you willing to part with in order to help our children? What sacrifice is too great for you to make in order for our children to be protected? Have we not sacrificed enough of our parenting time, our lives, so that you can resolve PA the way you and the other experts want it to be resolved?

  3. As a well-informed lay person I don’t see how Gardner and Childress’ models are mutually exclusive. I see the former model (Gardner) as observational and the latter model (AB-PA) as explanatory. Both models are necessary to obtain a complete picture. I am disappointed in the rift created and implore both sides to work together and collaborate. I understand that the APA has decided to form a task group to reconsider PA for inclusion in the DSM. Although PA is currently alluded to in the current DSM it would be better if it was directly addressed. I’m attending the Dallas/Frisco symposium this April. I hope that some constructive agreements will be made by then.

    1. The issue is which set of diagnostic indicators mental health professionals use, the eight vague and poorly defined diagnostic indicators of Gardnerian PAS or the three specific diagnostic indicators of AB-PA that represent defined constructs in professional psychology.

      The issue for AB-PA is not “parental alienation,” it’s pathogenic parenting (patho=pathology; genic=genesis, creation) Pathogenic parenting is a defined construct in both developmental and clinical psychology. 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 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 shifts the focus from child custody to child protection concerns.

      The Gardnerian 8 symptom identifiers do not allow for the DSM-5 diagnosis of Child Psychological Abuse. They are too vaguely defined and do not represent established forms of clinical symptoms. They are a hodge-podge of unique symptoms developed specifically for the “unique new form of pathology” proposal of PAS.

      So it’s not about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It’s about which set of diagnostic indicators we use in identifying the pathology. That’s why the AB-PA / PAS debate is critical to the solution.

      Craig Childress, Psy.D.

  4. Ms Gottlieb mentioned triangulation as a “50-50-process” among traditional therapists she used that to distinguish it from alienation where “the alienating parent is judged to be the primary and dominant contributor”. She further explores the larger social system (ex. family court system) that allows for such imbalances.

  5. Please someone from PAS agree to debate Childress…please. We need attention on this debate so that it can end once and for all and so that Dr. C’s model leads the way on solving parental alienation now!

  6. 5-year alienated parent sees this analogy
    During one of the many ‘God’ debates in which Christopher Hitchens begged to oppose the validity of the Bible and Christianity, while some eminent church figure proposed the opposite, and with both sides entrenched in deep hostility what should happen next? The whole mood warmed to a surprise compliment.
    “Well, I should say, in an effort to expand and explain our understanding, the Bible is really a very very good, er, first attempt! Certainly the best we had at the time and probably for a thousand years… since then though, we’ve had a thousand years of science.”
    Likewise, Gardner and his PAS disciples were the best we had at the time. Thank you to every one of them. Now though we have more science and with Dr. Childress and ‘AB’-PA science that is much more rigorous. We can see that for a first attempt PAS was a marvel. Science has since shown it fell short diagnostically. A thousand thanks to you Dr. Childress.

  7. The problem with debate is that the underlying assumption is that the two parties have diametrically opposed opinions, i.e the two views are mutually exclusive. This is not the case at all. A more fruitful venue is a panel discussion on the different conceptualizations. The objective is synthesis not zero-sum debate. Furthermore, Ad Hominem arguments only discredit the entire enterprise and should be censured.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s