Does Parental Alienation Syndrome Exist?

Remember when Alec Baldwin railed against his then-11-year-old daughter, Ireland, in that now infamous voicemail message? Well, he claims he was suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and has written a memoir, A Promise to Ourselves, about his devastating divorce and child custody battle with Kim Basinger. But what exactly is PAS and why is it so controversial? PAS is a theory developed by Dr. Richard Gardner in the late 1980s, which arises usually during child custody battles. The custodial parent engages in brainwashing the child against the non-custodial parent, and the child’s own behaviors contribute to the vilification of the other parent. In a situation like this, for example, the custodial parent might badmouth the other parent in front of the children. Or the parent might withhold visitation.

As if child custody wasn’t already a controversial topic, PAS adds to the controversy because it isn’t recognized by any professional body, according to the National Organization of Women and the Leadership Council. NOW argues that PAS is simply a legal defense created to protect fathers from the consequences of their abusive behaviors. According to an article by a retired judge and former faculty member for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and a former president of the American Psychiatric Association, “Parental Alienation Syndrome has been used nationwide by batterers as a courtroom tactic to silence abused children by attempting to discredit their disclosures of abuse.”

Do you think PAS actually exists? Is it possible for a parent to poison a child against another parent? Or is the custodial parent, who is usually the mother, trying to protect her child from abuse? Tell us in the comments.