PAS, Parent Alienation Syndrome is a condition that the residential parent operates from and may or may not be aware of. Most times they are not aware of it since it usually occurs in the personality of self centered individuals who feel entitled to their needs and wants being met, and in extreme cases such as Borderline personality disorders.
The key is to detect it and protect the children or child that is caught up in it. Many children living in the home of the PAS parent have been brainwashed. Although this sounds horrific it is true. The PAS parent believes that the child is a physical part of them, unable to see the child as a separate individual. This is more severe than what is known as “maternal gate keeping” which is more of a primal instinct in a protective nature. PAS influence on a child is control motivated by fear. The parent damages the child by promoting dependence on the child rather than encourage independence. The child then develops a stronger than healthy attachment to that parent. Thereby, resulting in an enmeshment, in other words when one person cannot separate their feelings and needs from another, lacking the ability to individuate. This behavior has come to be known among separated parents of the child, in many case intensifies during court custody battles.
According to Michael Bone, Ph.D and Michael R. Walsh in their article from The Florida Bar Journal, Vol.73 No.3 March 1999, p44-48, Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Detect it and What to Do About It
“Any attempt at alienating the children from the other parent should be seen as a direct and willful violation of one of the prime duties of parenthood”
The evidence of this one-sided parental power is the deterioration of the relationship between the child and the non-residential parent. Bone and Walsh continue to believe that “ healthy and established parental relationships do not erode naturally. They must be attacked. Any dramatic change in this area is virtually always an indicator of an alienation process that has had some success in the past.”In many cases the children continue to maintain visitation and time spent with the non-residential parent but there appears over time something wrong. Child may distance themselves emotionally. Or make excuses not to visit or spend time. These changes in the child are deriving from the PAS parent. The child is conditioned to favor the parent and if any signs indicate the connection with the non-residential parent the child can suffer consequences. The child is then living in fear that the residential parent is displeased with him or her. When the child is young and very dependent on their parent for survival and needs the child must act accordingly in order to be taken care of. The child learns that the alienating parent is the boss. There is very little encouragement for the child to develop a emotional connection with the non-residential parent and the child is not allowed to show any enjoyment or anticipation with that parent. Therefore the child ends up in a loyalty bind with the enmeshed parent acting and colluding with them.
The PAS parent can make comments like, “ you will be with your father this week so try to hang in there, or reference to comments like,”I’ll call you to make sure you are OK.” Often times the PAS parent will call continually or excessively beyond what is the norm.
What happens to the child during these visits with the other parent ? First of all the child will not offer any evidence that they are having a good time. They will play the time they spend with the other parent down. Act as if they don’t enjoy the time, or create a negative perception. They can act as if they do not want to spend any time with that parent in order to please the PAS parent.
When court orders visitation rights to the non-residential parent the PAS parent can become highly agitated and fearful. The PAS triggers fear of abandonment, that they will lose control of the child. The PAS attaches themselves to the child and when the child needs to visit the other parent the PAS parent react as though they are losing an appendage.
In conclusion, the PAS can be exhibited in a variety of ways. What to look for is whether the PAS parent is blocking access to the other relationship, it can be undermining that parent, putting them down, making them out to be only good for financial resources, focus on only the negative attributes, for example, “ See, your father is late, because he doesn’t care about you.” Or the comments that visitation is an annoyance it disrupts the weekly routine, and so on.
The non-residential parent should take notes on this behavior however they can. Maintain constant contact with the child even if the child acts as though they are not interested, remember there is more going on for them that you don’t know, remind your child you will always be there and love them no matter what. And most important if the separation has recently occurred you need to be involved right away, do not let time pass, the alienating parent will gain momentum and the disconnect can escalate to a point of no return. Do not underestimate the possibility of this happening to you and your children, the more you know the better you will be.