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 Syndrome (PAS) has, to date, not been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and is not widely accepted in United States courts. Even after it might be included in the diagnostic manual, courtroom arguments will likely continue for decades – because it appears invisible.
Unlike physical abuse where scars and wounds are external, PAS destroys internally and, thus, a denial that PAS has occurred is relatively easy. The portrayal of the alienated parent as inferior or bad is even more convincing when the child supports the aligned parent against the targeted parent. The existence of PAS, thus, remains controversial.
However, the brainwashing of children against a targeted parent is believed by many to occur. It is not invisible to them. How, then, is it possible to present the problem to judges and mental health specialists who may be confused or taken in by the aligned parent?
Opponents point out that PAS is not universally accepted by the scientific community and that it is not included in the he Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Therefore, they argue, it cannot be said to exist.
I respond by analogy — that the Universal Law of Gravitation had not existed nor been demonstrated scientifically before Sir Isaac Newton. Nevertheless, as any fool can plainly imagine, even before Newton, a strange phenomenon always exerted a force upon the apple and upon objects even beyond the Moon. Like PAS, gravity is both mysterious and otherwise invisible.
Because of its controversy, many experts advise that the term, Parental Alienation Syndrome, not even be mentioned in U.S. courts. They advocate, instead, a very clear demonstration of the underlying behaviors and strategies that actually cause the effect of pitting children against the targeted parent.
In order to demonstrate alienating behaviors and strategies, there has to be a basic appreciation of the phenomenon of brainwashing. PAS has been likened to a cult in which the leader brainwashes and programs its members to hate and fear outsiders and even their own family. Examples of such brainwashing are widely understood to have occurred in various situations.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped by Phillip and Nancy Garrido when she was just 11 years old in 1991 and held captive for 18 years in a backyard compound. She was subjected to rape, manipulation, and verbal abuse. Garrido fathered two daughters with Jaycee in that backyard prison. In part, she didn't flee because Garrido had convinced her that the world outside their compound was, ironically, full of pedophiles and rapists. After being rescued after 18 years of captivity, she amazingly referred to Phillip Garrido as a great guy.
Dugard and her daughters would be rescued in August 2009 after an increasingly paranoid and delusional Garrido created suspicion in two alert campus police officers, Ally Jacobs and Lisa Campbell, on the University of California, Berkeley campus. Garrido was with Jaycee and the two daughters he'd fathered with her. A background check revealed he was a convicted sex offender. When they called his parole officer to ask about his two daughters, the parole officer didn't even know that Phillip Garrido had children. Over the 18 years of Jaycee’s captivity, parole officers had visited the home at least 60 times.
Another public case of mind-control is that of Elizabeth Smart. In 2002, this 14-year-old was snatched from her bed. The world watched as her family begged for her safe return. A home movie featured a beautiful young girl playing the harp. The terror captivated the hearts of millions. On March 12, 2003, when authorities rescued her, people questioned how, in 9 months, she could not escape – especially as her abductors had not always held her captive. In fact, she had walked in public, attended parties, and even refused to reveal her true identity when first approached by police. Perhaps, even stranger was her concern after her rescue about her captors. "What's going to happen to them? Are they in trouble?" she asked. When informed that they likely would face punishment, she cried the whole way to the police station.
Some cult leaders are well-known to exert brainwashing mind control on their members. David Koresh was a Branch Davidian leader who claimed to be its final prophet. Believing Koresh to be God's tool to set up the Davidic kingdom, in 1985 Koresh and followers set up camp at Palestine, Texas, 90 miles from Waco. Koresh had multiple children by different women in the group. His House of David doctrine based on a purported revelation involved the reproduction of 24 children by chosen women in the community. These 24 children were to serve as ruling elders during the millennium after the return of Christ. In 1993, based on the charge that Koresh was abusing children, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives raided the Davidian ranch outside Waco. The subsequent siege by the FBI ended with the burning of the Branch Davidian compound. Koresh, 54 adults, and 21 children were found dead after the fire.
Cult brainwashing of its constituents is also widely recognized to have occurred in Jim Jones's Peoples Temple in Jonestown in Guyana. At Jones's direction, over 900 members committed mass suicide from apparent cyanide poisoning in 1978. Four other Temple members died in Georgetown, the capitol of Guyana, at Jones's command. The mass suicide resulted in the largest loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.
Patty Hearst, heiress to the Hearst publishing fortune is also believed to have been brainwashed by the so-called Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974 after they kidnapped her. Hearst reports that she was locked in a dark closet for several days, kept hungry, tired, brutalized, and afraid for her life while SLA members bombarded her with their anti-capitalist ideology. Within two months of her kidnapping, Patty had changed her name, and referred to her family as the "pig-Hearsts." The security camera of a bank in San Francisco showed her holding an assault rifle as members robbed the bank.
Another example of brainwashing is the Stockholm Syndrome, which was named after a 1973 bank robbery in Stockholm. Robbers held bank employees hostage for six days during which the hostages became emotionally attached to their captors. They expressed empathy and positive feelings towards their captors. Even after they were freed from their six-day ordeal, they refused to testify against them and instead raised money for their defense.
During the Korean War in the 1950s, several American POWs ultimately falsely confessed to waging germ warfare and pledged allegiance to communism by the end of their captivity. At least 21 soldiers refused to come back to the United States when they were free, yet it was only 21 out of more than 20,000 prisoners. So brainwashing does not always work on everyone.
Although poorly understood by most people, in much the same way, some parents can convert a child into their way of thinking to renounce all ties with the targeted parent and with his or her family and friends. If a cult leader can do this to total strangers, would it not be even easier for a parent to do this to his or her children? And, since the previous examples demonstrate brainwashing in adults, it is reasonable to assume a parent can also brainwash a child of any age – even an adolescent or adult child. When a parent is motivated to brainwash or program a child against the other parent, it can even occur within intact families. It takes time to program a child. Generally such programming against the alienated parent begins long before significant marital problem surface. Parental alienators are seriously disturbed. They often begin their programming soon after the child’s birth. Within a few years it can be very difficult for children to forget these ideas, feelings, and beliefs with which they have been inculcated essentially from the time they were born. Such negative views of the targeted parent lay in the back of the child’s mind and fully surface after divorce is initiated and the alienating parent’s rage fans the flames within the child.
Anyone, lay or professional, who denies that a child could be alienated from his or her other parent, is essentially proposing that cults and kidnappers cannot brainwash or program people. Such denial defies the fact that cults and kidnappers have destructively exerted mind control. Until the courts accept the fact that brainwashing a child against the other parent can and does occur, this form of domestic violence will continue to destroy children and targeted parents.
How can a child be turned against a loving parent? The answer is a subject for a different discussion. But to someone struggling to comprehend this mysterious but destructive phenomenon, I would simply use the law of gravity as an analogy. You don’t have to understand how gravity causes an apple to fall from the tree. You just need to have observed it to know that it is real.
As an aid in understanding this difﬁcult to comprehend and fascinating phenomenon, you may view my YouTube videos on the topic by visiting my website at www.LesLinetMD.com