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PAS: A valid psychiatric diagnosis?

Ask the Family Lawyer, by Jeanne M. HannahHere we go again. I recall the stance taken in a joint conference of the American Bar Association Family Law Section and the American Psychological Association a couple of years ago. The well-stated argument was: There is no such thing as “parental alienation syndrome” (PAS).

Tell that to the American Psychiatric Association, highly interested obtaining inclusion of PAS in the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The DSM IV is to psychiatrists and psychologists what Michigan Family Law, Hon. Marilyn J. Kelly, Judith A. Curtis, and Richard A. Roane eds, ICLE 6th ed 2004 is to family lawyers in Michigan — referred to by the short title of “the Family Law Bible.”

PASAccording to an article published in Slate, the Washington Post’s online news magazine, the American Psychiatric Association is contemplating adding PAS to the new edition of the DSM, scheduled to be published in May 2013. This has resulted in a flurry of national lobbying and letter-writing campaign arguing for and against.

In the article, PAS is described as “a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification.”

Dahlia Lithwick,  author of the article writes: “That angry letters and editorials might play any part in a debate about mental health and custody disputes probably tells you most of what you need to know about the validity of PAS.”

Read more about the PAS theory and the controversy here: Lithwick, Dahlia. Mommy Hates Daddy, and You Should Too: The extraordinary fight over “parental alienation syndrome” and what it means for divorce cases.   Published by Slate, May 17, 2011.

  • Tracy2656

    You bet PAS exists.  I’m not a social or medical scientist by any means, but the sheer number of children of divorced parents may be quantified as a group.  PAS is not gender specific.  Although, with women overwhelmingly granted primary custody throughout the U.S. it may appear that way.

    It doesn’t take a mental health professional or an attorney to understand that a child will align with the parent he/she spends the majority of time.  If the custodial parent objectifies their ex partner-in-life as bad; so will the child. 

    If a child is told by a parent “he/she is not part of our family,” when a child asks where their mom or dad is at, say at a family reunion, holiday gathering, or extracurricular event.  This too, impresses the child with the biased notion that dad or mom is “bad” and unwelcome.

    Those in favor of legitimzing PAS are right on track.  It is a sad comment on the family court system that such horrendous tactics; influencing a naive child, must be given legitamacy to be referenced.  Those opposed simply do not want noncustodial parents to gain ground.  If a parent desiring more time with their children, or being given a voice in a child’s educational, moral, spiritual, and health future can be considered as such.  The aforementioned are an inalienable right that all parents inherently possess. 

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