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Parental Alienation

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Defined in the 1970’s by Dr. Richard Gardner, who is also controversial for some of his other beliefs. “The behaviors of individuals who are alienating their children from the other parent, usually while going through a high conflict divorce.” He coined the term for the action of the parent Parental Alienation (PA). Since that time, most experts have used Dr. Gardner’s definition as a benchmark for diagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Induced parental alienation is a specific form of psychological child abuse, which is listed in DSM-5, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), under diagnostic code V 995.51 “child psychological abuse”. Untreated induced parental alienation can lead to long-term traumatic psychological and physical effects in the children concerned. This fact is still not given sufficient attention in family court cases. The article gives a condensed overview of parental alienation, summarising its definition, the symptoms and the various levels of severity. It also describes some major alienation techniques and possible psychosomatic and psychiatric effects of induced parental alienation. Finally, attention is drawn to programmes of prevention and intervention now used and evaluated in some countries. The article concludes with two real-life examples from psychiatric practice, and a comprehensive list of international references.