Parental alienation

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Parental alienation in the AIFS library catalogue

The forgotten parent : the targeted parent perspective of parental alienation.

Poustie C, Matthewson M and Balmer S
Journal of Family Issues 28 May 2018: Advance online publication
Much of the research on the lived experience of targeted parents in parental alienation cases has originated from sources other than the targeted parent themselves. This article adds to the evidence base with an exploratory study of the experiences of 126 male and female parents from Australia and overseas. The participants raised 6 common themes, relating to tactics used by the alienating parent, geographical distance, 'the System', mental health, family violence and child abuse, and coping and support. Future directions for research are also considered.

Parental alienation : targeted parent perspective.

Balmer S, Matthewson M and Haines J
Australian Journal of Psychology v. 70 no. 1 Mar 2018: 91-99
This article explores the characteristics and common experiences of parents subject to parental alienation. An online survey was conducted with 225 'targeted parents', with findings regarding parent gender, child age, presence and severity of exposure to parental alienation, and perceived threat.

Recommendations for best practice in response to parental alienation : findings from a systematic review.

Templer K, Matthewson M, Haines J and Cox G
Journal of Family Therapy v. 39 no. 1 Feb 2017: 103-122
Parental alienation can be a central issue in child custody disputes, whereby one parent attempts to eradicate the relationship between the child and the other parent without reasonable justification. There is a need for both psychological and legal intervention, but the evidence on current interventions is unclear. This article provides a systematic review of the literature to determine best practice responses. The review identified ten studies concerning therapeutic or legal interventions, published between 1990 and 2015. The article describes the studies and makes recommendations about effective intervention strategies, the therapeutic skills needed to achieve efficacious outcomes, and how mental health professionals can assist courts in their decision-making processes.

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 7th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2015. 9781925091281: 279-316
Written for lawyers, counsellors, finance industry professionals, and students, this reference guide explains legislation, relevant case law, and legal procedures in Australian family law. This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, mental health issues, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Child custody evaluation : new theoretical applications and research

Hynan D
Springfield, Ill. : Charles C. Thomas, c2014.
"Each year [in the United States], over one and a half million children experience the divorce of their parents. The goal of this book is to contribute to the advancement of knowledge regarding children of divorce, especially the practice of evaluation as it pertains to child custody. The reality of custody evaluation work invokes a plethora of specific circumstances regarding each family that must be taken into consideration. To work towards this goal, the author integrates scientific findings, relevant theory, and professional experience in a manner that is conceptually sound and useful in practice. Each chapter begins with a Practice Checklist to emphasize what is needed to engage in careful deliberation. Major topics include: applications of game theory to child custody; uncertainty in judgment from Nobel Prize-winning research; time sharing; collecting information from parents and collaterals; observing parental interaction with children; parental alienation; research on strategic behavior in divorce disputes; and gatekeeping. In addition, domestic violence, child abuse, substance abuse, relocation, report writing, ethics, guidelines, risk management, and practice improvement are discussed. This book also contains important new research on the PAI, PCRI, and MMPI-2 specific to child custody evaluation."

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 6th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2013. 9781922042996: 277-312
This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, mental health issues, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Children who resist postseparation parental contact : a differential approach for legal and mental health professionals

Fidler B, Bala N and Saini M
New York : Oxford University Press, c2013.
"[This book is an] empirically based review of parental alienation that integrates the best research evidence with clinical insight from interviews with leading scholars and practitioners. The authors - Fidler, Bala, and Saini - a psychologist, a lawyer and a social worker, are an multidisciplinary team who draw upon the growing body of mental health and legal literature to summarize the historical development and controversies surrounding the concept of "alienation" and explain the causes, dynamics, and differentiation of various types of parent-child relationship issues. The authors review research on prevalence, risk factors, indicators, assessment, and measurement to form a conceptual integration of multiple factors relevant to the etiology and maintenance of the problem of strained parent-child relationships. A differential approach to assessment and intervention is provided. Children's rights, the role of their wishes and preferences in legal proceedings, and the short- and long-term impact of parental alienation are also discussed. Considering legal, clinical, prevention, and intervention strategies, and concluding with recommendations for practice, research, and policy, this book is a much-needed resource for mental health professionals, judges, family lawyers, child protection workers, mediators, and others who work with families dealing with divorce, separation, and child custody issues."

