Parental Alienation – A Checklist

Use these checklist’s to find out whether your relationship with your child is being damaged by parental alienation by the other parent – or whether you are responsible for parental alienation yourself

  1. Parental Alienation Processes Pathogenic Parenting – Concern Scale- C.A. Childress,Psy.D

  2. The Parenting Practices Rating Scale




Limiting contact;

Interfering with communication;

Limiting mention and photographs of the targeted parent;

Withdrawal of love/ expressions of anger;

Telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him or her;

Forcing the child to choose;

Creating the impression that the targeted parent is dangerous;

Confiding in the child personal adult and litigation information;

Forcing the child to reject the targeted parent;

Asking the child to spy on the targeted parent;

Asking the child to keep secrets from the targeted parent;

Referring to the targeted parent by their first name;

Referring to a step-parent as mom or dad and encouraging the child to do the same;

Withholding medical, social, academic information from the targeted parent and keeping his/her name off the records;

Changing the child’s name to remove association with the targeted parent; and

Cultivating dependency on self / undermining authority of the targeted parent.



Code of Ethics and Professional Practice

This Code contains the standards of ethics, practice and conduct which UKCP expects of all practitioners, and which must be followed whatever your modality of practice and whether you meet clients in person, online or otherwise.

The term ‘practitioner’ means an individual UKCP registrant who practises psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counselling.

The term ‘client’ includes individuals, couples, families or groups who engage in psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic counselling.

Should a concern arise about a practitioner’s practice, it is against these standards that it will be judged under the Complaints and Conduct Process.

Empathy and Parental Alienation — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

Of all the symptoms displayed by the child, the absence of empathy is the most disturbing. The absence of empathy is associated with the capacity for human cruelty Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty. New York: Basic Books. There are only three disorders that display as a […]

via Empathy and Parental Alienation — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

Assessing for the Dark Triad Personality – Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)

Research on personality pathology has identified a set of three co-occurring toxic personality traits that have received the label of the Dark Triad personality because of the severe toxicity of these personalities:

Narcissistic Personality Traits

Psychopathic Personality Traits

Machiavellian Manipulation

Continue reading “Assessing for the Dark Triad Personality – Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)”

Best Practices Article in the Journal of Family Therapy — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

Assessment leads to diagnosis, and diagnosis guides treatment. In proposing a new form of pathology – a “new syndrome” – Richard Gardner skipped the crucial step of diagnosis. Diagnosis involves the application of standard and established psychological principles and constructs to the set of symptoms presented by the client. In the medical field, it is […]

via Best Practices Article in the Journal of Family Therapy — Dr Craig Childress: Attachment-Based “Parental Alienation”

Fighting Parental Alienation

Dr. Childress likens the Parental Alienation dynamic to a puppet show where the audience invariably addresses the puppet, without even noticing the puppet-master who is pulling the strings.  Friends and family members, even well-educated mental health and legal professionals take the child’s claims at face value, and remain ignorant to the psychological damage that is really taking place.

Of course, there is much more to the psychology of Parental Alienation than what I have attempted to describe here.  I encourage you to do your own reading.  See recommended resources below.

Why do alienating parents have such an obsessive need to bash and badmouth the targeted parent?  Why do they seem so driven to remove the targeted parent from the lives of the children?  How is it that a child can be convinced to hate and reject a parent they used to love so deeply?  What is the psychology underlying the Parental Alienation dynamic?

Why alienating parents alienate

Most alienating parents have traits of borderline/narcissistic personality disorder–traits which likely originate from their own traumatic childhood.  As a result, alienating parents regard people with whom they are close as “love objects” that belong to them, and to them alone.  They are emotionally insecure about relationships in general, and they are driven by overwhelming fears of rejection and abandonment.
As their adult love relationship falls apart, alienating parents cling to their children in unhealthy ways.  They do everything they can to ensure that their remaining “love objects” (the children) will not betray them by having affections for the rejected, “targeted” parent.

