The hate, vilification or bias adopted by a child towards a parent due to behavioral impression or teachings of the other parent is termed as parental alienation syndrome. It is commonly observed in kids whose parents have a deep animosity between themselves, or in kids who have a single parent. This term was first subjectively defined by Richard Gardner in the 1980s. He stated that this behavior in a child, whether induced deliberately or unknowingly, causing him to hate the other parent. However, it is not given the status of a medical disorder by doctors and the legal community of the world, even though the use of the term is commonly observed in countries like the United States.
The prevalence of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) has been observed and studied right since the 1940s. PAS occurs usually in case of a parent owning custody of a child, usually after a divorce or separation from the spouse. The mother or the father upon custody, imbibes tremendous hatred against the other parent which has no justifiable reason. Children insult, abuse and denigrate the parent and display a total lack of concern for him or her. This is sort of a brainwash or indoctrination infused by either the father or mother through both spoken words and unspoken behavior, as though the other parent is an enemy of the child.
PAS, according to Gardner, is a form of abuse which can be a thought-out procedure by the alienating parent, or simply arise in the child due to constant company of the alienating parent. Gardner further explains that this behavior is characterized into eight kinds of behavior patterns observed in a child. These are
- Sustained vilification of the separated parent by the child
- Very absurd and feeble reasoning given by a child for this malice against the targeted parent
- Maintaining a state of permanent discord against the target parent permanently
- A gut feeling and representation that the behavior is of his or her own accord or decision
- A habitual support of the alienating parent
- Absence of guilty feeling
- Portray or imitate the sentiments of the guardian parent
- A strong ill-feeling towards the target parent’s friends and family
The prevalence of the syndrome and its reference in matters of child custody, divorce, domestic violence and sexual abuse is quite often stated, though it has not been considered as a scientific methodology. Each of these symptoms can each be observed separately or together in a child. But it should also be noted that the presence of all these behavioral patterns do not necessarily indicate the presence of parental alienation syndrome. The degree of damage done to the child depends on how successful the alienating parent was in keeping the child away from the target parent. It also depends on the age of the child and single parenting methods. Younger children are more prone to brainwashing than the older ones. The role of the target parent is also crucial in some cases. If the target parent shows interest and love for the child, even on counter indoctrination by the other parent, the child might still retain a sense of affinity. If the target parent shows no concern, it may again result in alienation syndrome.
In short, whether parental alienation syndrome is accepted by the authorities as a disorder or not, willful instigation of a child against the other parent is a form of mental harassment. The dispute of parents should be limited to themselves. For an innocent child, both parents play an integral part in its emotional development. A child is inherently above any biased feelings for any of the parents and needs their love and protection, equally.