Allow us to introduce Amy Baker, Ph.D., a specialist in Developmental Psychology who is a strong advocate for the values of the Stand Up for Gus Campaign. Dr. Baker holds a degree from Teachers College of Columbia University and has spent the past 20 years conducting research on various issues related to parent-child relationships.
She has written several books on parental alienation. Deeply concerned about the effects of this syndrome, Dr. Baker conducts trainings for legal and mental health professionals and coaches parents to better deal with the problem.
We conducted a brief Q&A with Dr. Baker to receive a professional understanding of the issue and to learn about various resources for children and parents suffering from PAS.
What is “Parental Alienation Syndrome”?
A: PAS is the term reserved to describe children who have been manipulated by one parent to unjustifiably reject the other parent. The term “alienated child” is also used.
Alienated children exhibit certain behaviors that differentiate them from children who are rejecting a parent for a rational and legitimate reason, whom we refer to as estranged.
What are the effects of PAS on the following groups: children, parents (and adults who have suffered PAS in their childhood)?
A: I conducted a study of 40 adults who related that when they were children they were alienated from one parent by the other parent. These adults reported that they suffered terribly from the experience, both in the short-term and over the course of their lives. They reported low self-esteem, difficulties trusting other people, depression, alcohol and drug dependency, and high rates of divorce in their own relationships. These qualitative findings have been replicated in several independent studies with standardized measures.
All of the studies reveal strong associations between alienation and poor outcomes.
What can a parent do to help their child (and themselves) if their (former) parent/partner is practicing alienation tendencies towards their family?
A: Parents who believe that the other parent of their child is trying to turn their child against them need to first and foremost, get educated about the likely landmines to avoid.
Second, they need to get legal representation from an attorney who “gets” alienation.
Third, they need emotional support by way of an informed mental health counselor and/or participation in a mutual-support-group, specially formed by other parents dealing with this problem.
Likewise, if a child is cognizant of the problem, what can they do to help themselves if they realize one of their parents is trying to alienate the other?
A: Ask to speak to a therapist or counselor who can help them figure out how to stay out of the middle of their parents’ conflict. The I Don’t Want to Choose book, written by Katherine Andre and myself, has lots of tips and tools to help kids with that.
What are some of the best resources for families experiencing PAS (either in the present or that which has taken place in the past)?
A: Parents dealing with parental alienation may find the following resources helpful: