Parental Alienation Syndrome in DSM VBy djohnm
We know divorce can result in a child being alienated from a parent. It happens all the time. Often one parent actively promotes the alienation of the other parent. That isn’t news. No one doubts parental alienation exists, but is it a disorder or syndrome? That’s an ongoing debate. It doesn’t currently appear in DSM IV, the American Psychiatry Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Many people would like to see it appear in DSM V, which is currently under development.
One group which we very much admire–Fathers and Families–is doing great work encouraging people to contact the APA and report cases that might qualify as parental alienation cases. We applaud them for their efforts. But at the same we feel they may be embarking on a risky strategy. We wonder if it is important to meet the scientific threshold required for parental alienation to qualify as a mental disorder or syndrome.
Even if the DSM V does not include parental alienation syndrome (PAS) that does not make parental alienation any less tragic. By engaging in a full court press to recognize PAS, the impact of non-recognition might trivialize the parental alienation that does occur, even if it isn’t labelled a syndrome.
We prefer no-fault remedies that fix the problem, once identified, and punish parents who erect obstacles to overcoming parental alienation. If judges are empowered to recognize evidence pointing to parental alienation, they can enforce remedies.
Our fear is that if DSM V ignores PAS, too many people will believe PAS is without merit, and merely a politically motivated snow job. We ourselves don’t know if it qualifies as a syndrome, but we do know it occurs and we’d like to see it end. We’re just not sure pushing the DSM V angle is the right approach. Maybe we are just pessimistic about the chances of it appearing in DSM V. If you’d like to increase those chances, fill out the petitions offered on Fathers and Families.