Parental alienation is a relationship problem, not a disorder
Divorces are never easy for anyone, but they can be especially difficult when parents can't agree about custody arrangements for children. These disputes can quickly lead to high-conflict custody disputes.
Frequently, one parent will accuse the other parent of parental alienation during these conflicts. Parental alienation refers to the process of one parent positioning a child against the other parent. While parental alienation definitely occurs, there has been heated and widespread debate about whether parental alienation should be classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychological Association.
Proponents of classifying it as a disorder believe that it would provide much-needed sway for family court judges who must consider what is in the best interests of the child when making custody determinations. This group believes that classifying parental alienation as a disorder would put more pressure on judges to order counseling for the child so the child could be reconciled with their estranged parent.
What about situations where there's abuse? That is the top concern of detractors. Battered women advocates and feminists believe that classifying parental alienation as a mental disorder would primarily be used by men as means of distracting the court from their abusive behavior.
The APA has made its final decision. As the mental health organization prepares to issue its fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, they have formally announced that parental alienation will not be included in the DSM-5, which is scheduled for publication next year.
Dr. Darrel Regier, the vice-chair of the task force assembling the new manual told the Huffington Post, "The bottom line - it is not a disorder within one individual. It's a relationship problem - parent-child or parent-parent. Relationship problems per se are not mental disorders."
Dr. Regier's distinction is an important one. There isn't one person to blame and the onus should not be placed on one person, whether a child or a parent, to repair the relationship. Sometimes, it's just the situation we don't like, but it always takes two.
Our firm has worked for years to help parents embroiled in high-custody disputes. If you would like more information about how our firm tackles child custody and visitation issues, please visit our child custody disputes page on our website.
Source: www.huffingtonpost.com, "Parental Alienation Not a Psychiatric Disorder, American Psychiatric Association Says," David Crary, 21 September 2012
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