Alienating parents also engage in black-and-white thinking.  They see themselves as a victim, and they see their ex-spouse as their persecutor.  They see themselves as the all-good parent, and they see their ex-spouse as being all-bad.  They convincingly portray these false images to the children, to friends and family members, and even to mental health and legal professionals.   Alienating parents are believed, and seldom questioned, because of the passion and earnestness with which they tell their lies and distortions.  They are able to hide their distorted thinking from the outside world, and present themselves as confident and caring parents, because it is only in the context of intimate relationships, where their fears of rejection and abandonment are triggered, that the abnormal behaviors and distorted thinking become manifest.  This is part of what makes Parental Alienation so difficult to recognize and treat.

Alienating parents are unable to “share” the affections of their children after a divorce.  They are highly motivated to erase the targeted parent from the children’s lives, and they are relentless in their efforts to do so.

Why children reject the targeted parent

In Parental Alienation 101, I described some of the tactics utilized by alienating parents to destroy the targeted parent’s relationships with the children.  But why do these tactics work?  Aren’t children smarter than that?

Dr. Craig Childress, a licensed clinical child psychologist, describes an experiment performed in the 1980’s.   Researchers took baby rhesus monkeys and put them in a cage.  The researchers then placed a rubber snake into the cage.  The baby monkeys showed absolutely no fear.  They had never seen a snake before and had no reason to fear it.  The researchers then placed the baby monkeys into a cage with their mother. This time, when the snake was introduced, the mother reacted wildly, showing tremendous fear.  The baby monkey mimicked the mother’s behavior almost immediately.  From then on, whether the mother was present or not, the babies showed the same fear response to the snake.
Dr. Childress then goes on to describe how humans are likewise programmed to feel the emotions of others.  There are actually neurons in our brain called “mirror neurons” that have this purpose.  Dr. Childress writes:

The mirror neuron system allows us to feel what other people feel as if we were having the experience ourselves.   It is this “psychological connection” system that allows us to feel what the actors feel when we watch a movie.  We feel their sadness, their joy, their terror, as if we were having the experience ourselves, using our own emotional system to feel the experience of the actors.

Yet, when we are watching a movie we never lose awareness that what is happening on the screen is not actually happening to us, even if it feels that way.  It is exactly this distinction that is lost in the Parental Alienation dynamic.  The emotions of the alienating parent are not only felt by the child, they become reality for the child.  If the alienating parent expresses anger or fear, the child does not just empathize with the alienating parent; she internalizes the anger or fear, and makes it her own.  The child is taught to never think for herself.  It is very much like being in a cult.

This unhealthyinterconnected emotional state is further reinforced by frequent cues from the alienating parent.  Sometimes the cues are obvious (e.g. a fear response), and sometimes the cues are subtler.  Again Dr. Childress writes:

For example, say the child returns from a visitation with the other parent and is asked about the visit by the [alienating] parent. If the child responds with a positive report, such as “I had a great time,” the [alienating] parent responds with a sad dejected state… Conversely, if the child reports a negative experience with the other parent, which would be consistent with what the [alienating] parent desires, such as “it was awful, I didn’t like it,” the [alienating] parent responds with nurturing support, “Oh, I’m so sorry sweetie. I know how hard the other parent can be to get along with.  You poor thing.”  [This] forms a joint psychological experience with the child, and results in a burst of positive brain chemicals that feel good.  “I belong, I’m accepted, I’m understood.”
The child finds herself in an impossible situation.  She still loves the targeted parent, but the negative psychological consequences from the alienating, “favored” parent are even more powerful.  She fears being rejected and emotionally banished just as the targeted parent has been rejected.  And so, the child enmeshes herself with the favored parent.  It’s a matter of self-preservation.  It’s a form of trauma bonding.  It’s similar to the way a kidnap victim bonds with her kidnappers–i.e. Stockholm Syndrome.


Attachment-Based-Model-Parental-Alienation-Foundations, Craig Childress, Psy.D.

