Alienation Dr. Sue Whitcombe EXPERTS PERSONALITY DISORDERS Psychopath Psychopathic style PSYCHOPATHIC TRAITS

Psychopathology and the conceptualisation of mental disorder: The debate around the inclusion of Parental Alienation in DSM-5 | Sue Whitcombe

MENTAL DISORDERS are not static phenomena. At various times schizophrenia did not exist, bipolardisorder was manic depression and depressive disorder was melancholia treated by blood-letting (Benham, 1915). Homosexuality was a mental disorder subsequently re-classified as sexual orientation disturbance in 1974, before being removed from the DSM in 1987. Whilst major revisions in the classification of mental disorder occur infrequently, consideration of psychopathology –conceptualising, debating and clarifying diagnostic criteria and symptomology and investigating and evaluating effective treat-ments and interventions – is a continuous process. Whilst psychopathology can bedefined as ‘the study of abnormal states of mind’ (Gelder, Cowen & Harrison, 2006,p.2) classification of mental disorder does not fit neatly within tightly defined boundaries; there is no clear cut division between‘normality’ and ‘psychopathology’ (APA,2000; Maxmen, Ward & Kilgus, 2009).Over time, a wide range of factors have been used to define different disorders including dysfunction, distress, statistical deviation, disadvantage and aetiology.Current disorders included in the DSM are descriptively conceptualised as a ‘clinically



Here are some resources and links recommended by friends of the alienation experience blog.

SOME EXPLANATION:  An alienation experience is the result of ‘relationships that take you in and cut you off’. That experience and pattern are found in a wide range of harmful coercive relationships. See here and the Open Minds Foundation for more on that. Domestic partner abuse and child abuse entail alienation too. The resources below focus on just one kind of family alienation, commonly called: Parental Alienation – the only label that includes the alienation that all harmful coercive patterns have at their core. The resources are also limited to UK-based ones, but include links to international resources too. Constructive suggestions welcome.


Victims of Another War

Here’s excerpts from the documentary, Victims of Another War. Two adults look back on their own Abduction and Alienation, about how it happens; and about the long term harm. In it, of her Abduction and Alienation from Norway to the USA by her father, Cecilie says:

… The sheer mental torture that I went through as a kid, the fear, and now looking back seeing that I was manipulated by my Dad in the way that I was for his own interests, I mean, this is pure child abuse. We travelled around for ten years – the most we stayed in one place was maybe six months if that long.  I couldn’t talk about my mother at all with my father during any of that time. Basically he’d freeze up or get very angry or do something kind of scary like throw something on the floor or just get really really really angry, and really tense. So I couldn’t say the M word, that was Mom, mother, I couldn’t bring it up, and it was frightening. It reinforced her scariness to me, it felt that she was the cause of that fear, it was her fault that my father would get angry and withdrawn. So it wasn’t his fault it became her fault in my mind. … I think back to that little kid and I feel so much pain. Even the fact that I had had one perception of my father and his role in my life and how selfless he’d been and for years how he’d put his child first and he did all this for my sake to protect me against this terrible mother. And then when all that started changing it really screwed with my whole outlook on life and my own trust in my own perceptions on life. … It led to a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety, trouble sleeping, I have nightmares sometimes … It’s caused a tremendous amount of upheaval and pain.


Clinical Intervention in CSA

Victims typically do not disclose their abuse out of embarrassment along with fear that they will not be believed or will be blamed for what happened to them. In addition, perpetrators usually demand secrecy and often control their victims through the use of bribes or threats (Paine & Hanson, 2002). Victims have been found to accommodate the abuse psychologically by using coping mechanisms such as denial, minimization, and dissociation regarding the abuse itself or its damaging effects (Coons, Bowman, Pellow, & Schneider, 1989; Summit, 1983).

