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Friday, June 10, 2011

'Parental Alienation Syndrome' Unlikely to Be Included in DSM-5

Posted By and on Fri, Jun 10, 2011 at 2:41 PM

Richard Gardner, father of PAS
  • Richard Gardner, father of PAS

A scientific task force evaluating psychological conditions for formal inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will recommend that the controversial theory known as "Parental Alienation Syndrome" (PAS) or "Parental Alienation" not be included in the manual, according to early reports.

Writing in Psychology Today, psychologist Paula J. Caplan states that she has received a letter from American Psychiatric Association DSM-5 Task Force chair David Kupfer and Task Force public representative James McNulty indicating that the disorder will not be recommended for inclusion:

The news in their letter is that: "... because of the high evidence threshold required, the Task Force is not currently recommending the inclusion of Parental Alienation Syndrome." This is a stunning comment, coming as it does from the heads of a manual in which so many diagnostic categories have been included despite there being no solid scientific evidence even supporting their existence or characteristics.

The question of whether to bestow legitimacy upon PAS by codifying it in the DSM has been hotly debated. Coined by the late psychiatrist Richard Gardner, the theory of PAS holds that women brainwash their children, in the context of disputed child-custody cases, to hold delusions of sexual abuse by their fathers.

Gardner, who was himself a lightning rod because of controversial statements he made in defense of pedophilia, built a career out of testifying on behalf of fathers in divorce courts across the country. Critics of his theory point to its lack of scientific rigor and say it is used as a blanket defense by men accused of child abuse. As SF Weekly reported in a March cover story, "parental alienation" was recently used by a Southern California man to gain custody of his daughter. The man was later convicted of molesting her friends and sent to prison.

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