Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome (P.A.S.) may be defined as the manifestation of a child’s systematic alienation from his parent, caused by any one or more of these four factors: conscious programming by the other parent (brainwashing); subconscious or unconscious programming or manipulation by the other parent; factors within the child; and situational or environmental factors. This term was coined by Dr. Richard Gardner, M.D., a clinical professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University, and author of numerous texts on custody litigation.

In his book, Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation (1989 Creative Therapeutics), Dr. Gardner devotes a chapter to describing his clinician’s view of this disorder within the context of the psychologist’s process of evaluation, recommendation and testimony in custody litigation. This book is certainly required reading for the family practitioner and should be considered the source document on the phenomenon of parental alienation syndrome. This paper will attempt to explain the disorder Dr. Gardner has identified and labelled for us, to present a practicing attorney’s perspective of the syndrome and its recognition within the legal system in the province of Québec.