Divorce Poison, Dr. Richard Warshak

Co-parenting With a Toxic Ex, Dr. Amy JL Baker

AB-PA Certified Professionals – Dr. Craig Childress –

Change is Coming

This is not about me. This is about you. You are the change. I am merely a catalyst. I am simply the clarion call returning professional psychology to the ground foundations of professional psychology; Bowlby, Minuchin, Beck, Millon, Bowen. You are the agents of change.

We are establishing a ground foundation of knowledge and standards of practice for the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of attachment-related family pathology surrounding divorce. From this foundation, we then build professional expertise.

The ground foundation is not me. It’s Bowlby-Minuchin-Beck and the established constructs and principles of professional psychology.

This is about you and your children. This is about solving the family pathology of “parental alienation” for all children everywhere.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)

It was a relief when I found Dr Childress and read his teachings. My son began to run from me as soon as he saw me, as if I was a danger or a threat. It bothered me so much and blamed myself. It must be me.. I searched for some explanation in the older “parental alienation’ blogs looking fro an answer. It was nice to find you Doctor Childress. You understood so perfectly and could explain what was setting my son off like that. Yes, and I can see the behavior of my Narc ex husband putting our son as the front guy taking the blame . You’re right Dr Childress his fathers behavior stays the same, and it was helpful to hear that. I noticed one parent in court snickering and enjoying watching his former wife upset about the change in the way her children treated her. He was so obviously one of the poison parents we wish we could change. He looked at me as if I was going to laugh along. He stopped laughing when he saw my expression.

Continue reading “Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)”

Really Bad Clinical Psychology – Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)

What is even more difficult is to show how the alienating parent manipulates the child to do his dirty work. My ex husband is a skilled imposter who uses our son as a puppet. My once sweet son began to fly into rages and threaten to attack me or his aunt, (my sister) Then after his emotional rage he would drop his head into his lap and sob uncontrollably. At that time I’d report to his father what had taken place believing he cared. He would tell our son he had a breakdown because of something I did to provoke him. I had no idea this is the result his father wanted and his father truly has no compassion or any sense of guilt to help our son. Our son was hospitalized 3 months later under suicide watch, this would continue and happen again a year later.

Continue reading “Really Bad Clinical Psychology – Dr. Craig Childress: Attachment Based “Parental Alienation” (AB-PA)”

Question to Craig Childress, Psy.D.

I recieved the question in an email from Denmark:

Q: I am located in Denmark, where it appears that we are using the icd-10. Where can the “ab-pa” “child psychological abuse” fit in that system?

Just so everyone knows the difference of the ICD to the DSM diagnostic systems, let me explain.

The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association. This is the psychiatrists (the MD people) NOT th psychologists (the PhD psychology people). Psychologists (and MFTs) use the DSM, but it’s now “ours” – it’s the psychatrists’ MD people, and it helps them make medication decisions for their patients.

So one of the first things to understand, is that psychology people (PhD an MFT) use the DSM diagnostic system, we hve an addtional, non-formal “diagnosis” that is our clinical diagnosis – what’s going on – using our psychology knowledge. So this would be where I describe the pathology as a “cross-generational coalition” or an “emptional cutoff. those are psychology non-formal “diagnoses” using family systems constructs from psychology.

But you won’t find “cross-generational coalition” in the DSM, because that is a psychology “diagnosis” made on psychology information, not a formal “DSM psychiatric” diagnosis in the MD psychiatrist system.

The DSM system is an American diagnostic system because it is our psychiatrists who made it up. By the way, something to understand is that it is made up. We’re trying to understand stuff, but a lot of our understanding is incomplete or problematic – so people who know diagnosis are aware and make allowance for the problems in diagnosis and diagnostic systems.

In earlly childhoood we broke entirely with the DSM and we have our own diagnostic system, the DC:0-3 (Diagnostic Criteria ages 0-3) because the diagnoses of the DSM weren’t applicable to children ages 0-5.

The rest of the world developed their own parallel diagnostic system to the DSM, the ICD (International Classification of Diagoses) developed by the World Health Organization, Intially, fifty years ago or whatever, the two diagnostic system, the DSM and ICD had minor differences, but over the years they’ve gotten together so they’re basically interchangeable (with one really minor difference, that’s really huge for you – your diagnosis is NOT in the DSM (so we’re shifting to another diagonosis that IS in the DSM, Child Psychological Abuse.

