About Parental Alienation on World Psychiatric Congress in Madrid 2014

The 16th World Congress of Psychiatry

Madrid, 14-18 September, 2014


Parental Alienation:

A Critical Problem for Families in Many Countries



Parental alienation (PA) is a pathological family dynamic that usually occurs when parents are engaged in a high-conflict separation or divorce.  PA is a mental condition in which a child allies himself strongly with an alienating parent and rejects a relationship with the target parent without legitimate justification.  Almost every mental health professional who works with children of divorced parents acknowledges that PA affects thousands of families and causes enormous pain and hardship.  PA has been described in the worldwide mental health and legal literature.  It is represented in the International Classification of Diseases by diagnoses such as parent-child relational problem, child affected by parental relationship distress, child psychological abuse, and induced delusional disorder.


In this symposium, the presenters will discuss various aspects of PA from several countries.  Lena Hellblom Sjögren (Sweden) will explain how causing PA violates the human rights of the child, as expressed in the European Convention on Human Rights.  Olga Odinetz (France) will describe how the advocacy organization Association Contre L’Alienation Parentale (ACALPA) has trained mental health and legal professionals, gendarmerie officers, and the public regarding PA.  Asunción Tejedor Huerta (Spain) will describe a treatment program for PA that she and her colleagues have developed.  José Vera Gómez (Paraguay) will relate how government bodies in South America have addressed the problem of PA.  Christian T. Dum (Austria and Germany) will summarize how research personnel in several countries have started to clarify the causes and diagnostic features of PA.  [242 words]


Moderator: William Bernet, M.D. (United States)


Lena Hellblom Sjögren, Ph.D. (Sweden)

Parental Alienation – A Violation of Human Rights

After the second world war, when Eleanor Roosevelt and others wrote the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was self-evident to prescribe every human being´s right to family life. This fundamental human right is violated when a parental part, without substantiated cause, separates a child from the other parental part and influences the child to reject that parent. The process of such an alienation, which I have investigated for 20 years, can be described as a cutting off of half of the child´s root system, thus causing the child constant stress with negative consequences for the child’s, and all family members’, well-being, both psychologically and physically.  This harm is not yet accepted as a violation of the human right to family life, but some progress can be noticed in the Swedish legal system recently, as custody has been given to the parent who understands the importance of the child´s need of and right to have close contact with both parents.  [161 words]



Olga Odinetz, Ph.D. (France)

Parental Alienation Awareness in France: From Training Courses to Court Decisions

In France, professionals use parental alienation (PA) or parental alienation syndrome (PAS) to describe severe alienation situations and “loyalty conflict” for light and medium cases. Court decisions have been mentioning PA diagnosis since 2002 to determine custody and visitations rights, educational measures, family therapy, and placement in very severe cases. These decisions are based on the superior interest of the child and the protection of child in danger. Experts agree that extremely severe PA cases involve parents suffering from personality disorders or mental illnesses. This concerns parents of both genders.  Since 2007, multidisciplinary conferences on PA have taken place and numerous articles have been published by professionals in law and mental health. PA situations have been discussed in Ombudsman for Children annual reports in 2008 and in 2013. Training courses are regularly offered for attorneys and social workers. Police officers of the National Gendarmerie School have been trained regarding PA situations.  In 2011, the French state was convicted of gross negligence and denial of justice in a severe PA case after a ECHR condemnation. In 2013, PA was recognized by the Court of Cassation as a major element that justifies a new referral to the Court of Appeal. [198 words]



Asunción Tejedor Huerta, Ph.D. (Spain)

Helping Families Recover from Parental Alienation

In the Spanish market we can find stories and games for children explaining the separation of their parents and the changes it can cause for them.  However, all those we have reviewed do not delve into dysfunctional situations that may occur or procedures that can help children who are trying to prevent or combat the damaging effects of the manipulations and interferences that can receive by their parents.  The Intervention Program for Victims of Parental Interference is a therapeutic intervention for the whole family, which helps children achieve stability and personal development and guides parents in handling the discomfort seen in their children.  This program is divided into three modules (divorce, parent-child relationships, and parental interference), consisting of twelve units.  The program can be used in counseling individuals or in homogeneous groups.  For young children, the units include material consisting of animal motifs (”Teddy’s Family”) in various family situations.  [149 words]


José Vera Gómez, M.D. (Paraguay):

New Laws Regarding Parental Alienation in Latin America

Despite abundant scientific data and evidence on parental alienation cases, in Latin American countries it is still a new subject, unknown by mental health professionals and especially by psychiatrists.  However, forensic psychiatrists see that the creation of specific laws is necessary so that our skills will be validated.  A significant progress in terms of legislation was the law enacted in August 2010 in Brazil, a pioneer country in the creation of a specific law on this issue.  An important document was the Declaration of the Latin American Union of Organizations of Psychology (October 5, 2011), in which researchers said that parental alienation is a normal event in Latin America and cited progress in some countries.  On June 16, 2013, in Chile the Senate approved the Shared Tuition Act, also known as ”Father Love Law” by the organization that prompted the legislation.  In Mexico, some states also have advanced in terms of laws on parental alienation, such as the initiative to amend the Civil Code of the State of Guanajuato regarding parental alienation and the initiative to amend the Federal Civil Code of Mexico.  In Paraguay, a committee of the Representatives Chamber is working on the creation of a law to protect the bond between children and their parents in cases of conflictive separations. Despite these advances, the way to go in this fight against parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome is still hard and long. Above all, we must fight people who see these problems with an ideological bias, not from clinical or forensic practice.  [255 words]


Christian T. Dum, Ph.D. (Austria and Germany)

Parental Alienation Research in Many Countries

A common objection to parental alienation (PA) is that it is a theory that lacks an empirical basis, usually without suggesting, however, in any way what kind of research could disprove or support it. The scientific method as spelled out by Karl Popper, for example, requires though that starting from common experience, clinical observations, and in the case of PA also family case law, one first develops hypotheses that must be non-tautological, that is, are in principle also falsifiable by an empirical study. Although the selection of a suitable and statistically significant cohort for PA studies is often limited by ethical, legal, and practical considerations, a considerable number of pertinent empirical PA studies has nevertheless been carried out already. They will be summarized, with an outlook on possible further studies.  [130 words]










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