Looking at PA Through a Different Lens

I was sent a copy of some research on parental alienation which was undertaken recently for CAFCASS Cymru.  A quick read through confirmed that this is not research written by a curious mind, but one which likely has an agenda to manage the rapid growth of interest in parental alienation as a real concept affecting real children in the UK.  Given that organisations such as Families need Fathers have been campaigning on the issue of parental alienation in Wales, it is unsurprising that the flavour of the research is feminist and designed to undermine the reality of parental alienation.  I have long said that if we allow PA to remain as a political game of parental rights ping pong, all we will see is assertion and counter assertion and the truth of the matter which is that parental alienation is emotional and psychological child abuse, will be lost.  This piece of research, commissioned for CAFCASS Cymru, is, in my view, simply part of that ongoing process and as such takes us nowhere other than back round to the beginning, where false assertions are made and no corrective measures to properly establish the reality are taken.

It doesn’t take very long to find the intention in this research.  Turning to page 17, where we see the heading – A rapid review of empirical evidence on parental alienation – the following is asserted without any referencing and without any evidence whatsoever to uphold the claim.

Parental alignment or parental alienation can also be a normal reaction to parental separation.

Which is rapidly followed by a confusing jumble of statements –

However, the extent to which this is a minor, time-limited phenomenon or a more serious issue is controversial (Hands and Warshak, 2011). Such controversy also surrounds the notion of PAS, postulated by Gardner as a sub-category of parental alienation referring to the mental condition experienced by the alienated child, due to its lack of scientific credibility (Rueda, 2004).

Presumably, the authors, in writing this, are leading unaware readers to believe their underlying meaning, which I interpret as –

Parental alienation is something that happens to children, controversy exists in regard to whether this is something that will just pass and anyway PAS is controversial in itself because it lacks scientific credibility.

So that neatly disposes of parental alienation as a real thing even before the ‘rapid review’ is unpacked. So keen are the authors to do this that their next paragraph is even more packed full of assertions and errors.

Referring to the DSM-5 and ICD-10, which are the diagnostic tools used in the USA and Europe for mental health and other problems, the authors have this to say.

‘It is important to note that neither the DSM-V nor the ICD-10 specifically identify parental alienation or PAS. Both include broad definitions of child psychological abuse (DSM-V 995.53 and ICD-10 T74.3) that may include many of the attributes often identified as being characteristics of PAS but do not identify it as a specific sub-type. The ICD-10 also includes additional classifications that touch on some of the different dimensions described by advocates of PAS, for example: Z62.1 Parental overprotection; Z62.4 Emotional neglect of child; Z62.8 Inappropriate parental pressure and other abnormal qualities of upbringing. None of these classifications specifically identify PAS and the examples given are generally much broader than those used in the wider literature of PAS. The Beta version of the forthcoming ICD-11, at the time of writing, includes a proposal to include parental alienation under the broader grouping of caregiver-child relationship problems. It is not clear if this will be included in the final version, nor is it clear how this might be defined. The inclusion of parental alienation in either the DSM or the ICD classifications has been, and continues to be, contentious (Bernet et al., 2010; Bernet and Baker, 2013; Pepiton et al., 2012).’

Continuing the theme of misinformation, the authors use the terms PA and PAS interchangeably, having at no time distinguished between the two.  There is no mention of the concept of ‘Child Affected by Relationship Distress‘ which is in the DSM-5 and which is used in assessment in the UK to determine the potential presence of PA and there is scant regard paid to the fact that parental alienation will be included in the ICD-11.  The reference to Professor William Bernet and Dr Amy Baker in the assertion that the inclusion of parental alienation in these diagnostic manuals is controversial, is simply misplaced.

The opening paragraphs of this section of the report set the scene for what follows, which is a series of claims which are made to establish the argument that parental alienation is not really a real thing and that too much fuss is being made about it.  And anyway, claim the authors, all of this is going on in the USA and so it is not really anything for us to worry about because when we look at the UK (page 23)- the research by Liz Trinder shows us the reality – which is that implacable hostility is rare –

All of the studies identified thus far relate to research outside the UK. Trinder et al’s (2013), study of enforcement applications in England constitutes a rare example of domestic research. While the focus of this study was on court outcomes, the study drew on Cafcass (England) records. The findings from this study identified that implacable hostility is a rare phenomenon:

Contrary to public perceptions and our own expectations, very few of the cases involved implacably hostile parents who unreasonably refused all contact. Instead the majority of cases involved two parents involved in mutual conflict over their children, followed by cases where there were significant safeguarding concerns that were impacting upon contact and by cases where older children wished to stop or reduce contact.