But the actual psychiatric diagnosis for your pathology (a diagnosis that was in the DSM-IV but is “hidden” and unavailable in the DSM-5) is a Shared Delusional Disorder (the technical name is a Shared Psychotic Disorder).

In the ICD diagnostic systems, the diagnosis would be F24 Shared Psychotic Disorder. This is the shared delusion of Diagnostic Indicator 3 on the Diagnostic Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting.

A delusion can be caused by psychosis (like schizophrenia) or by trauma. You’re family’s type of delusion is trauma-created delusion; the trauma dream called the “trauma reenactment”.

As we first introduce people to the word “delusion”, most people, even mental health people, make the mistake of thinking we’re talking about delusions caused by a schizoprehnia-type pathology and they say, “the child doesn’t have a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia.” We will need to correct and re-orient them that this is a trauma-related delusion, not a psychotic-schizophrenia type delusion.

Delusions in trauma (the trauma dream of the “the trauma reenactment (also called “the transference” because the patient’s childhood trauma patterns are “transferred” to the therapist and what’s going on in therapy.

Sometimes the therapist becomes the “abusive” therapist in the mind of the patient, sometime the therapist is the “protective” therapist, but the words in quotes are the addition of the childhood trauma, not reality (which is what makes them delusional-psychotic; they those descriptive adjectives are added by trauma and are not true. This form of trauma recovery therapy that uses the “transference” of the trauma to wake the patient to the trauma dream they’re living, is called psychoanalysis. It’s the couch people.

Because this symptom, Diagnostic Indicator 3, the encapsulated delusion is the core of the pathology, identifying the trauma reenactment narrative of the supposedly “abusive” parent, the supposedly “victimized” child, and the supposedly “protective” parent, this is the symptom to focus on. None of this is trauma reenactment narrative is true, it is all a reenactment pattern of the childhood attachment trauma of the allied parent (that created their personality pathology).

Remember what I talk about, trauma is repetition of pattern? This is it… the repetition (in their not-reality mind) is of “abusive.” “victimized,” and “protective” from their childhood trauma.

The childhood trauma of the allied parent is adding the adjectives in quotes to the family relationships – “abusive” parent (you) – “victimized” child – “protective” parent (them). If you take out the words in quotes, that is reality – parent-child-parent. The adjectives in quotes are additions of the childhood attachment trauma (the trauma dream) of the allied parent.

The allied parent doesn’t realize that their childhood trauma is adding these adjective descriptors to reality, and they believe their constructed story of abuse, victimization, and protection. That’s the delusion – the false belief. The idea that you are “abusive” is delusional – translating this into common-speak, take your pick – the idea that you are “abusive” is crazy – the idea that you are “abusive” is a lie.

Doesn’t that fit? Isn’t that an accurate diagnosis – shared crazy between your child and ex- caused by the crazy in your ex- OR… a shared lie between your child and your ex-, told to your child by your ex-.

Sounds about right to me. So what is that diagnosis? In the ICD system it is F-24 Shared Psychotic Disorder. That’s the diagnosis in the ICD that fits your families – a shared lie told to our child by your ex-; or a shared crazy created in your child by the crazy in your ex.

The allied-parent transfers (the transference) their childhood their false trauma-related beliefs, the trauma additions of “abusive”, “victimized, and “protective”, to child’s beliefs and interpretations of relationship, thereby creating the shared delusion with the child (F24 Shared Psychotic Disorder).

Because the delusion symptom – Diagnostic Indicator 3 – is the trauma-related symptom identifying the trauma-reenactment narrative, an AB-PA assessment would be considered a “trauma-informed assessment” of your family, it is specifically knowledgeable about the possible role of trauma in your families – trauma-informed practice..

If the assessment does not include an assessment of the possible trauma-related delusional pathology in the family (the addition of the trauma-descriptive words to actual reality) then the assessment is NOT trauma-informed.

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Cinical Psychologist, PSY 8857

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