This is my third post of my line-by-line notes for the AFCC & NCJFCJ Joint Statement on Parent-Child Contact Problems.
Notes 3 is in response to the second sentence of the Problem Statement
Line-by-Line Notes 3
From the AFCC & NCJFCJ:
“Children are at greater risk when parent-child contact problems are not effectively addressed and when family law professionals and others echo and intensify the polarization within the family.”
Dr Childress Notes 3:
There is no such pathology as “parent-child contact problems” – a professional Joint Statement should use professional-level knowledge and constructs to describe pathology. What is the professional-level description of the pathology they are describing?
- The correct professional construct is attachment pathology.
- The correct professional construct is child abuse.
If there are risks to the child as they clearly assert, then the professional concern is one of possible child abuse and a proper risk assessment needs to be conducted.
Why are professional organizations hiding the pathology of possible child abuse from professional-discussion by using euphemisms? When possible child abuse is a considered diagnosis, this should be clearly stated, discussed, and professionally addressed.
When there is a risk, that means there is a potential dangerous pathology involved (suicide, homicide, or abuse). In all cases where there is a potential risk, a proper risk assessment needs to be conducted.
A risk assessment is conducted when any of three types of dangerous pathology are presented by a client, suicide, homicide, or abuse (child, spousal, elder). The type of risk assessment depends on the type of danger involved, such as a suicide risk assessment when the client expresses suicidal thoughts (i.e., an assessment of prior history, current plan, recent loss, means, etc.).
There are four diagnoses of child abuse in the Child Maltreatment section of the DSM-5, each of these warrants a proper risk assessment; Child Physical Abuse (V995.54), Child Sexual Abuse (V995.53), Child Neglect (V995.52), Child Psychological Abuse (V995.51). All of these child abuse diagnoses are equivalent in the severity of the damage they cause to the child, they differ only in the type of damage done, not in the severity of damage done to the child. Psychological child abuse is devastating, it destroys the child from the inside out.
A suspicion of child physical, sexual, or neglect abuse is a mandated report to Child Protective Services (CPS) to allow their trained assessment professionals to conduct a proper risk assessment for these types of child abuse, and then to take the proper child protection steps when warranted. Mental health professionals in the community are prohibited from conducting the risk assessment themselves for these forms of child abuse, and they are mandated to refer to Child Protective Services (CPS) to ensure a proper assessment and the proper protection of the forensic evidence if needed.
Psychological child abuse, however, is not a mandated report, it is a “permitted” report to CPS, but not required. Psychological child abuse (i.e., creating severe pathology in the child through aberrant and distorted parenting) is more difficult to assess and diagnose, and typically requires a higher level of training than is available to the CPS professionals who are more focused on child physical, sexual, and neglect abuse.
The assessment for possible child psychological abuse requires a higher level of professional knowledge in attachment pathology, complex trauma, personality pathology, and thought disorders. Since psychological child abuse is not a mandated CPS report, this allows the involved mental health professionals to conduct the risk assessment for psychological child abuse, thereby allowing CPS to remain focused on identifying the other more overt forms of child abuse.
The professional concern with child psychological abuse is the creation of a thought disorder in the child, an induced persecutory delusion, by the aberrant and distorted parenting practices of the allied parent. A delusion is a fixed and false belief that is maintained despite contrary evidence. The type of delusion of concern is a potential persecutory delusion, i.e., a fixed and false belief in supposed “victimization.” The American Psychiatric Association provides the definition of a persecutory delusion:
From the APA: “Persecutory Type: delusions that the person (or someone to whom the person is close) is being malevolently treated in some way.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000)
Creating a shared persecutory delusion with a child that then destroys the child’s attachment bond to the other parent represents a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse. The assessment for thought disorder pathology (delusions) is a Mental Status Exam of thought and perception conducted with the child and allied parent. Obtaining direct observation of the symptoms displayed in the parent-child relationship would confirm the diagnosis from the Mental Status Exam of thought and perception.
The clinical pathology of concern in the family is for possible unresolved trauma with a parent that then distorts their thinking and perception of situations, and that the parent’s persecutory delusion is then imposed on the child through aberrant and distorted parenting practices, creating a shared persecutory delusion (ICD-10 F24) relative to the other parent.
An additional clinical concern is that the allied parent is inducing this thought disorder in the child in order to (intentionally?) destroy the child’s attachment bond to the other parent in vengeful retaliation against the targeted parent for the failed marriage and divorce. Using the child as a weapon of spousal emotional and psychological abuse would represent Intimate Partner Violence (IPV; “domestic violence”), and would warrant a DSM-5 diagnosis of V995.82 Spouse or Partner Abuse, Psychological.
Creating a false attachment pathology (a factitious attachment disorder) and imposing that pathology on the child (on another) for the secondary gain of manipulating the court’s decisions surrounding child custody would represent a DSM-5 diagnosis of 300.19 Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another.
