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November 27, 2010

Richard Warshak Dances Around Parental Alienation - Part One

[Part two of this article is here]

Dr. Richard Warshak, one of the top promoters of the debunked and unscientific Parental Alienation, now has a column at the Huffington Post in its new Divorce section. Domestic violence activists and protective mothers descended upon his first article, "Stop Divorce Poison", to alert readers as to how bogus parental alienation really is. I won't link to the article, but here is the URL for reference: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-warshak/stop-divorce-poison_b_778889.html

The response? The Huffington Post (and most likely Warshak himself) have removed nearly all the comments critical of parental alienation, leaving up the glad-handing ones from parental alienation supporters. Two domestic violence activists saw their HuffPost accounts cancelled. What's the matter? Can't take the heat? In addition, possibly due to reading the massive amount of critical commentary all over the web about the Warshak/HuffPost/censorship/parental alienation issue, Warshak had even tried to present himself in a few comments as a friend to abused women. He is anything but.

While a few comments remain up, most notably ones by Morning Show, ms lc, and FamilyCourtInAmerica, Warshak saw fit to respond only to ms lc. This post will critically analyze his own statements and show how specious parental alienation really is and how Richard Warshak is no friend to abused women.

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He is completely missing the point. The kids aren't brainwashed by an abusive father. They are terrified of him and want to be out of his line of fire. They want to be with their mothers, but they are afraid, and the mere act of bringing up child abuse or domestic violence is enough for a mother to be labeled an alienator. In addition, domestic violence is not "divorce poison". As ms lc wrote below, call it was it is - abuse. Domestic violence. I'll add wife-beating, intimidation, and terrorism. The problem is that if you call it what it is and refrain from downgrading it to something as vague and dismissive as "divorce poison", you can't get the kids into expensive treatment designed with parental alienation in mind and make tons of money from the allegation of alienation. First and foremost, parental alienation is a huge moneymaker for the psychs who make their livings from it. To admit that it's vague and specious junk science means the cash cow disappears.

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Take special note of what Warshak writes below. He dances around ms lc's statement that abusive men use parental alienation as a weapon in court against mothers and children reporting abuse. He refuses to even acknowledge this is happening.

Also notice how he defines "alienation". Does he get the definition from a peer-reviewed journal? No. From the DSM-IV? No, he can't because parental alienation is not considered a valid medical disorder by the American Psychological Association so it doesn't even appear in the DSM-IV. It's not going to appear in the upcoming DSM-V, either, despite heavy lobbying by father's rights groups and parental alienation supporters and profiteers. Richard Gardner, the founder of parental alienation (back when it was called "parental alienation syndrome" - more on that in a minute), had even tried to get parental alienation into the DSM to no avail. Did Warshak look to a medical journal for a description of parental alienation? No.

He looked to the dictionary. Webster's definition. In other words, "alienation" is a layman's term, as ms lc says. It has no scientific basis at all, and Warshak outright admitted it.

Warshak also admitted that "alienation, like the word "attachment", carried no implication about the causes of the state of the relationship." So there is no concern or investigation into why a child may reject a parent? Only behavior that in someone's opinion is "alienation" (whatever that is) and it must be "treated"?

And how can you treat something that isn't medically based? After all, Warshak's definition of alienation came from the dictionary, not a valid, peer-reviewed medical journal. If it's only a layman's term, i.e., anyone can "see" it and "diagnose" it, why the need for expertise to treat it?

There has been lots of criticism that "parental alienation syndrome" and "parental alienation" are not the same thing. In some respects that's correct since Gardner's parental alienation syndrome was primarily used by fathers as a defense against child sexual abuse allegations raised by the mother. It's much more limited in its application. Gardner also stated that in his caseload, 90% of alienating parents were mothers. With the evolution from PAS into the more general parental alienation, the focus has broadened from child sexual abuse allegations to include any complaint by a parent about behavior by the other parent or child. There doesn't have to be allegations of abuse for a charge of parental alienation to be tossed out. Now, both fathers and mothers may be accused of parental alienation although the primary accused alienators continue to be mothers. In addition, parental alienation has become quite a lucrative cottage industry for psychs, especially since the advent of new HMO rules that affect those working in the mental health profession. There's money to be made in contested custody cases and divorces and parental alienation is one great way to make a lot of cash. Regarding the switch from parental alienation syndrome to parental alienation, Richard Gardner himself admitted in his article "Basic Facts About The Parental Alienation Syndrome" that several reasons for the switch in terminology were that parental alienation supporters wanted to distance themselves from him ("lest they be somehow tainted" - because of his misogynistic statements and statements praising pedophilia and incest) and they moved away from the use of alienation as a syndrome because it was "politically incorrect" and falling out of favor in courts. He also wrote "changing the name of an entity because of political and other unreasonable considerations generally does more harm than good." Gardner said that for all intents and purposes, parental alienation syndrome and parental alienation were the same thing. So, it evolved to be the vague moneymaker that it is today.

Warshak stated that he "helped many parents, women and men, whose former spouses, though not violent, have turned the children against them." How does he know this? On the say-so of the allegedly "alienated" parent? After all, there is no search for a cause for alienation, only treatment of it based on lay observation of vague behavior. In addition, Warshak did not state the main scenarios in which so-called alienation plays out, which is between warring parents where the child does not exhibit "alienating" behavior. What about those cases? If parents are so easily able to brainwash their children into hating the other parent, why do most cases involve children of warring parents who don't reject either parent? And what about the other common scenario, that of children who do reject a parent yet the "aligned" parent is not badmouthing or otherwise demeaning the other parent? Since the cause is of no concern when it comes to so-called alienation, these children are likely to end up in treatment just because the rejected parent hires a psych partial to "treating" parental alienation.

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He pays lip service to abused women by continuing to try to claim that abused women who have difficulty interacting with their children because of the abusive behavior of their ex's are experiencing alienation. That's not what it is. As I've already stated, it's abuse, domestic violence, terrorism, dealing with a controlling and hostile man (as ms lc wrote). Another term for what these women go through is "domestic violence by proxy", but alienation proponents don't like that term because they think it sounds too feminist.

And finally, Warshak still does not acknowledge that abusive fathers, their lawyers, and their hired-hand psychs use parental alienation in court to take child custody away from abused mothers. Parental alienation is now the leading defense for parents accused of abuse in custody cases. Harvard's Jay Silverman found in his 2004 survey in Massachusetts that 54 percent of custody cases involving documented spousal abuse were decided in favor of the batterers. Parental alienation was used as an argument in nearly every case.

What does Warshak have to say about all that? Nothing. And he presents himself as a friend of abused women.

More in the next post.

Posted on November 27, 2010 at 02:03 PM | Permalink

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