The anti-dad crowd has always been anti-Parental Alienation Syndrome as well. Earlier this year, Ms. Magazine ran a short article that consisted of nothing but the anti-PAS talking points we see reprised time and again. A few months later, NOW came out with an astonishingly fact-free white paper with the same points. A Harvard professor wrote a short piece in Psychology Today that could have been lifted from the NOW piece. The party line has it that Parental Alienation Syndrome is just a clever ruse by fathers’ rights advocates to deprive loving mothers of their children. The fathers using PAS are, in the feminist narrative, invariably abusive toward their wives and children.
That literally none of what the anti-PAS shouters say has the slightest validity deters them not in the least. They’ve got their talking points and they’re sticking to them regardless of facts, reason and common sense. I’ve pointed out before that to pretend that parental alienation doesn’t exist, or that mothers engage in it, is profoundly anti-child. Indeed, parental alienation is child abuse. It’s purpose is to drive a wedge between the child and its other loving parent; if successful, it denies the child the love, support and guidance that parent has to offer and the child needs.
But, for the anti-PAS/anti-dad crowd, honesty and child well-being must take a backseat to the crusade for ever-greater maternal hegemony in custody cases at the expense of fathers and children.
I guess they hadn’t reckoned on this, however (Daily Mail, 11/8/12). It seems that when women alienate their children, the target parent isn’t always a man. In the case reported on, two British lesbians decided to have children. One of them, identified only as CG, conceived via voluntary sperm donation with her partner, CW, providing love and support for birth mother and children. But, as sometimes happens, the pair split up when their children were one and three years old.
And it was at that point that CW embarked on what is now a 10-year campaign that is plainly parental alienation.
Distraught about not being able to see her daughters, estranged CW headed to court again earlier this year to ask judges to force these girls to move to her home in Staffordshire.
But Judge Nicholas Vincent ruled this out saying her children no longer thought seeing her was ‘valid or worthwhile’ and said it was more important that they lived the way they wanted, in Cornwall.
However, in a new twist, the Court of Appeal overturned that decision yesterday as Lord Justice Thorpe said that the girls’ view had been tainted by their birth mother, stating there is warmth between the estranged mum and her girls, adding: ‘There is a clear mismatch between what these children say and how they behave.’Without actually using the words, that’s about as precise a description of parental alienation and Parental Alienation Syndrome as you’re likely to find. CG has tried for 10 years to keep CW out of the children’s lives and has turned to parental alienation to achieve her ends. The children now manifest the classic symptoms of PAS, particularly their rejection of CW without cause. As the judge said, “there is a clear mismatch between what these children say and how they behave.” That is, what they say accords with their feigned indifference toward or antipathy for CW, but their behavior when they’re with her belies their words. In short, they’re trying to satisfy the obvious desires of CG with whom they live, while still maintaining a relationship with CW whom they secretly love. It’s a terrible thing to put children through, but that’s how alienators behave.
He went on the children are ‘no doubt well aware of their mother’s antipathy towards CW and their wishes, although important, should not be taken too literally.
‘She has always been a warm and loving parent who has never failed these children.’
Social workers said there is ‘natural warmth’ between CW and the girls and Justice Thorpe said: ‘A subtle but familiar strategy is for the primary carer to declare that it is for the children to decide, and they go whenever they please, whilst at the same time projecting a clear message that she does not wish or expect them to go.
‘It is also my view that the judge (Vincent) did not sufficiently factor in the crucial importance of the relationship between the children and CW and her family and the damage that would be caused to them by its loss.’
Laying down a warning to CG of where her stubborness may take her, the judge added: ‘If she cannot sustain the relationship between the children and CW then consideration would have to be given to moving them to CW’s home’.
Justice Thorpe is also correct to point out that it’s a typical strategy of an alienating parent to coerce the children to side with her and then step back and say “let the children decide,” knowing full well what their decision will (must) be. He should be congratulated for seeing through CG’s alienating strategy.
Parental Alienation Committed by Both Mothers and FathersInterestingly, the “let the children decide” dodge is very much like arguments I’ve read by psychologists who resist the inclusion of PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Their line is that the issue is “relational” only and therefore not fit for inclusion in the DSM. Among adults, John’s dislike of Jane isn’t necessarily pathological; some people just don’t get along despite being mentally and emotionally whole.
That’s nothing but the obvious, of course, but to apply the notion to the father-child or mother-child relationship, particularly before the children reach adulthood, is nonsense. Parent-child relationships are like no other and to pretend that a child is behaving normally when it suddenly, after a divorce and while living almost exclusively with one parent, without justification begins to loathe the other parent, makes no sense. It ignores the obvious. And yet those who oppose PAS inclusion in the DSM argue exactly the same as CG did – let the children decide. According to them a child who’s been coached by its custodial parent to hate the other parent is simply exercising its own autonomous decision-making. It’s hard to believe anyone takes that claim seriously. It looks more like an excuse for clinging to pre-conceived notions than like a reason for opposing PAS inclusion in the DSM. The similarity between the argument against PAS inclusion and that of parental alienators – that children are just deciding who they like and who they don’t – is shocking.
Whatever the case, I wonder if feminists who so virulently attack the idea of Parental Alienation Syndrome will notice that their opposition has the potential to hurt women as well as men who are their obvious targets. After all, but for Justice Thorpe’s clear seeing, a perfectly loving mother, CW, would be separated from her children forever. Of course the same holds true for mothers whose exes are men; sometimes we see fathers try to alienate children from their mothers. The opposition of NOW and others to PAS recognition serves those fathers well, of course at the expense of mothers. Misandry sure can get complicated.