Parental Alienation Syndrome and the National Organization of Women

Parental Alienation Syndrome and the National Organization of Women
Dr. Les Linet Psychiatrist Princeton, New Jersey

Les Linet MD is a physician, board certified twice - in adult and also in child psychiatry. He practices in Princeton, New Jersey. With more than 40 years of experience, Dr. Linet has earned a reputation for excellence. He is also comfortable using psychotherapy and/or psychopharmacology. Dr. Linet is board certified... more

“PARENTAL ALIENATION is real. If you're on the receiving know it. For most everyone else,'s invisible.”

TheBondedFamily: Retweeted by PASA-NJ January 10, 2012

"The truth is that Parental Alienation really is a dangerous and cleverly marketed legal strategy that has caused much harm to victims of abuse, especially women and children during and post divorce. This strategy, promoted actively by several 'father’s rights' groups, has convinced many people, including some in the judicial system and the media, that the actions of a protective parent (usually the mother) are more harmful than the actual mistreatment inflicted by an abusive parent. The end result is public support (and an excuse) for the teary-eyed abusive parent, plus a willingness to believe that so-called parental alienation, and not the parent’s own behavior, led to the child’s anger toward that parent."

Website of The National Organization of Women, May 3, 2007

This column is not about whether Parental Alienation Syndrome is a valid mental diagnosis. That question will be considered by the American Psychiatric Association’s task force on the DSM 6, the forthcoming diagnostic manual for mental disorders. It appears likely that Parental Alienation Syndrome will be listed for the first time.

This column is, instead, about the belief by numbers of men and women that they (along with their children) have been harmed by manipulation and mind control strategies that – for shorthand – I will, indeed, refer to as the Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. In this column, PAS refers to strategies that cause a child to unfairly and mistakenly reject and vilify one parent while trusting and preferring the other parent. Please understand: I do not intend to pick on women. I am trying to understand why the National Organization of Women (NOW) continues to maintain its denunciation of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which it made back in 2006.

The National Organization of Women has remained vitriolic in asserting that the Parental Alienation Syndrome is a dangerous and cleverly marketed legal strategy that has caused much harm to victims of abuse, especially women and children. It has also written to the American Psychiatric Association, urging that the forthcoming DSM-V diagnostic manual of mental disorders not include Parental Alienation Syndrome as an official diagnosis.

Despite NOW’s position, many parents of both genders assert that PAS exists and that they and their children have been harmed by PAS strategies. Despite NOW’s position, many who believe in the validity of PAS are, in fact, women- some because they, despite being loving mothers, had found themselves alienated from their own children who reject and despise them. These women believe that PAS is a valid construct because they have been through hell and back with false accusations by a clever ex-spouse, compounded by accusations by their own children, who had turned against them and labeled their mothers as stupid, uncaring, or negligent.

Other women believe that PAS is a valid construct because they know men in their lives who love their children but have been similarly alienated as fathers. These women have been moved to appreciate that the children have been indoctrinated to falsely believe that their fathers are bad or unworthy.

And some women know that PAS is a valid construct because they actually were children who were alienated from one of their parents by the other parent. These are adults who eventually came to the painful realization that, as children, one of their parents had turned them against the other parent. They had come to understand, first hand, that one of their parents – sometimes the mother but sometimes the father – had successfully brainwashed them to detest the other parent, sometimes with a truly visceral hate.

A number of such women now devote themselves to the cause of education, support and advocacy for the adult and child victims of the Parental Alienation Syndrome. And many work closely with men and women and with men’s and women’s groups on this cause.

Yet, NOW continues to label PAS as a clever marketing strategy that essentially protects abusive men. How is it that an organization, passionately representing women, defines PAS as a doctrine that especially defends abusive men when numbers of woman fervently cry out that some of the PAS abusers are women? How is it that NOW further labels PAS as essentially an attack on protective mothers when numbers of women believe that PAS can attack either protective mothers or good fathers?

I invite feedback from the National Organization of Women and from others as to why a passionate organization, dedicated to the rights of women, can neglect part of its constituency – that part composed of women who fervently believe that a mother or a father sometimes is the alienator. How does one explain NOW’s position on PAS as essentially a protect-the-father marketing strategy when numbers of women believe fathers can be the victim as well as mothers? How does one explain NOW’s abandonment of women who feel that they and their children and sometimes men they know have been PAS victims?

If NOW maintains its position that Parental Alienation is a fabricated a strategy to protect men from their abusive behavior, it will create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Fathers who are victimized by the Parental Alienation Syndrome will become frustrated and irritable with NOW’s stance. These men may come to feel that women are unreasonable, that women deny that men can be victims, too, that women are standing in the way of making progress toward awareness of Parental Alienation as a force that harms children and targeted parents.

As a psychiatrist, I believe the Parental Alienation Syndrome is arguably the most difficult of all mental health problems to resolve. Children enmeshed in the Parental Alienation Syndrome lose one of their parents and become excessively tied to an unhealthy parent. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know what it is. An awareness of Parental Alienation is necessary so that it can be addressed. Many men and women are ready to stand together on common ground to bring Parental Alienation to the light of day. Where is the National Organization of Women?

As a psychiatrist, I am struck with what I call The Strange Parallel. The doctrine of Parental Alienation holds that children can be manipulated to believe that one parent is not to be trusted and is to be rejected while the other, often seen as the victim, is to be preferred. The children believe that they are coming to their conclusions independently (the independent thinker phenomenon) and not as a result of manipulation. But a strange parallel exists in which NOW maintains that one gender (male) is not to be trusted and its claims of victimization are to be rejected while the other gender (female) is to be preferentially seen as the victim. NOW, presumably, comes to its conclusions independently (the independent thinker phenomenon) and not as a result of manipulation.

But I wonder: Presuming no actual abuse by the rejected parent, children alienated from an otherwise good parent are indeed brainwashed and manipulated by the preferred parent. Despite presenting itself as an independent thinker, could NOW also be manipulated, perhaps by a faction within its own organization? Such hijacking of an organization by an extremist group from within has happened before. Some believe it has been happening for some time within a national political party in the United States.

Another example is Islamic extremists who are hijacking and manipulating one of the world’s great religions. How did NOW come up with the theory that PAS is a “cleverly marketed legal strategy” that protects abusive men? Might there be a strange parallel associated with the phenomenon of Parental Alienation that turns parent/child and men/women from relationships of love, friendship, and alliance to rejection?

A strange parallel, indeed.