Children and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 5th ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2012. 9781921593772: 277-311
This chapter reviews common issues that may rise in children's matters before the family court and in dispute resolution. It provides advice on taking instructions and questioning clients, and reviews the legal implications of gambling, parental drug use, family violence, child abuse, and parental alienation syndrome.

Parental alienation, contact problems and the Family Justice System.

Bala N
20 February 2012
Although in high conflict separations some children maintain good relationships with both parents, many children become resistant to contact with one parent. Cases with contact problems pose great challenges for courts and other family justice professionals, in terms of ascertaining facts, understanding complex dynamics and making decisions about how to intervene in managing parent-child relationships. In some cases the child's rejection of a parent is justified by abuse, poor parenting or tensions within a stepfamily (estrangement). Alienation occurs if one parent undermines the child's relationship with the other parent, resulting in the child's rejection of that parent based not on the child's own experiences with the rejected parent but rather reflecting the attitude of the alienating parent. This presentation will include an analysis of reported Australian decisions on parental alienation (n=74). The decisions and the range of responses reflect the complexity and variability of these cases, as well as the challenges of finding effective interventions. While there are various sanctions and responses available, in more severe cases, often the most effective response to alienation is a clear message that residence may be reversed; in appropriate cases the best interests of the child requires a reversal of residence arrangements, even if contrary to the wishes of the child. While Australia has more publicly funded services than most jurisdictions, there is a need for better Court directed mental health interventions to allow for better responses to the highest conflict cases with contact problems. There needs to be early identification and assessment of high conflict cases, and case management of these most challenging cases by the most experienced family law judges.

When a child rejects a parent : why children resist contact.

Altobelli T
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 25 no. 3 Nov 2011: 185-209
This article will highlight the disconcerting complexity that often lies beneath the surface of cases where a child rejects a parent, or resists contact with that parent. There are a range of possible explanations which will not only assist to understand what the problem is but what is the best response by the judiciary, lawyers and mental health and social science experts.

Domestic violence, abuse, and child custody : legal strategies and policy issues

Hannah M and Goldstein B
Kingston, NJ : Civic Research Institute, c2010.

In the name of the child : a developmental approach to understanding and helping children of conflicted and violent divorce

Johnston J, Roseby V and Kuehnle K
New York : Springer, 2009.
"The [book] examines both the immediate and long-term effects of high-conflict divorce on children. By combining three decades of research with clinical experience, the authors trace the developmental problems affecting very young children through adolescence and adulthood, paying special attention to the impact of family violence and the dynamics of parental alienation. The authors present clinical interventions that have proven to be most effective in their own clinical work with families. With a new emphasis on the need for prevention and early intervention, this edition examines how defensive strategies and symptoms of distress in children can consolidate into immutable, long-standing psychopathology in their adult lives. This book contains the policies and procedures that can preempt these high-conflict outcomes in divorcing families. "

Child and relationship factors.

Alexander R
Australian master family law guide. 3rd ed. Sydney : CCH Australia, 2009. 9781921593239: 265-292
This chapter looks at issues that may arise in children's matters at all levels of problem solving and dispute resolution, including child abuse, domestic violence, false allegations, parental alienation syndrome, drug use, presceription drugs, mental illness, gambling, special needs of children and theories relating to bonding and attachment, overnight stays and parenting arrangements. The chapter must be read in combination with other chapters in Part B of this book on children.

