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American Psychiatric Association Rejects Parental Alienation as Mental Disorder

Posted on in Child Custody

Despite recent pressure from various lobbying groups to formally classify parental alienation as a bona fide mental condition, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has resisted from officially recognizing this hotly disputed concept by listing it as an official disease or syndrome in its updated Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). According to the Huffington Post, a spokesperson for the APA committee has commented that parental alienation is not a disorder that is within one individual, but, rather, a relationship problem between parents and children.

Parental alienation is a term often used by psychologists, consultants, and other professionals in divorce and child custody disputes to refer to how one parent acts in a manner so as to poison a child against the other parent, thus causing estrangement between the child and parent. This concept is not without controversy, however. Some advocates of the idea believe that it is a serious mental disorder that necessitates counseling and psychological treatment in both parents and children. On the other hand, opponents of the idea often dismiss it as a strategic concept used by men who are trying to deflect attention from their own abusive or otherwise inappropriate actions in an attempt to gain the upper hand in hotly contested custody proceedings.

Many believe that the term "parental alienation syndrome" came into use several years ago as a result of the bitter divorce and child custody fight between actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. Since that time, the concept has repeatedly arisen in the context of child custody battles, often when professionals and other experts become involved. Dr. William Bernet, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine, has even published a book in which he estimates that about 200,000 children in the United States suffer from parental alienation syndrome, and argues that the syndrome should be recognized as an official mental disorder in the DSM-5.

It is no secret that child custody cases can result in difficult conditions for all parties involved, including both parents and children. Sometimes, estrangement and alienation does occur between one parent and a child, for a variety of reasons, particularly in the context of high conflict court proceedings. Fortunately, your experienced DuPage County divorce attorney can help. Contact our office today for individualized advice and counsel about your child custody situation.

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