(Trinder et al., 2013:36)

So there you have it.  The underlying meaning of this research is that all of this PA nonsense is going on elsewhere and when we look at the UK, the problem of implacable hostility is rare and when children refuse to see a parent, it is really about ‘significant safeguarding’ concerns.

There is therefore, no real need to go any further into evaluating this research because the purpose of it in claiming ownership of the debate around parental alienation is very clear.  This is a similar approach to that taken by CAFCASS England, in which the issue of PA is first embraced publicly, leading everyone to heave a sigh of relief that something is being done, so that what is then done, (which is something more or less opposite of what is needed), can be pointed to as being ‘the CAFCASS solution’ to the problem of parental alienation.

 This is a well worn path used by CAFCASS for managing difficult issues and claiming ownership of the space in which they are debated.  Those of us who were around in 2002 will recognise the switching technique technique as that which was used to scupper the Early Interventions project back then.  A switch which led to a project which had been endorsed by the Judiciary at the highest level, being replaced by a project which looked the same but which was vastly different.  This piece of research for CAFCASS Cymru is exactly the same technique. The strategy is to commission research which has an underlying agenda  and then claim that this is the definitive research so that the space is owned and dominated and can be pointed to over and over again when campaigners attempt to say otherwise.   It is a clever trick which shuts up parents and practitioners and anyone who seeks to say other than what the CAFCASS party line is, which is very clear from this report, PA doesn’t really exist and if it does it is not scientifically credible because it is dominated by the same handful of researchers.

 Unfortunately the people it really shuts up are the children who reject their parents unjustifiably and the parents who remain rejected.  In this respect it is just another tool in the generational merry go round of state funded lack of interest in what is really happening to children in divorce and separation in the UK.  Something I have grown used to in over two decades of this work but which I will never stop caring about or working to make different.

The review concludes thus –

There is a paucity of empirical research into parental alienation, and what exists is dominated by a few key authors. Hence, there is no definitive definition of parental alienation within the research literature.

Which makes me smile and grimace all at the same time.

No mention of the 500 plus peer reviewed research articles held by Vanderbilt University on the matter, which can be readily accessed by anyone, including these researchers – here.

No mention of the wide range of researchers and practitioners who work on the issue tirelessly around the world in the Parental Alienation Study Group.

And no mention of the work done to raise the issue to public consciousness in Wales. In fact in opposition to that, the closing recommendation for practice is –

There appears to be some mis-information in the media and amongst pressure groups on this topic, which suggests that it would be helpful to promote awareness of the evidence base for parental alienation amongst Cafcass Cymru staff, children’s services and mental health services generally.

Which roughly translated means – to counter the awareness raising which is going on in Wales, please point people to this research for the real evidence about parental alienation.

If I were campaigning in Wales I would be livid about this research because it is full of holes, it spreads misinformation and it seeks to control the space with a half baked narrative based on a rapid review through a self interested lens.

A response to this report comes soon however in the form of a robust and detailed catalogue of case law. Watch this space.

In addition the European Association of Parental Alienation Practitioners holds its first conference in London on August 30/31st which will be chaired by Sir Paul Coleridge, a former High Court Judge and which will be attended by world experts in the field.  A chance to hear the reality for legal and mental health practitioners and for the Judiciary across Europe to share with the UK their experience in managing the reality of these cases.

All of which makes this piece of research from CAFCASS Cymru appear to be what it really is.  A take on PA through a particular lens, which is designed to give control over the space back to CAFCASS Cymru.  A very similar approach taken by CAFCASS England last year (although it somewhat blew up for them) and one which has been seen to be used by this body previously.

It is an approach which allows and enables CAFCASS practitioners to ignore the real evidence in favour of their own.

Which will continue the schism in the attendance to the real issue of parental alienation in the UK for a bit longer because in effect this research buys CAFCASS Cymru just a bit more time.

But the clock is ticking on the issue of a child’s unjustified rejection of a parent in the post separation landscape, because new generations of children are now becoming adults. And those adults are integrating the split state of mind and seeking out the parent they once rejected. And in doing so the dawning reality that the state invested services which could have helped, but didn’t, will grow.

