New disorder list out: APA says no to “parental alienation”

On Behalf of | Sep 25, 2012 | Family Law Issues |

In the coming publication of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders there are some controversial changes being made. The long-debated issue of parental alienation doesn’t make the cut, as it is not explicitly defined as a mental disorder, according to the APA’s vice chair. It has been said many times before that children of divorce can go through an emotional time when dealing with such a trauma, and that the interactions they have with their parents throughout can profoundly help or hinder the healing process.

Parental alienation is explained to be when one parent discusses the other to their child in a way that alters the child’s view of that other parent. This can come up in divorces a lot, especially when there are child custody issues. The APA’s reason for discounting parental alienation as a disorder is that it does not reside solely inside an individual, but rather requires interaction or influence from an outside agent.

There are many reasons why this syndrome has been debated at length over the last few decades, and each side has very passionate reasons. For those in favor of parental alienation being diagnosed as a real disorder, the effects of it are apparent in the children of divorce, and they reportedly say it could change the outcomes in divorce cases and help receive compensation for treatment for children. On the other hand, there are those who say that it has gotten in the way of justice in some cases, such as domestic abuse. This claim seems to have been understood by one doctor as he reportedly stated that parental alienation can be “‘dangerous'” and that it “‘has caused harm to victims of abuse.'”

Colorado residents who are going through a divorce may be dealing with something similar to parental alienation and could look into how it is viewed in their area. Regardless of the APA’s decision that it is not a disorder, it would seem that they do respect that the issue is real from the amount of discussion on it, and that nod may be enough to help a parent if they are going through something like it. Seeking out legal counsel could help in an instance like this, if a parent is interested in learning more about their options regarding custody or support.

Source:, “Psychiatric group: parental alienation no disorder,” David Crary, Sept. 21, 2012


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