The Battle for Britain’s Alienated Children (The Hybrid Myth)

Breaking down the risks ahead for parents and children affected by parental alienation in the UK, we looked earlier this week at the high conflict myth.

The notion that PA is all about high conflict is one which has been enthusiastically embraced by CAFCASS in their recent declaration of expertise in this field.  For a body which has hitherto denied all efforts to raise consciousness about PA, the about turn on the issue is fascinating to observe.  It is also concerning, especially when, their assertions that they are ‘consulting with experts’ is one which to date, appears to be without foundation.

Parental alienation is a mental health issue not a parental rights issue. I have been saying this for a long time and whilst it has been resisted in some quarters, most accept that the issue is not one which is about contact or conflict, it is about a child’s maladaptive response to dynamics around them.  Those who wish to, can consider the writings of many experts around the world on the seriousness of parental alienation and its long term impact upon children.  They can also immerse themselves in the scientific literature which is a large body of work by eminent professionals, stretching back decades.

Parental alienation is not an issue in which a one size fits all, off the peg response can be purchased and delivered to a family.  Reading the proclamations of CAFCASS however, one would be forgiven for thinking that it is an issue which is simply all about high conflict which will respond to one particular intervention with threats attached to it to reduce time or remove a child from a parent’s care.  Families who might face this approach stand in my view, to risk so much more than they will gain, for it is a truth in this field that an unaware practitioner without knowledge of how high functioning psychologically unwell people behave, will make things much worse for a child not better.  Are we entering into the twigh-light zone of state sponsored experimentation on families affected by PA? Quite possibly.  Am I concerned?  Absolutely.  Here’s why.

The word hybrid means a thing comprised of two elements.  Hybrid cars for example.  In parental alienation, the category of hybrid, which is actually not accepted by all of the international experts in the field, means that a case is not a pure case.  And that is all it means.

A pure case of parental alienation is one which fits the Childress diagnostic model.  This model, which has been used in a very similar format to that laid out by Childress, for the past five decades, triages cases of a child’s refusal to see a parent into justified and unjustified rejection.  It does not use the hybrid category.   In the FSC model, a case is triaged into pure, hybrid or justified rejection and treatment routes are developed in response.  In the FSC model, a pure case is one in which the aligned parent has a personality disorder, the rejected parent has not contributed to the problem and the child has entered into a shared delusional disorder (encapsulated delusion or folie a deux).  FSC uses a psychiatrist or psychologist to diagnose the PD part of the problem and then recommends a transfer of residence in such a case.  All of which takes time, all of which requires the highest level of skill in differentiation and in diagnostic capacity.  It is simply impossible for this work to be done outside of the mental health specialist arena and the idea that CAFCASS have any role to play in such work is a nonsense.

A hybrid case, which let’s remember, CAFCASS are claiming most cases are, is one in which the elements within the case are not so easily differentiated because the aligned or alienating parent does not have a personality disorder. These cases are tricky, because the differentiation is not as clear as in pure cases and the family often requires a rolling assessment and intervention programme to fully understand and address the different dynamics at play.  What we find at the Family Separation Clinic, is that the rolling assessment and intervention (a continuous assessment whilst intervening in the family with a combination of approaches) allows for the evidence of who can and will change and who cannot or won’t change to emerge.  Behavioural contracting within such cases, allows for a full range of testing of the family dynamic which, after a period of twelve weeks, is likely to show the cause of the alienation in the child and the strengths and capacity of the family to resolve the issue.  Where such cases remain resistant, further testing for contributory behaviours or hidden psychological issues, may be necessary.  Again however, the hybrid case is a mental health issue and it is not one which can be addressed by anyone without a full training in either psychology or psychotherapy.

A hybrid case, which is being bandied around by CAFCASS as the most usual case seen in parental alienation is NOT about both parent’s contributing to the child’s withdrawal from one and alignment with the other.  Hybrid is ONLY the differentiation from pure and justified rejection.  In a hybrid case the child is still completely withdrawn from a parent and aligned to the other but for example, if one applied the Childress diagnostic model to it, it would be negative for parental alienation.  In the work done at the Family Separation Clinic however, a child who is rejecting and aligned is still alienated and the underlying reasons for that are many and varied but they are NOT always caused by two parents in high conflict,  Neither are parents in a hybrid case both contributing to the problem.  Hybrid simply means the absence of personality disorder but the absence of any justifiable reason why a parent is being rejected in the presence of other contributory dynamics.  As such it takes real skill to refine the response to such a case and CAFCASS seizing upon hybrid and high conflict as a way of convincing parents that they are both to blame, is a serious misrepresentation of both international research evidence AND internationally recognised standards of practice in this field.