And so this research is simply closing the door after the horse has bolted.

The truth about parental alienation is becoming known and will be known because it is held not by a group of researchers with a particular view of the world, but by the children affected by the past decisions made about their lives which were based upon stand point research such as this.

It is too late to turn back the tide, the reality is already known and will become more strongly articulated and curated and publicly known about.

And those who worked to switch the truth and hide the evidence and mislead the families affected will be recognised.

It is only a matter of time.

 

12 Comments

  1. Hello Karen. I trust you. I have a intresting story. As a targeted mother and a healty welleducated woman with three decades workinglife. With education and teaching and Cooperation in many ways. With very good skills in communicating and working with children. I still do. And i am highly educated to do this. Also a teacher for adults.

    You are searching for the keys to break through.
    i think there is one topic you forget to write about- it is very much about the Money.
    My own personal story, and reading in many fb Groups here in Norway explain that behind parents alienation, is the greed after money.

    Our public system, which organize the child support between parents. They count days nights for the stay. Only one of the parents can have the adress to the child.

    More days/ Nights you get the children – more payment you get from the other parent. Some mothers can live of t, if the fathers income is good. They count out the child support after the other parents income….

    I expericed this myself. Even if the father/ the alientors income was three times higher than mine, he lie and wanted more child support. Lie in Court. False accusions i got..
    I know that his value in life is money , after twenty years marriage.
    I follow the dicussions with others too, in media.

    So, if one parent which is negativ and have prejudices to share the time with the children, become greed.
    And this small alientor becomes a big alientor if they also want money. They understand , now i can get mysef a lot of income from the other. I can just lie..

    ” the child live with me all the time ” i have to find false argument about the other. And talk with people how bad and terrible she / he is ….

    Suddenly your best friends avoid you… especially fathers are not belived as caregivers. Probably because of prejudices. ( mothers are better, we talk better , we know better…children belongs to mothers traditional) Thats why we have the fathers 4 right. Movement to change attitudes.

    Then your earlier friends , parents to your childrens friends says to your child. You must live in the ( alientors home) avoid that ( sick) other…

    The prejudges have to be changes too. We have to stop false accusions too . And tell whats going on in media.
    And of course law protection. Like they have in Denmark.

    Like

  2. Why does CAFCASS always try to wriggle out of recognising the REAL peer reviewed research and REAL expert evidence in favour of their own unreliable ‘research’, ‘evidence’ in spite of the poor outcomes we know about?

    I have tons of evidence that CAFCASS ignore what’s in front of them in favour of their own views which ultimately lets the child down, but ticks their feeble little boxes.

    The comments by expert Karen Woodall in relation to this ‘research’ and article says it all… CAFCASS still holds the belief its a US issue, that it’s not the same here, that there’s no real evidence when in fact there is..

    However KW rightly points out that the children who have unjustifiably rejected a targeted parent often seek that parent later in life. Those children will provide the evidence in the future of CAFCASS failings and those of the UK Family Courts.

    I really hoped CAFCASS had finally began to recognise, given all the recent publicity and expert views, and clearly many cases of its occurrence in the UK, that parental alienation is in fact child abuse and like any other child abuse, it affects those children detrimentally well into their adult lives.

    However we are again to be disappointed by CAFCASS because they continue to demonstrate to us they have no genuine wish just to recognise the truth of PA or the reality of the effects of it.

    Instead they continue to make it up as they go along, suiting themselves rather than taking seriously a condition which ultimately affects many children and families in the UK.

    Children and families directly affected by PA, experience loss and grief over and over for no real reason which brings nothing but heartache and often depressive illness because there’s little or no recognition and thereby a lack of resolution being offered by CAFCASS.

    CAFCASS may pass off the reasons for their views as something which naturally occurs following separation with lack of contact occurring for reasons of safeguarding but it is CAFCASS who are failing at safeguarding these innocent kids from the emotional abuse they are experiencing at the hands of the ‘favourable’ parent/carer and therefore CAFCASS enables the continued demonisation of missing family members who actually truly love those children and want to protect them.

    We (those on the receiving end of such abuse and targeting) are clearly not important enough to CAFCASS for them to instigate proper collaboration with the REAL experts (including those in the UK) which would ensure essential change to be genuinely embarked upon.

