“Parental Alienation Syndrome:" Another Alarming DSM-5 Proposal
©Copyright 2011 by Paula J. Caplan All rights reserved
Among the scientifically unwarranted and socially dangerous proposals that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5 authors have not yet seen fit to rule out is the addition of something its advocates call Parental Alienation Syndrome. This is a medical-sounding term for nothing more than "She's a vengeful woman who's trying to make her children tell horrific lies about their father."
As Dr. Julie Ancis, who has conducted extensive research about such cases, has noted:
The construct of PAS is unscientific, composed of a group of general symptoms with no empirical basis....
Major professional bodies, including the American Psychological Association, have discredited PAS on the grounds that it is misused indomestic violence cases and that there is no scientific evidence of such a "syndrome." The more recent APA Online document Issues and Dilemmas in Family Violence (http://www.apa.org/pi/essues.html), particularly Issue 5, describes the tendency of family courts to miminize a context of violence, falsely accusing the mother of alienation and granting custody to the father in spite of his history of violence. The National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges' 2006 manual states that "parental alienation syndrome or PAS has been discredited by the scientific community" and "should therefore be ruled inadmissible" (p. 19). A number of prominent figures, including Dr. Paul J. Fink, past president of the American Psychiatric Association and president of theLeadership Council on Mental Health, Justice, and the Media, and Professor Jon R. Conte of the University of Washington Social Welfare Doctoral Faculty have also discredited PAS and its lack of scientific basis (see Bruch, 2001).