Over the last few months Father's Rights activists have been attempting to have Parental Alienation Disorder added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), the American Psychiatric Association's "bible" of diagnoses.
When learning of this effort the National Organization for Women (NOW) became concerned and sent out an Action Alert to counter the campaign. According to NOW's Tracy Simmons:
"Parental Alienation Syndrome has now morphed into Parental Alienation Disorder thanks to the fathers' rights organizations who are wildly pushing this through, and why wouldn't they? It benefits the abuser and discriminates against the victims of abuse, which are overwhelmingly women.
This gender specific, abuse excuse, junk science can not be allowed to enter into the scientific community as there is nothing scientific about a syndrome/disorder whose only symptoms are a uterus, divorce papers, and bruises. I ask that you all to take action against legitimizing this outrageous theory by e-mailing the APA and asking your groups to do the same."
I have a few concerns with Tracy Simmon's beliefs on the subject and a few beliefs of my own in response to her statement.
1. Parental alienation syndrome is not a gender specific issue. It was once believed women were the main perpetrators of parental alienation, but no longer. "Fifty percent are men," said Judith Ray, a licensed family therapist in Colorado Springs.
"Those who are men tend to be narcissistic, characterized by a sense of entitlement, arrogance and low empathy. Female alienators often have borderline personalities, marked by insecurity, neediness, a strong fear of abandonment and chronic emptiness."
When we speak of parental alienation we aren't talking about abusive fathers trying to further their misguided, ill treatment of a mother. We are talking about damaged parents, both mother and father whose children need to be protected from a different kind of abuse.
2. Only someone who has never been a victim of parental alienation would refer to it as "junk science." The vast majority of parents who desire a consistent, loving relationship with a child are not driven by political, ideological, financial or any other scientific motives. The love a parent has for a child can't be dismissed by accusations of domestic violence and the welfare of a child should not be overlooked in favor of a mother/father who has been a victim of domestic abuse.
If NOW is concerned about the further victimization of domestic abuse victims they themselves should be "wildly pushing" for the inclusion of Parental Alienation Disorder into the scientific community. What better way to empower a victim than to promote their right to bring legal action against someone who has not only abused them but attempts to abuse their child?
While experts debate the validity of parental alienation accusations, parents like myself and others are unequipped and unable to protect our children and our parental rights against an alienating mother or father. I say this will all due respect to victims of domestic violence...a parent's right to protect the parental relationship with a child is as important as your right to protect yourself from your abuser.
When it comes to parental alienation the focus should be on the child who has a right to equal time with both Mom and Dad. Not on a parent who may or may not have been abused by an ex spouse. This won't happen until parental alienation is viewed by the Family Court System as a recognized psychiatric disorder caused by an alienating parent.
Making parental alienation a disorder instead of a syndrome has nothing to do with whether or not you have a "uterus, divorce papers and bruises." Most mothers put their children's needs first. Most fathers do the same. Parents who are victims of the few who don't need to be armed with legal ammunition to fight back.
Until NOW and other experts who dismiss the importance of the damage done to children via parental alienation syndrome stop the rhetoric about "abuse" children will continue to suffer emotional abuse and its long-term consequences.
What Tracy Simmons doesn't seem to consider is the true damage done to children when pushing what I consider to be an anti-father, anti-child agenda. And she seems to forget that those abused women she is standing up for would also benefit from being able to use Parental Alienation Disorder as a defense against a father attempting to emotionally abuse his child.
It is unreasonable to deflect, twist, and deny that chronic denigration of a parent to a child is not worthy of DSM inclusion. It is even more unreasonable to dismiss the possibility that parental alienation leads to the emotional damage of children. Bottom line, parental alienation is not a gender, custody or domestic abuse issue. It is a child abuse issue. What better reason is there for recognizing and including it into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders?