By Joan Dawson

In the past few decades, a term called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) or Parental Alienation (PA) has been used in family courts to describe a situation where one parent poisons the mind of the child against the other parent.

While it is true that some mothers (and fathers) intentionally bad-mouth their spouses or partners, several reasons can explain why the child fears or distances him or herself from a parent. It has long been recognized that children experiencing divorce can exhibit aggressive behavior or depression. Children can react angrily to their parent’s separation and may even be reacting to the conflict and violence they’ve witnessed.

But there is another possible explanation for a so-called alienated child. The child may have been abused and, as a result, fears or exhibits hostility towards the “target” parent. PAS, then, can shift the attention from an abusive situation to that of a protective parent’s “alienating” behavior. Abusers, who, not surprisingly, deny allegations or call them “false allegations” (and actually get the spouse punished with fines or jailtime), are more likely to seek custody than nonviolent parents. And, often enough, they get it.