    Last year finally one of CAFCASS England directors, Sarah Parsons, during an interview by the press admitted the problem and a warning was spelt out to anyone found to be alienating children.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/divorce-laws-child-custody-parental-alienation-cafcass-mother-father-a8062941.html

    So what’s changed since last year? This recent ‘research’ may have come from CAFCASS Cymru but it included the use of CAFCASS England records ..

    I’d love CAFCASS and the UK Family Courts to look at our case again and still tell us it isn’t pure PA!! I did write to Sarah Parsons last year following her press interview but sadly she never replied.

    https://karenwoodall.blog/2018/05/29/looking-at-pa-through-a-different-lens/

    Like

  3. I’ve added some more to my comment (sorry), so here’s the amended version:

    https://karenwoodall.blog/2018/05/29/looking-at-pa-through-a-different-lens/

    Why does CAFCASS always try to wriggle out of recognising the REAL peer reviewed research and REAL expert evidence in favour of their own unreliable ‘research’ and ‘evidence’ in spite of the poor outcomes we know about?

    I have tons of evidence that CAFCASS ignore what’s in front of them in favour of their own views which ultimately lets the child down, but ticks their feeble little boxes.

    That said, our first CAFCASS Guardian was brilliant and recognised exactly what was happening in our case and made her recommendations based on her findings. After she retired, those who took over from her, repeatedly failed to warn the Family Court of those findings and despite my producing such evidence given by their own former colleague, they refused to even apply any investigation whatsoever into why that colleague held such view. That evidence was refused admission into the subsequent and final proceedings ensuring further and very damaging failures to occur which result in devastation to the child and targeted family members.

    The comments by expert Karen Woodall in relation to this ‘research’ and article says it all… CAFCASS still holds the belief it’s a US issue, that it’s not the same here, that there’s no real evidence when in fact there is..

    However KW rightly points out that the children who have unjustifiably rejected a targeted parent often seek that parent later in life. Those children will provide the evidence in the future of CAFCASS failings and those of the UK Family Courts.

    I really hoped CAFCASS had finally begun to recognise, given all the recent publicity and expert views, and clearly many cases of its occurrence in the UK, that parental alienation is in fact child abuse and like any other child abuse, it affects those children detrimentally well into their adult lives.

    However we are again to be disappointed by CAFCASS because they continue to demonstrate to us they have no genuine wish to recognise the actual truth of PA or the reality of the effects of it.

    Instead they continue to make it up as they go along, suiting themselves rather than taking seriously a condition which ultimately affects many children and families in the UK.

    Children and families directly affected by PA, experience loss and grief over and over for no real reason which brings nothing but heartache and often depressive illness because there’s little or no recognition and thereby a lack of resolution being offered by CAFCASS.

    CAFCASS may pass off the reasons for their views as something which naturally occurs following separation with lack of contact occurring for reasons of safeguarding but it is CAFCASS who are failing at safeguarding these innocent kids from the emotional abuse they are experiencing at the hands of the ‘favourable’ parent/carer and therefore CAFCASS enables the continued demonisation of missing family members who actually truly love those children and want to protect them.

    We (those on the receiving end of such abuse and targeting) are clearly not important enough to CAFCASS for them to instigate proper collaboration with the REAL experts (including those in the UK) which would ensure essential change to be genuinely embarked upon.

    Last year finally one of CAFCASS England directors, Sarah Parsons, during an interview by the press admitted the problem and a warning was spelt out to anyone found to be alienating children.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/divorce-laws-child-custody-parental-alienation-cafcass-mother-father-a8062941.html

    So what’s changed since last year? This recent ‘research’ may have come from CAFCASS Cymru but it included the use of CAFCASS England records ..

    I’d love CAFCASS and the UK Family Courts to look at our case again and still tell us it isn’t pure PA!! I did write to Sarah Parsons last year following her press interview but sadly she never replied.

    https://karenwoodall.blog/2018/05/29/looking-at-pa-through-a-different-lens/

    Like

  4. My compliments Karen on your expert analysis and diagnosis as to what Cafcass are doing here. I have for perverse reasons, always admired Cafcass political skills at offering their self-protectionist pretend solution whenever a matter concerning children and institutional malpractice enters the public debate. And so it continues.