Outcomes of applications to court for contact orders after parental separation or divorce

Hunt J and Macleod A
London : Family Law and Justice Division, Ministry of Justice, 2008.
This report examines the outcomes of applications to court for contact orders after parental separation or divorce in Great Britain. The study draws largely upon 300 court files on cases where an application for a contact order was made under Section 8 of the Children Act 1989. This Act is used in cases where parents cannot agree on contact - normally parents are free to determine their own arrangements, and there is no statutory presumption that there should be contact. However, public policy and case law strongly promotes the maintenance of children's relationships with both of their parents. This study investigates several aspects: the outcome of cases, in particular the duration, frequency and mode of contact; the relationship between parent expectations and case outcome; the process through which outcomes were reached, such as adjudication or concilation; and the circumstances, reasons and explanations behind the cases, including arguments and evidence presented, legal recommendations, and court judgements. Reasons presented include allegations of child abuse, domestic violence, and parental alienation syndrome.

Child abuse and family law: understanding the issues facing human service and legal professionals.

Brown T and Alexander R
Crows Nest, NSW : Allen and Unwin, 2007
This book examines child abuse and child abuse allegations during parental separation and divorce, within the context of Australian family law. It begins with a brief history of child abuse in family law, including false allegations and parental alienation syndrome, and discusses the current laws of case law and child protection under the Family Law Act. The book examines the reporting, prevalence, definition, evidence, and custody and contact considerations of different types of child abuse, and the impact divorce and child abuse allegations have on families. The book concludes with child protection considerations of working with children, alleged perpetrators and non-offending parents and working with legal services, and includes case studies of intervention.

Adult children of parental alienation syndrome : breaking the ties that bind

Baker A
New York : W.W. Norton & Co., c2007.
"Parental alienation syndrome (PAS), occurs when one parent, often in response to divorce or separation, successfully manipulates a child to turn against the other (targeted) parent. In its most extreme form, children report that they despise or are frightened of the targeted parent, and refuse to have any relationship with him or her. Researchers are just beginning to study the ramifications of PAS on the child victims. In this ... book, Baker describes the long-term impact of PAS, which may include depression, divorce, substance abuse, trust issues, and alienation from one's own children. Based on a series of confidential research interviews with individuals who believe that they were child victims of PAS, the book provides an adult's perspective and voice to the experience of being manipulated as a child by one parent to turn against the other parent. By explaining the process and the meaning of the alienation for them, the interview subjects take the reader inside the world of PAS and demonstrate its life-long impact."

The international handbook of parental alienation syndrome : conceptual, clinical and legal considerations

Gardner R, Sauber S and Lorandos D
Sprinfield, Ill. : Charles C. Thomas, c2006.

Recognition of PAS in Australia.

Berns S
In: Gardner, R. A., Sauber, S. R. and Lorandos, D. eds. The international handbook of parental alienation syndrome: conceptual, clinical and legal considerations. Springfield, Ill: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, 2006, p121-130
This chapter reviews the acceptance and presentation of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in Australian family law courts. The author begins by explaining family law and legal procedures in Australia of relevance to PAS, as compared to American law, including the ideal of joint parental responsibility, parental orders, the preservation of contact with non resident parents, the greater latitude of judges to work towards the best interests of the child, the increase in self representation by litigants, and the seeming shift in bargaining power to the non resident parent. The author then discusses the acceptance and use of the charge of PAS in family court trials, and the reliability of litigants and expert witnesses. The author concludes that there are no current institutional barriers to the use of PAS in courts, and that there is scope for greater acceptance if the PAS controversy was resolved with authoritative evidence, if expert witnesses behaved appropriately, and if legal advice was more easily accessible.

A handbook of divorce and custody : forensic, developmental, and clinical perspectives

Gunsberg L and Hymowitz P
Hillsdale, NJ : Analytic Press, 2005.

Children of divorce who reject a parent and refuse visitation: recent research and social policy implications for the alienated child.

