I am alerted to false claims of plagiarism in our new book by Dr Craig Childress.

This matter has today been referred to our publisher Charles C Thomas Illinois.

Plagiarism is a serious allegation and the claim being made is entirely without foundation as part of a manufactured argument in our view.  The concepts claimed by Dr Childress as being his, are in fact those which have been used in the UK for more than five decades by psychiatrists and psychologists.  They have also been widely written about by all of the experts in the field of parental alienation both before and after Gardner’s original curation of the eight signs of alienation.  All of the material in our new book is properly referenced to source and claims that they are not are misleading.

We will be taking this matter as far as it needs to go to put a stop to this because it is never acceptable, in any setting, to make such claims and it is, in our view, harmful to the work that is being done around the world to allow this to continue.

We do not intend to rehearse any of the arguments currently being generated by Dr Childress, or become involved in a protracted dispute which is entirely manufactured and completely unnecessary.

William Bernet M.D. Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University and Distinguished Life Fellow, American Psychiatric Association wrote the foreword to our new book.  Readers may wish to read his review of Foundations by Dr Childress which was published in the Parental Alienation Study Group Newsletter, which is reproduced, for information, here. It may help readers and those interested in collaborative and informed practice, to understand the underlying dynamics of the current situation.

Parental Alienation Study Group Newsletter: September 1, 2015

Old Wine in Old Skins: A Commentary on ‘Foundations: An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation’ by C.A Childress Psy.D.

William Bernet & Kathleen Reay

The article below represents the views of the authors, William Bernet and Kathleen Reay only, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PASG.

In the July 2015 issue of Parental Alienation International, PASG member Craig Childress described his new book, Foundations. Craig’s work brings to mind an interesting aspect of the history of parental alienation (PA), that is, the multitude of names that have been applied for the same clinical phenomenon. It also gives a new take on the parable having to do with wine and wineskins.

In the 1940s, David Levy never heard of PA, but he described it in his book on “maternal overprotection.” About the same time, Wilhelm Reich explained that some divorced parents defend against narcissistic injury by using PA to attack the other parent. In the 1950’s, Louise Despert alluded to PA in her book about children of divorce. In the 1960s, Murray Bowen identified PA – without using that term, of course – as a form of triangulation, a condition in some dysfunctional families. In 1970, PASG members Jack Westman and Douglas Kramer and others were the first authors to describe the PA phenomenon in a peer-reviewed journal. Also in the 1970s, E. James Anthony and Therese Benedek described PA in a discussion of folie à deux. In the 1980s, Judith Wallerstein and Saundra Blakeslee used “Medea-like rage” to describe the emotional state of alienating parents. Stanley Clawar and Brynne Rivlin used the terms “programming” and “brainwashing” to describe how PA is brought about. PASG member Barry Bricklin used the term, “Not-Based-On-Actual-Interactions” (NBOAI) to designate the opinions of children who had been manipulated into believing non-events. Of course, Richard Gardner introduced the term “parental alienation syndrome” in 1985. In 1990, Frank Williams introduced the term “parentectomy.”

Since the turn of the 21st century, PA has been described and studied through many perspectives, each with its own terminology. When Joan Kelly and Janet Johnston reformulated the concept in 2001, they preferred to use the term “alienated child” rather than PA. In Poland, PA is called “Zespół Gardnera” or “Gardner Syndrome.” PASG member Guglielmo Gulotta and his Italian colleagues studied PA through psycholinguistic analysis. PASG member Lena Hellblom Sjögren and other European writers have emphasized that inducing PA is a violation of the child’s human rights. Peter Jaffe and his colleagues have said that PA is one of the coercive strategies used by perpetrators of domestic violence to control their family members. PASG member Robert Gordon and his colleagues studied the features of PA with the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory–2. Of course, authors in many countries have identified PA as a form of child psychological abuse. Most members of PASG simply use the term “parental alienation.”

Now, Craig Childress has introduced a new set of terms because he wants to avoid using “parental alienation” or other terms associated with Richard Gardner. Craig has introduced the term “attachment-trauma reenactment disorder” for the child, which he says is the same as shared psychotic disorder or shared delusional disorder. For the parent, he uses the term “pathogenic parenting.” Craig would agree, we think, that he is packaging old wine (the phenomenon that most people think of as PA) in old skins (attachment theory and personality disorders). We agree, of course, with Craig, that sometimes it is helpful to conceptualize the child’s condition as being a disorder of attachment. And sometimes it is helpful to emphasize the narcissistic or borderline personality disorder of the alienating parent.

What we do not understand is Craig’s insistence that his perspective is the only one that counts. We do not understand his insistence that his attachment-based theory is totally different from and has nothing to do with parental alienation syndrome, when there is much overlap between his writings and the publications of Gardner. It seems to us that David Levy, Barry Bricklin, Janet Johnston, Guglielmo Gulotta, Richard Gardner, and Craig Childress are all talking about the same group of children. They have developed theories and constructs that are complementary, interactive, and mutually supportive. There is no need to badmouth the beliefs of other writers in order to promote one’s own theory regarding PA.

William Bernet, M.D., President Nashville, Tennessee