Studies have consistently demonstrated that CSA is associated with a broad range of behavioral, psychological and physical problems that persist into adulthood. Psychological sequelae include anxiety, depression, PTSD, self-destructive behavior, dissociation, substance abuse, sexual maladjustment, and a tendency towards revictimization in subsequent relationships (Browne, & Finkelhor, 1986; Roesler & McKenzie, 1994).

Because CSA is an experience rather than a disorder, it is difficult to predict how any single individual will respond. Research indicates that long-term effects of CSA range from the child being asymptomatic to showing evidence of severe distress (Kendall-Tackett, Williams, & Finkelhor, 1993). No single factor has been found to explain individual variations in outcome following CSA. Some abused children remain asymptomatic, some outcomes are delayed until later stages of development, and some outcomes may only be expressed with cumulative trauma (Putnam, 2003).

Factors that have been found to influence outcome can be viewed as falling into three broad categories: (1) individual factors (e.g., attributions, coping strategies employed); (2) abuse-related characteristics (e.g., age at the time of abuse, use of force, multiple versus single assault, penetration, proximity to perpetrator); and (3) interactions with others (e.g., responses to disclosure, quality of attachment relationships) (see Barker-Collo & Read, 2003, for a review). Numerous studies have found evidence of a dose-response relationship with more severe abuse being associated with worse outcomes (e.g., Felitti et al., 1998; Kendler et al., 2000; Mullen, Martin, Anderson, Romans, & Herbison, 1993).


Domestic Violence (DV) by Proxy

In reality, what these women are describing from their ex-partners is better termed Domestic Violence by Proxy (DV by Proxy), a term first used by Alina Patterson, author of Health and Healing. DV by Proxy refers to a pattern of behavior which is a parent with a history of using domestic violence or intimidation, uses a child as a substitute when he no longer has access to his former partner. Calling this behavior “parental alienation” is not strong enough to convey the criminal pattern of terroristic behaviors employed by batterers.

When his victim leaves him, batterers often recognize that the most expedient way to continue to hurt his partner is to assert his legal rights to control her access to their children. By gaining control of the children, an abusive male now has a powerful tool which allows him to continue to stalk, harass and batter an ex-partner even when he has no direct access to her. Moreover, by emotionally torturing the child and severing the bond between children and their mother, he is able to hurt his intended victim — the mother — in a way she cannot resist.

DV by Proxy includes tactics such as: threats of harm to children if they display a positive bond to the mother, destroying favored possessions given by the mother, and emotional torture (for example, telling the child the mother hates them, wanted an abortion, and is not coming to get them because they are unloved).

DV by Proxy may also include coaching the child to make false allegations regarding their mother’s behavior and harming or punishing the child for not complying. DV by Proxy perpetrators may also create fraudulent documents to defraud the court in order to prevent the mother from gaining custody. Whether or not the child is biologically related to them is irrelevant to perpetrators of DV by Proxy. The perpetrator’s main motivation is to hurt his ex; whether or not his own child is harmed in the process is irrelevant to him.



In cases where children are showing unhealthy levels of alignment or enmeshment with one parent, or rejection of the other parent, the practice of vetting the independence of children’s views and preferences is again without consistent
standards and training. Children’s counsel may not have a robust and up-to-date understanding of the extent of children’s suggestibility and risk of manipulation in the course of a contested custody dispute.

In more extreme cases of family dysfunction, issues arise as to whether counsel can actually assess whether the child has sufficient capacity to instruct counsel on issues involving the child’s parents. A child can be competent in many domains but
not competent to give independent instructions to counsel on issues involving the parents’ litigation.
A child’s strong preference for one parent may actually be a function of an unhealthy
enmeshment or parentification (role-reversal) relationship, rather than a healthy relationship.

Psychologists and psychiatrists would generally be much more cognizant of this dynamic than an attorney might be.