Johnston J
In: Beyond the horizon: conference handbook: 11th National Family Law Conference, Gold Coast, September 2004. Melbourne, Vic: Television Education Network, 2004, p219-234, figure
A small proportion of children whose parents have divorced develop strong negative attitudes towards one of their parents. This paper critiques parent alienation syndrome theory and reformulates it as the alienated child. It models factors that contribute to alienation and presents supporting evidence from recent research findings. The paper then discusses whether or not children need a relationship with both parents, whether children who reject a parent are at risk for future emotional or psychological disorders, and whether they need court ordered treatment. It asks: at what point should children be given their own voice and have their self determination respected?

Managing contact difficulties: a child-centred approach

Freeman R and Freeman G
Ottawa, Ont. : Dept. of Justice Canada, c2003.
"This paper examines the utility of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) and other formulations that have been proposed to explain alienation. Drawing on a literature review and consultation with key informants in Canada and abroad, the authors put forward several critical questions concerning contact difficulties. The paper discusses how contact benefits children, factors that influence contact, the child?s experience of contact, prevalence of difficulties and variables related to undermining and obstructing child-parent relationships. The implications for managing contact difficulties are also presented, along with possible directions for a child- centred response to contact difficulties."--Executive summary, P. 5.

Child custody & domestic violence : a call for safety and accountability

Jaffe P, Lemon N and Poisson S
Thousand Oaks, Calif. : Sage Publications, 2003.
This book examines the clinical and legal issues and the resolution of custody disputes, especially those with allegations of domestic violence. Interventions, judicial decision making, and recommendations are discussed, and legislation in Australia, New Zealand, United States and Canada is compared. Sections include: why domestic violence is relevant in child-custody disputes; high-conflict custody disputes; custody disputes and domestic violence; impact of domestic violence on children; why is domestic violence relevant to child custody?; assessing safety and responsibility in child-custody disputes; what and whom to assess; differential approaches; controversial issues; changing legislation and legal practice to recognize domestic violence in child-custody proceedings; international treaties; national laws; from theory to practice: the varying responses of the court system to domestic violence in child-custody cases; a framework for action by courts and communities to recognize the plight of abused victims and their children after separation; legislation; training; and programs and policy development.

Parental alienation syndrome revisited.

Achimovich L
Child Sexual Abuse - Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference : Adelaide, 01 May 2003 - 02 May 2003. Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 2003: 10p
After discussing the influence in family courts of Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and related ideas, the author examines the outcomes of reframing court processes in the light of these ideas. She claims that no apparent improvements either in the quality of expert witness testimony or in the welfare of children have resulted from these efforts. She also believes that the 1995 reform of the Family Law Act has encouraged the use of the PAS diagnosis, engendering an increase in adversarial cases and a neglect of issues of child development and attachment. The Act's protection of the child's right to contact has resulted in the transfer of the right from child to parent, outweighing the Act's increased recognition of the effects of violence upon children. The author argues for longer and broader outcome studies to assess the effects on the child and the protective parent of forced contact and change of residence.

Parental alienation syndrome in family court disputes.

Quadrio C
Child Sexual Abuse - Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference : Adelaide, 01 May 2003 - 02 May 2003. Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 2003: 9p
Parental Alienation Syndrome is sometimes invoked in family law proceedings to explain false allegations made by one parent against another; usually the mother is said to be alienating the children from the father, and the allegations usually refer to the sexual abuse of a child. The author reviews the syndrome as defined by Gardner, and its utility or otherwise in legal proceedings. She also reviews the issue of false allegations of sexual abuse, which have been shown by various studies to be uncommon, and the credibility of children making disclosures.

Are children protected in the Family Court? A perspective from Western Australia.

Jenkins S
Child Sexual Abuse - Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference : Adelaide, 01 May 2003 - 02 May 2003. Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 2003: 14p
There is a widespread belief that mothers make false accusations of child sexual abuse against fathers in residency and contact cases. This paper examines the validity of this view as applied to the Family Court of Western Australia, in particular, the belief that false accusations are rampant; the questionable nature of parental alienation syndrome; and the belief that young children's accounts of abuse lack credibility. The author claims that empirical research demonstrates the rarity of false allegations. She also expresses concern over judgements made in the Family Court of Western Australia where allegations of child sexual abuse are involved. She examines the quality of expert testimony, which often labels as unreliable disclosures of sexual abuse from children. She argues that ruling in favour of contact with a parent previously accused of having abused the child does not necessarily equate with the serving the best interests of the child.

