Parental Alienation Syndrome, a term without scientific basis that hides child abuse

There are many voices that criticize or defend the Parental Alienation Syndrome, and almost always, the same question arises: does this term exist, or not? The nomenclature as such was coined by the psychiatrist Richard Gardner in 1985 to refer to a psychopathological disorder in which a child permanently denigrates and insults without justification one of his parents, usually the father, and refuses to have contact with he. Over the years, the SAP began to see the light through another denomination: Malicious mother syndrome, for which the parents were pointed out as inducers of that coconut food against their ex-partner. Although this expression remained in the past, even today there are some voices that defend it as true, despite the fact that at present this syndrome is not recognized by the World Health Organization or the American Psychological Association and, therefore, its scientific rigor is more than questioned.

Delia María Rodríguez, lawyer at Vestalia Abogados de Familia.

“It is a reality that these situations that reach, on many occasions, the category of child abuse, occur regardless of the gender of the parent. In any of the cases, the psychological damage inflicted on children is devastating and, on many occasions, difficult to repair, ”explains Delia María Rodríguez, a lawyer at Vestalia Family Lawyers. Rodríguez assures that the appearance of the SAP has not gone unnoticed by the critics: “And the debate between multidisciplinary experts managing, despite this, to survive over time until it becomes a concept that is not alien to family lawyers within the framework of custody and custody procedures, especially the most warlike and conflictive ones ”.

As he maintains, this has a simple explanation: this phenomenon is highly damaging to children regardless of who and how they were baptized, or if they like their name more or less, it has its own entity, it exists. “It would be hypocritical to ignore that there are family contexts in which continuous parental interference occurs that, depending on its intensity and severity, end up destroying the affective bond between the other parent and their offspring. However, there also seems to be a sinister interest on the part of some groups when it comes to making this type of child abuse invisible ”.

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The Spanish Association of Neuropsychiatry has stated that “the SAP is a serious attempt to medicalize what is actually a power struggle for the custody of a child,” adds Rodríguez. “I can only agree with these statements that perfectly define the origin of this type of abuse,” he continues, “leaving the terminology aside, we must start from the premise that this type of abuse is not a disease, but facts that are undeniable, and that violate the most fundamental rights of children by those who should protect them the most, leading to devastating psychological consequences ”.

However, instead of moving forward, it seems that we are going backwards. Recently the Congress of Deputies has approved a Draft Organic Law for the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents against violence, which, although it is a success in some points, in others it leaves much to be desired. Specifically in its new article 10 bis III it reads: The public authorities will take the necessary measures to prevent theoretical approaches or criteria without scientific endorsement that presume interference or adult manipulation, such as the so-called parental alienation syndrome, from being taken into consideration.. “Frankly, this new article seems to me a dangerous weapon in favor of parents who carry out this type of manipulation against children; the perfect excuse to continue their malicious performances. The first step to make this child abuse visible is to overcome the “social goodness” that leads us to think that there are no parents (both mothers and fathers) capable of carrying out such atrocious behaviors to the detriment of their children ”, he says.

Any emotional separation denotes a strong impact on the children

For the expert, the next objective is to analyze the problem, the statistics of fathers and mothers who have seen and are in this terrible situation after a separation, and who feel completely abandoned by the judicial system: “Listening to them will not return them to your children or lost time, but it will allow other children not to be forced to grow up without the company of a parent. It is a priority to reach a national consensus as to how to name this phenomenon, assuming its existence, and legislating the appropriate measures to guarantee correct protection of children ”.

The right of minors to be heard can be a double-edged sword in situations of child manipulation. “Without a doubt, the parent who interferes in the relationship with the other always requests the judicial examination of the children (during which the Judge and the Public Prosecutor interview them alone), since they trust that the minor will be an ally to achieve their ends (avoid joint custody, suspend visits, etc.). But it is not easy for the Court to detect in a simple judicial examination when a child is manipulated by one of his parents, or if he does not feel free to express his opinions ”.

As he maintains, “any emotional separation denotes a strong impact on the children in common and, therefore, it is expected that there is a resentment about one of the parents, resolving this mourning with the passage of time.” “However,” he continues, “in some family contexts this natural transit stagnates for various reasons, causing different situations in which minors are directly involved (and harmed). It ends in a real nightmare for children who are caught, by the will of one or both parents, in cruel conflicts of loyalties. This, and not the emotional separation from their parents per se, is what is truly traumatic for children, let’s give it whatever name we give it ”. For the expert, it is essential to act as soon as possible, to try to take the appropriate measures, since judicial delays do not play in favor of the children or the injured parents.

Change of behavior of parents and children in conflictive separations

Regarding the attitude of the parents, “they change radically in front of the other, instrumentalizing the minor for their own purposes and personal interests (revenge, economic, possession with respect to the minor). To do this, they adopt a behavior by which they continually insult and devalue the other (alluding to relationship issues that do not concern the children), prevent the right of visits with the other, involve the family and friends in the attacks on the ex-partner , underestimate or ridicule the minor’s feelings towards the other parent, and encourage or reward derogatory behavior towards the father or mother ”.

As Rodríguez explains, regarding children, “abuse can be detected when we perceive a series of behaviors in them, such as irrational rejection of the figure of the other parent, the sudden and unjustified desire not to want to see their father or mother , the repetition of arguments typical of adults to justify the above, or the creation of childhood memories, among others ”.

“Although it would be desirable to say otherwise, as family lawyers we are more than used to seeing this type of behavior in minors. Unfortunately, public services such as the Family Meeting Point or the Child Care Center are, in practice, insufficient to address the conflict and, over time, the form and intensity required by family situations as critical as those that We testify as professionals and that, on many occasions, they have a fatal and irreversible outcome ”, he concludes.

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