    Like

  5. Oh dear well that doesn’t sound good does it. Wasn’t it only a few shorts weeks ago that the Cafcass Cymru and the Welsh government declared that Parental Alienation was real? How did they manage to give the research to a group of biased ladies who are well behind on the latest and the rest of the world in recognising the coercive and controlling behaviours that lead to PA for what it is… child abuse. Well let them carry on publishing this drivel. If Cafcass want to listen to them I don’t see much of a future for them. Worse I don’t see much of a future for children in this increasingly modern society. I’m going to do what I can to make sure prospective parents know the risks before they have kids. Such a shame they only have one chsnce to get this right and this is the start they made… shameful.

    Like

  6. A distinction exists between Cafcasses own ‘self interest’ and the job it’s tasked to do. An influence on the ‘quality’ of it’s task when the end ‘product’ has never been researched by Cafcass. Parental Alienation damages children and again in later adult life. Cafcass turns a blind eye in favor of efficiency reports daily hitting management desks showing improved ‘balance sheets’.

    A major conflict of interest between Cafcass and the ‘Best Interest of a Child’ urgently needing to be separated. P.A unmeasured by Cafcass and historically denied by them. Cafcass has been unable to do this with literally zero expertise within it’s organization. No one is employed by Cafcass with expertise in this area.

    P.A is not a sociological construct, it’s origin’s belong to people and personality, a medical science area of expertise. Family Law/Cafcass in contrast seem to apply a very convenient Feminist explanation towards family breakdown issues. How dangerously naive to double down with an ideology understanding as the responsible way to protect children! It’s leaders seem either hugely brave or plain foolhardy. What do they think they are gambling with?

    Government, Family Law and Cafcass have turned a blind eye so far, yet the evidence is already overwhelming. including from the medical profession without any axe to grind. Public opinion will continue growing in awareness and will eventually erode the ‘authority’ of these public organizations until the nettle is seen to be responsibly grasped.

    Define the ‘rabbit’ using independent medical expertise away from Cafcass then the chase to achieve ‘A Child’s Best Interest’ can at least be attempted.

    Like

  7. The authors of this report along with qualifications:-

    Dr Tom Slater from the School of Social Sciences. PHD in Social Work.

    Dr Nina Maxwell a PHD topic was ‘Educational simulations for children’

    Dr Julie Doughty -a solicitor whose PHD topic was ‘functions of family courts’

    None of the authors hold any medical qualification apparently .

    Every expert with a medical or psychiatric expertise was passed over by Cafcass to explore the scientific/ medical world of Parental Alienation. It’s choice was a social work or a Legal background.

    Like

  8. The modus operandi of Cafcass is to place mother at the heart of the family; if the marriage fails then she can find a new father or failing that bring up the children on her own. Fathers are not reliable but they must pay for the misdemeanour of bringing a child into the world. Poor mothers.

    There is no semblance of thought whatsoever that a father might feel emotionally attached to the child he has brought into the world.

    Liz Trinder, at a meeting organised by the fatherhood institute was given top billing summing up the days lectures with the astonishing statement that she wondered if fathers were necessary.

    What disturbed me most was the fact that people applauded her summing up.

    I thought I was at a Witches convention.

    And this is the woman that Cafcass are quoting in their research; get a grip

    Cafcass are not interested in maintaining the family, they are an extension of the campaign for women’s rights.

    Like

    1. Yes I too have been at conferences where fathers were discussed as if they were an optional extra, the phrase ‘contact with both parents is good for children where it is safe’ is one I heard being trotted out again and again and again. The stats on danger to children from parents are completely ignored, that mothers kill children as well as fathers, that mothers are violent too, is a reality which is borne out again and again in statistics from the home office and yet the political spin is that children will always be in danger from their fathers. It grieves me because it demonstrates over and over how much political ideology dominates this space. The problem for all separating families is that the space is dominated and driven by women’s rights advocates and the father’s rights groups have always been led a merry dance reacting to that. But the issues for children are nothing to do with parental rights and that has been ignored for four decades or more now. The issues for children belong in children’s mental health and we should be working to address them from this perspective. The issues are serious and long lasting, I am now onto working my third generation of grown up children of divorce and separation and the issues remain the same – internalised trauma, fragility of personality, difficulty in building sustainable relationships and generalised anxiety disorder as a background to more serious disorders. It is tragic that we have left children to rot or put them in the middle and given them responsibility – I can’t decide which is worse myself.

      Liked by 1 person

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