Psychological Tests That are Helpful in Identifying and Diagnosing Parental Alienation

Psychological Tests That are Helpful in
Identifying and Diagnosing Parental Alienation
William Bernet, M.D. — February 2020
Researchers have published peer-reviewed articles regarding several psychological tests that relate in some way to the identification of parental alienation (PA). Some of the tests or questionnaires involve parents; some are administered to children who are being evaluated for the possibility of PA. These tests are not intended to be used in isolation to identify or diagnose PA. They are intended to be part of a comprehensive evaluation of the family, which includes:
interviews of the family members: information from collateral sources: reviewing therapy, medical, and legal records; and psychological testing. Here is a list of tests that may be considered—in roughly chronological order based on the time they became relevant for the assessment of PA.

Alienation EXPERTS Parental Alienation PA PASG

PASG Parental Alienation

Member Websites

  • Assessment
  • General Information
  • Interventions
  • Parental Alienation FAQ
  • PASG Conferences

FAQ – How do you know it is parental alienation?

The Five-Factor Model helps to distinguish parental alienation and parental estrangement.

FAQ – How does an alienated child behave?

There are 8 common behavioral symptoms of parental alienation.

FAQ – Is an alienated child mentally kidnapped?

Yes, the alienated child is mentally kidnapped and brainwashed.

FAQ – Is parental alienation child abuse?

Yes, mental health and legal authorities everywhere consider causing severe parental alienation to be a form of child psychological abuse.

FAQ – What about “listen to the child”?

Severely alienated children do not give reliable explanations of their feelings and opinions.

FAQ – What about DSM-5 and parental alienation?

The concept of parental alienation is in DSM-5, but not the actual words.

FAQ – What are alienating behaviors?

There are 17 common alienating behaviors.

FAQ – What is Parental Alienation Awareness Day?

See what happens every year on April 25.

FAQ – What is parental alienation?

Here are some general definitions and descriptions of parental alienation.

Handling Parental Alienation as a Medical Emergency

Parental Alienation More Resembles a Medical Crisis Than a Divorce Proceeding. Triage is Essential.

Parental Alienation: Reading and Resources for Practitioners and Professionals

This is an overview of parental alienation, with references, prepared by Dr. Sue Whitcombe, a psychologist in the United Kingdom.


Diagnosis of Parental Alienation

Diagnosis of Parental Alienation

Let’s start with why therapists and evaluators often miss alienation.

Psychopathology assessment

Targeted parents may present as anxious, depressed, and angry.  At the same time, beneath these desperate situational reactions generally lies psychological health.

Alienating parents, by contrast, generally often calm, cool, and charming and therefore look more attractive. They lie convincingly. Alienator and child appear credible by telling similar stories.

Yet beneath the alienator’s smooth exterior lie one or more Cluster-B character disorders: (1) borderline emotional hyperreactivity, splitting, etc. (2) narcissistic ignoring of the child’s needs in favor of using the child as their foot soldier against the targeted parent (3) antisocial lying and harming others without guilt. Parents without character disorders rarely, if ever, alienate.

What hypotheses need to be generated and evaluated in potential alienation cases?

Explore the following two possible causes of the child’s negative view of one parent.  Note that more than one of these  factors may be occurring.

  1. Danger from verbal, sexual, and/or physical abuse
  2. Brain-washing of the child by an alienating parent

When a child’s negative reaction stems from verbal, phyiscal or sexual abuse, children still want a relationship with the abusive parent.  In addition however, accusations that a targeted parent has been abusive need to be assessed thoroughly to be certain that these kinds of abuse are not occurring, and if so, addressed directly.


Social distancing and child psychological abuse by alienation are NOT the same thing!

Alienation and Child Psychological Abuse will ‘Mutate’-So YOU will Have to Adapt!

Already, we know that cooperation and collaboration will be the only way to address a potential existential threat such as COVID-19. The era of self-interested individuality may be over.

Or not-because not everyone may think the same way. We expect that child psychological abuse by alienation may take on different forms and exploit the context of social distancing. Social (or more correctly spatial distancing) is both necessary to keep children safe but also provides a ready means of withholding contact for ‘health and safety’ reasons.