Before the UK is hounded down the road of untrained and unskilled people being allowed to blunder about in the lives of families affected by this horrible problem we must bring absolute clarity to the problem of parental alienation.  It is a problem which can affect children for a life time and it is one which takes a huge amount of practitioner time and resources to unravel.  A properly differentiated case, which is properly matched to the right treatment route, can be resolved in seconds.  A poorly differentiated case, in which the treatment route is badly matched, will cause a child immense harm in the delivery. Harm which CAFCASS are responsible for preventing not causing.

Working with parental alienation is not about making threats against parents or wielding power, it is about considering the ways in which the behavioural dynamics can be changed and then asking the court to use the power invested in that system to create that change. CAFCASS proclamations that a parent may lose their child or have their time with their child reduced if they do not respond to their ‘intense therapy’ is a somewhat bizarre and misleading claim in itself given that it is the responsibility of judges to decide outcomes in court.  Treating parental alienation by forcing a child (who has already been forced into losing one parent to keep the other),  to lose that parent in order to regain the other, is not the way that any responsible practitioner wishes to treat parental alienation. Seeing those threats made against parents in a media headline, is discomforting to say the least.

There is a long way to go before the final whistle blows on this game and whilst I can see the evolution of these proposals ending in an evaluation of the CAFCASS pilot by one of their favourite academics (Trinder, Hunt et al) and a dose of funding going to Relate/Tavistock and if they are very lucky and play their appeasement cards right – Families Need Fathers,  the truth is that 2018 is a going to be a big year in the field of parental alienation.   A year in which the reality of the international research and practice will be brought together in conferences all over the world including the UK.  In the shadow of that kind of expertise, the claims by CAFCASS, made without any consultation with anyone, look lame and knee jerk.    Couple together these opportunities for international experts to support parental knowledge and the raising of consciousness and determination of alienated parents to demand the right interventions for their family, and 2018 starts to look like a very different story to that which is being promoted by CAFCASS in their efforts to take control of the PA space.

No more labelling of parental alienation as high conflict or using hybrid as a label to blame both parents. No more generic therapy and no intervention for pa families without evidence of its efficacy.

Those are the mottos of those who know.

That is the commitment we make to the children and families of the United Kingdom who suffer parental alienation.

The response is coming.




  1. Brilliant stuff as ever, Karen. For what it’s worth, I’ve written to Anthony Douglas and Sarah Parsons, urging them to commission something like an advisory or working group on PA comprised of external UK experts in the field, with the aim of them authoring Cafcass’s training material and pathways (pathways which, in line with what you write above, will often lead out of Cafcass’s ‘garden’ and into the field of mental health). I’ve copied to my MP, who has been interested in this problem, and asked him to forward to the minister responsible for Cafcass. Will it make a jot of difference? Almost certainly not … but that doesn’t stop me from trying!


    1. Keep on keeping on, the thing is that the truth will out in all of these initiatives – CAFCASS are already backing away from their original media spin, it will dwindle, we will work to protect families from them.


  2. Yet again great knowledgeable words Karen.

    Threats of contact blackmail, speaking as a victim of it for years, is not the answer and only creates more trauma in the alienating parent.

    Now whether this is to provoke the “waking up” I’ve heard described in others (now close personal friends) who have been diagnosed with NPD breaking through their cognitive distortions (persecutory delusions, when splitting) implanted by their own alienating parent or experiences raises a few moral questions.

    I don’t think Cafcass realise what the magnitude of what they’ve said and the implications of it – workload wise.

    The focus surely should be promoting contact with both parents and a key part of that is that both get help with their trauma – the alienating parent historic and the non-alienating parent from parental separation.

    I had some thoughts on your last post and I’m beginning to think Cafcass aren’t the only cog in the wheel. We still have judges making the actual decisions. I’m beginning to think a separate specialist is required on parental alienation and what they would look like what training would they need?

    I’ve asked for a parental alienation specialist and psychiatric assessment, let’s see what happens.


  3. Cafcass may well twist and turn to prevent any change to it’s box tick routine. So easy today- rely on gender, a job well done when the stereotype is confirmed, better still when the ‘junior’ parental relationship is maintained but hey ho it’s not so important.

    A smothering blanket that effectively colludes with behaviours that damage children.

    When Cafcass incorporate real expertise, the exposure of Cafcass staff to real world dynamics found in parent/child relationships changes it’s culture. It’s view transformed from seeing only genders entering it’s doors to the complicated reality of people.

    It’ll need funding and lots of expertise. It has every sign of being strapped for cash. Why not the futile money spent on adverserial solicitors directed into Cafcass to help children?

    This world isn’t changed into a win/win situation but it does create a culture that is far better able to navigate the creation of a Best Welfare of Children outcome.


  4. Whilst it is heartening that CAFCASS are making efforts to change the ‘wishes of the child’ dogma, my case of PA is living proof that this proposed new system of intensive therapy will not work. My child, my ex and I spent 6 years in and out of the Court system with a Doctor of Psychology, a Professor of Psychiatry and a Social Services preferred PA expert all repeatedly attempting the ‘therapeutic’ system but as my ex had a highly manipulative personality disorder this therapy was never going to work.

