With the permission on March 22, 2016 from the corresponding author William Bernet, M.D. this clinical vignette from his and his colleagues research project just completed, is given to you participating in the Kaunas conference March 31, 2016.
The parents of “Brad,” a 16-year-old boy (a participant in this research), were in a protracted custody dispute for nearly 3 years. About a week after the parents separated, the father received a text message from Brad, who accused him of fondling the boy’s genitals at age 2 during a family camping trip. Brad claimed he hated his father and refused to ever see him again. The father recalled his son had a urinary tract infection at age 2 and was prescribed an ointment by the family physician just prior to a family vacation. Both parents responsibly and individually administered the ointment during diaper changes in a tent. The mother and son had never made similar claims against him in the past. Two days after receiving the text message, the father arrived at the mother’s home to pick up Brad; the mother refused to let the boy leave. The father returned the following day in another attempt to see Brad; the mother opened the front door and insisted that Brad did not want to see the father. Then, the mother phoned 911. She alleged to the police that the father deliberately pushed her to the ground. Although the police officers found the mother’s statements to be inconsistent, they arrested the father and released him when he agreed to not communicate with the mother or go to her address. Eventually, the family court ordered a child custody evaluation by an experienced psychologist. During interviews with the evaluator, Brad claimed he remembered his father’s touching his genitals at age 2. Brad provided other unfounded, vague, and frivolous reasons for refusing contact with his father. When the evaluator visited the mother’s home, he noticed a picture frame in Brad’s bedroom, which was turned around and taped to the wall so that it was not visible. Brad showed the evaluator the reversed photograph of his father and said it was turned around because, “I hate him. He never loved me and we never had any fun times together.” The evaluator determined that there had been a good baseline relationship between the father and son, but an abrupt change for the worse occurred immediately after the parents separated. The evaluator opined this was a case of severe parental alienation. The court made the same finding and ordered the entire family to participate in the Family Reflections Reunification Program. At the outset of the intensive reunification treatment, Brad completed the PARQ, which indicated an unrealistically positive view of his mother (PARQ: Mother = 63) and an unrealistically negative view of his father (PARQ: Father = 234).
This vignette is taken from the not yet published article:
An Objective Measure of Splitting in Parental Alienation: The Parental Acceptance-Rejection Questionnaire
William Bernet, M.D., Nilgun Öngider-Gregory, Ph.D., Kathleen M. Reay, Ph.D., and Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D.
Date of draft: February 26, 2016
Some questions, suggested by Lena Hellblom Sjögren, that might be relevant to discuss in your workshop group after having read the vignette about the boy called Brad individually:
1. Do you recognize what is described in the vignette?
2. Do you consider Brad capable to express a will of his own? Why? Why not?
3. Do you consider Brad´s mother to act in the best interest of her son?
4. Brad said: ”my father never loved me” – what do you consider could be a plausible explanation for such a belief?
5. Can the explanation be that Brad´s father actually abused Brad when he was two years old?
6. Have you considered a distinction regarding the child´s behavior when the child has been abused and thus has a justified reason to reject a parent , and the situation when the child does not have a justified reason to reject a parent?
7. What do you see as typical for a child claiming – as Brad does – that he hates his father and that he does not want him in his life?
8. Do you know how to help Brad and his parents accurately?