Google factitious: artificially created or developed.
By weaponizing the child into the spousal conflict, the allied parent creates such significant pathology in the child that it rises to the level of Child Psychological Abuse (DSM-5 V995.51). Spousal emotional and psychological abuse of the targeted parent by the allied parent using the child as the weapon is a second dangerous pathology of concern in the family that warrants a proper risk assessment.
Attachment pathology is only created by problematic parenting (pathogenic parenting), either from the targeted-rejected parent or from the allied parent. Whenever there is significant attachment pathology displayed by a child surrounding divorce, a proper diagnostic risk assessment needs to be conducted.
From AFCC & NCJFCJ: “Children are at greater risk..”
When children are at risk, a proper risk assessment needs to be conducted and psychologists’ duty to protect obligations are active.
In all cases of a dangerous pathology, including possible psychological child abuse (DSM-5 V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse) and possible spousal emotional and psychological abuse using the child as the weapon (DSM-5 V995.82 Spouse or Partner Abuse, Psychological), a proper risk assessment is required. Mental health professionals have duty to protect obligations.
The Joint Statement notes the “risk” associated with “parent=child contact problems.” This then clearly requires that a proper risk assessment for possible child abuse be conducted to the differential diagnosis of:
- Possible child abuse by the targeted parent creating the child’s attachment pathology toward that parent (identify it, treat it, resolve it and restore the child’s attachment bond to the parent),
- Possible Child Psychological Abuse (DSM-5 V995.51) by the allied narcissistic-borderline-dark personality parent who is creating a shared persecutory delusion in the child that then destroys the child’s attachment bond to the other parent for the secondary gain of manipulating the court’s decision surrounding child custody – a false attachment pathology imposed on the child – a Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another (DSM-5 300.19)
Note: “polarization” of perceptions is a psychiatric symptom called “splitting” and it is associated with both borderline and narcissistic personality pathology. When this polarization symptom of splitting spreads to the surrounding professionals, Marsha Linehan calls it “staff splitting.”
Parallel Process Staff Splitting (Childress, 2019)
From Linehan: “Staff splitting,” as mentioned earlier, is a much-discussed phenomenon in which professionals treating borderline patients begin arguing and fighting about a patient, the treatment plan, or the behavior of the other professionals with the patient.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)
From Linehan: “Arguments among staff members and differences in points of view, traditionally associated with staff splitting, are seen as failures in synthesis and interpersonal process among the staff rather than as a patient’s problem… Therapist disagreements over a patient are treated as potentially equally valid poles of a dialectic. Thus, the starting point for dialogue is the recognition that a polarity has arisen, together with an implicit (if not explicit) assumption that resolution will require working toward synthesis.” (Linehan, 1993, p. 432)
Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. New York, NY: Guilford
Why are professional organizations masking and covering-up the serious nature of the pathology in the family by using non-professional terms that hide what the pathology is, and by insead using euphemisms for child abuse (i.e., parent-child contact problems”)?
Is it because the forensic psychologists do not know the “established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline” necessary for professional competence with this court-involved family conflict pathology?
The established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline is:
- Attachment – Bowlby and others
- Family systems therapy – Minuchin and others
- Personality disorders – Linehan and others
- Complex trauma – van der Kolk and others
- Child development – Tronick and others
- Self psychology – Kohut and others
- DSM-5 diagnostic system & delusional thought disorders
Are the forensic psychologists working on this Joint Statement competent based on their education, training, and experience in the “established scientific and professional knowledge of the discipline” required for professional competence?
2.01 Boundaries of Competence
(a) Psychologists provide services, teach, and conduct research with populations and in areas only within the boundaries of their competence, based on their education, training, supervised experience, consultation, study, or professional experience.
A review of the vitaes of the forensic psychologists participating in this Joint Statement from the AFCC and NCJFCJ is warranted regarding Standard 2.01 Boundaries of Competence in the following domains of scientifically established professional knowledge:
- Attachment pathology
When assessing, diagnosing (identifying), and treating (fixing) severe attachment pathology displayed by the child.
- Delusional thought disorders
When assessing, diagnosing (identifying), and treating (fixing) possible delusional thought disorder pathology in the parent being imposed on the child.
- Narcissistic, borderline, and dark personalities
When assessing, diagnosing (identifying), and treating (fixing) the potential impact on family relationships of parental personality pathology.
- Family systems therapy and constructs
When assessing, diagnosing (identifying), and treating (fixing) family conflict pathology.
When a child is at “risk,” all mental health professionals have duty to protect obligations and a proper risk assessment for possible child abuse needs to be conducted. Psychologists have duty to protect obligations.
Dr. Childress Notes 3.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, CA PSY 18856