    The idea of threats of reverse residence may sound like a good idea too – it was only with such threats from a (thankfully) robust Judge that my ex finally capitulated and contact was resumed with my child, after a 2 year separation. However my child was never really ‘released’ from my ex’s control so contact was difficult – then after the final hearing when we my ex was no longer under the eye of Court, contact broke down again so I had to return our case to Court.

    The Court papers labelling the situation as ‘high conflict’ was also a huge problem – it made me question my motives. Was I being as intransigent as my ex? Should I just give up? One expert paper stated about the conflict, ‘both parents are childish’. Also as my child became of an age where they could be party to Court papers, this portrayed me negatively as being intractable to my child when I was just flagging up the abuse to protect them and trying to resume a relationship with them. For the same reason this term also reflected badly on me with Social Services and the Cafcass Guardian assessments .

    Why is the system so afraid to call Parental Alienation by it’s name? Until the the correct descriptor is used, and the system recognises that it is not two parents doggedly fighting over a child, like a piece of property, but emotional abuse in the form of power and control being wielded by the personality disordered aligned parent towards the child and the alienated parent, unworkable therapeutic remedies will be sought, the PA cases will drag on for years through Court, children will suffer. No changes will come about.

    Karen, if you need any evidence to help you in your argument, please contact me.


    1. “My child, my ex and I spent 6 years in and out of the Court system with a Doctor of Psychology, a Professor of Psychiatry and a Social Services preferred PA expert all repeatedly attempting the ‘therapeutic’ system but as my ex had a highly manipulative personality disorder this therapy was never going to work.”

      Same. And most of these experts know little to nothing about personality disorders (eg court expert psychology witnesses do not need to know about them ) and indeed may have them themselves (psychiatrist Adam Osborne looked to be in this category Psychiatry/psychology has no professional standard requiring empathy and emotional intelligence and, without these, there is no barrier to predators working in their profession (I’m trying to get their standards body, HPCC, to rectify this).

      “Why is the system so afraid to call Parental Alienation by it’s name?”

      Because it’s caused by a narcissistic personality disordered parent and our society is narcissistic and does not want the mirror of this knowledge held up to it. Courts are especially subject to this as they are the second favourite profession of narcissist-psychopaths (


      1. At the risk of triggering another argument I would point out that PA is NOT always caused by personality disorder narcisstic or otherwise. In the Childress model yes it is but by his own admission, that model would lead to false negatives in cases where a child is resolutely rejecting a parent. The reality is that children enter into psychologically split states of mind to cope with the pressures upon them in situations where the aligned parent does not have a PD. I know because I work with these case regularly, Childress doesn’t regard those cases as alienation, I am not sure what he does regard them as but in my experience, the child remains as fixed and often phobic as in a pure case where a parent does have a PD. The difference in the cases however is that such cases CAN sometimes be resolved in situ. Additionally, in such cases the child’s emergence from alienation is very different from that of encapsulated delusional disorder. This is why it is very important to understand every element of PA in working with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ted,

        (to prevent you from lying to people about my work), here is a link to an article I wrote in 2014 about parental alienation, it’s been on the FSC website ever since I wrote it – in 2014 – a long time before Childress published Foundations.

        It was published in Nagalro – you will see it discussed PD.

        And here is another link to Lowenstein who was writing about PD some thirty years ago or more.

        Do your research properly.

        You might learn something.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My experience with CAFCASS for a case which still ongoing for 6 years is hopeless, worked with 4 of them they are racist made decision before listening. and as usual in UK if the first one made mistake all the following covering her faults by lies.
    in general all workers in family courts are racist and like robots who follow whatever written in the CAFCASS file despite it was written without consulting any party on the problem and the proven bias.
    I agree 100% with Ted family court workers like CAFCASS, Barristers , judges and professionals are personality disorder and that’s why they have sympathy and leaning towards Personality disorder people who are very likely to win.
    they don’t accept you saying the mother is abuser,,in my case they all refused to read evidence in the file about school neglect, sexual abuse, and total absent of the mother in our son early life. (the mother was abused in her childhood)
    in this year school report our son express his grieve saying I’ll try to reduce my cry (a boy of 12 years express his pain and frequent crying)

    the system is destroying our generations, psychiatrist will not be able to fix the mass destruction happened by the system, we need a community involvement.
    if I referred to the homicide cases like Pelka, Hamzah, baby P, it was all permitted abuse by professional who cover up the abuse and looked only to the DV happened to the abuser mother. If the father have a normal contact homocide will not happen also if other people in the surround community involved in visiting homicide will not happen…
    yes PAS can lead to homicide and continuous abuse of the child and it is the community , family dysfunction that result of this.


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