Survey results just released show near unanimous agreement among professionals that children can be manipulated by one parent to turn against the other parent.
The survey was taken at the annual International Conference of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Approximately 1000 legal and mental health professionals attended a debate about whether parental alienation should be included in the future edition of the manual of official psychiatric diagnoses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association – Fifth Edition, commonly known as the DSM-5.
About 300 people responded to the survey. Nearly every respondent, 98%, responded Yes to the question: “Do you think that some children are manipulated by one parent to irrationally and unjustifiably reject the other parent?”
Despite their contrasting opinions on the issue of whether the DSM-5 should include parental alienation, the debate panel agreed: “The survey results were overwhelming in support of the basic tenet of parental alienation: children can be manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent who does not deserve to be rejected.”
Respondents to the survey were divided about whether the rejected parent shares blame when the favored parent engages in alienating behaviors, what I call divorce poison. Although the panel have not yet explained this finding, it is the result I would expect because the question is ambiguous.
The roots of alienation differ among children. Like nearly every psychological disturbance in childhood, multiple threads make up the tapestry of the child’s personality. (See The Complex Tapestry of Parental Alienation.) When looking at the rejected parent’s contributions to the problem, we see a continuum from those whose behavior is primarily responsible for the problem, to those who contribute significantly and without whose contributions the children might not be alienated, to those whose contributions may not have helped the situation, but did not play any significant role in generating the children’s rejection. (See my Huffpost: Stop Divorce Poison.)
The division among survey responses may reflect nothing more than the respondents thinking about different types of cases. Had they been asked, “Do you believe there are some cases in which a rejected parent’s behavior has not contributed significantly to a child’s rejection?” it is likely that the responses would have approached the consensus found with respect to the issue of the existence of irrational parental alienation.
Also, the notions of cause of a problem and blame for it are complex. Legal dictionaries list many different types of causes. I discuss this in my training seminars and expect to blog about it in the future.
The panel expects to publish a more extensive analysis of the survey results. When they do, you can read about it here.