Parental alienation syndrome: a paradigm for child abuse in Australian family law.

McInnes E
Child Sexual Abuse - Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference : Adelaide, 01 May 2003 - 02 May 2003. Canberra : Australian Institute of Criminology, 2003: 8p
At its simplest, the Parental Alienation Syndrome paradigm claims that allegations of child abuse are invented and that children's statements and manifestations of fear are the outcome of parental coaching. This paper argues that conditions are created for the de facto operating presumption of the Parental Alienation Syndrome paradigm in the courts because the Family Court of Australia lacks the funding to investigate allegations of child abuse by a parent. The author suggests that because the private adversarial system of family law commonly fails to substantiate allegations of child abuse, safety for children in family law proceedings who are subject to abuse depends on access to a national professional investigative service to inform the Court. She calls for a redefinition of a child's best interests in the Family Law Act to give safety the highest value.

Are children protected in the Family Court? A perspective from Western Australia.

Jenkins S
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy v. 23 no. 3 Sep 2002 145-152
Despite a landmark High Court judgement in the area of child sexual abuse allegations (M and M, 1988), a major concern in such cases seems to be the fear that mothers use false accusations against fathers as 'weapons' in custody and contact cases. This paper seeks to examine the validity of such views as they apply to Western Australia. In particular, it examines the belief that false accusations are rampant; the questionable nature of 'parental alienation syndrome', the belief that young children's accounts of abuse lack credibility, and the ignoring of the effect of abuse itself on the nature of a child's testimony. The paper argues that the principle of 'protection of the child's best interests' should not necessarily be equated with the child having access, with a parent previously accused of having abused the child.

Parents behaving badly: parental alienation syndrome in the Family Court: magic bullet or poisoned chalice.

Berns S
Australian Journal of Family Law v. 15 no. 3 Nov 2001 191-214
The author suggests a connection between the popularisation of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and the apparent requirement of adversarial processes to deliver a knockout blow. In an attempt to investigate this, research was conducted into the way in which PAS allegations have played out in the Brisbane registry of the Family Court over a 5 year period. During this research, family law professionals were surveyed and all unreported judgments between 1 January 1995 and 15 March 2001 were examined for evidence of PAS. Following analysis of the survey data and the unreported judgments, semi-structured interviews were conducted with a small sample of legal practitioners and counsellors. A complex picture emerges from the judgments. This picture differs somewhat from the expectations of those surveyed and interviewed and those of the author and supports the likelihood of gender differences with respect to the purposes of PAS allegations and the rhetorical contexts in which they occur.

Alienation revisited.

Lodge P
Sydney, NSW: Family Court of Australia, Papers and Reports - Paper presented at Third Family Court of Australia National Conference, Melbourne, October 1998, 15p, Online only (53K)
Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is defined in this paper as a disturbance in the child who, in the context of divorce, becomes preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of one parent which is either unjustified or exaggerated. It arises from a combination of parental influence and the child's active contributions to the campaign of denigration. The incidence of PAS is explored and the social context of alienation, parental alienation and its manifestations, and children and alienation are discussed. Suggested responses are considered, highlighting the need for interventions to emphasise and be guided by the restoration of contact as the primary objective.

Case notes.

Watt M, Hall C and Gray B
Current Family Law v. 3 no. 4 1997 180-199
Family law cases are discussed which cover the following areas: no power to order access under family law (child abduction convention) regulations; consent to surgical invasion of minor for benefit of third party; procedural fairness to the unrepresented litigant (includes parental alienation syndrome); domestic violence in claim for settlement of property-cross-vested claim for damages for assault; unilateral mistake as ground for setting aside consent orders altering property interests; publication of findings of child abuse to child protection authorities; and case stated: can estopple oust property and spousal maintenance jurisdiction of Family Court.
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