xUnpublished Manuscript
Submitted for Publication


The Judiciary’s Role in the Etiology,
Symptom Development, and Treatment
of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

Richard A. Gardner, MD



The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a psychiatric disorder that arises in the course of child-custody disputes adjudicated in the context of adversarial proceedings. This article describes the central role that such proceedings have had in the development of this relatively new disorder. Our legal system does not stand alone in having produced this disorder; litigating parents as well as their children have played an important contributory role. It is the purpose of this article to focus on the judiciary’s role in the etiology, development of symptoms, and treatment of the parental alienation syndrome. It is the author’s hope that increasing recognition of the PAS by the judiciary will enhance its ability to make prudent decisions in child-custody disputes in which the children have developed manifestations of this now widespread disorder.


Since the 1970s, we have witnessed a burgeoning of child-custody disputes unparalleled in history. This increase has primarily been the result of two recent developments in the realm of child-custody litigation, namely, the replacement of the tender-years presumption with the best-interests-of-the-child presumption and the increasing popularity of the joint-custodial concept. Under the tender-years presumption, the assumption was made that mothers, by virtue of the fact that they are female, are intrinsically superior to men as child rearers. Accordingly, the father had to provide the court with compelling evidence of serious maternal deficiencies before the court would even consider assigning primary custodial status to the father. Under its replacement, the best-interests-of-the-child presumption, the courts were instructed to ignore gender when adjudicating child-custody disputes and evaluate only parenting capacity, especially factors that related to the best interests of the child. This change resulted in a burgeoning of custody litigation as fathers found themselves with a greater opportunity to gain primary custodial status. Soon thereafter the joint-custodial concept came into vogue, eroding even further the time that custodial mothers were given with their children. Again, this change also brought about an increase and intensification of child-custody litigation.

In association with this burgeoning of child-custody litigation, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the frequency of a disorder rarely seen previously, a disorder that I refer to as the parental alienation syndrome (PAS). In this disorder we see not only programming ("brainwashing") of the child by one parent to denigrate the other parent, but self-created contributions by the child in support of the alienating parent’s campaign of denigration against the alienated parent. Because of the child’s contribution, I did not consider the terms brainwashing, programming, or other equivalent words to be applicable. Accordingly, in 1985, I introduced the term parental alienation syndrome to cover the combination of these two contributing factors1-2. In accordance with this use of the term I suggest this definition of the parental alienation syndrome:

The parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. When true parental abuse and/or neglect is present the child’s animosity may be justified, and so the parental alienation syndrome diagnosis is not applicable.

The alienating parent’s primary purpose for indoctrinating into the children a campaign of denigration against the target parent is to gain leverage in the court of law. The child’s alienation has less to do with bona fide animosity or even hatred of the alienated parent, but more to do with the fear that if such acrimony is not exhibited, the alienating parent will reject the child.

Evolution of the Gender Shift

In the early 1980s, when I first began seeing the PAS, in about 85% to 90% of the cases the mother was the alienating parent and the father the targeted parent. Fathers were certainly trying to program their children to gain leverage in the custody dispute; however, they were less likely to be successful. This related to the fact that the children were generally more closely bonded with their mothers. Recognizing this, I generally recommended the mother to be designated the primary custodial parent, even though she might have been a PAS indoctrinator. It was only in the severe cases (about 10 percent)—when the mother was relentless and/or paranoid and unable to cease and desist from the programming—that I recommended primary custodial status to the father. I was not alone in recognizing this gender disparity, which was confirmed during that period by others.

In the last few years, I have seen a gender shift: I am seeing more fathers as primary PAS programmers than I had seen before.3 And colleagues of mine in various parts of the country are reporting a similar phenomenon. Why this shift? One probable explanation relates to the fact that fathers are increasingly enjoying expanded visitation time with their children in association with the increasing popularity of shared parenting programs. The more time a programming father has with his children, the more time he has to program them if he is inclined to do so. Another factor operative here probably relates to the fact that with increasing recognition of the PAS, fathers (some of whom have read my books) have learned about the disorder and have decided to use the same psychological weapons described in my book—especially the money and power factors. It is probable that other factors are operative as well in the gender shift, but these are the two best explanations that I have at this point.

The Three Types of Parental Alienation Syndrome







In closing then, it is my belief that the PAS is primarily a product of the utilization of the adversary system for adjudicating child-custody disputes. A parent’s primary reason for indoctrinating a PAS into a child is to gain leverage in a court of law. In countries in which people cannot afford to take such disputes to court, there is no PAS. Somehow, some way, they resolve these disputes without the utilization of the courtroom proceedings. PAS is a widespread phenomenon in western Europe and, until recently, it was not seen in eastern Europe. Although there were many reasons for this difference, the primary one relates to the fact that people in eastern Europe just did not (and still do not) have enough money to hire lawyers and take such disputes to court. It is reasonable to predict that with economic improvement, eastern European countries will see more PAS. I know this is now happening in the Czech Republic. I believe that if courtrooms were not available for the adjudication of child-custody disputes, some children would certainly suffer, but more would be better off. Years of exposure to and embroilment in courtroom litigation scar most children. To recommend that the courtroom doors be closed to such parents at this point is not realistic. However, I am convinced that such blockage, such unavailability, would protect more children than it would harm. The number of children who would suffer untoward consequences from not having a court of law available to protect them would be small compared to the benefits enjoyed by those who would not have that forum available to them. In short, the system as it exists today is doing PAS families much more harm than good and is not serving the best interests of the children. It has been the purpose of this article to focus on the judiciary’s role in the perpetuation of this tragic situation.


1.     Gardner RA: Recent trends in divorce and custody litigation. Academy Forum 29:3-7, 1985

  1. Gardner RA: Child custody, in Basic Handbook of Child Psychiatry, Vol. V. Edited by Noshpitz JD. New York: Basic Books, 1987, pp. 637-646
  2. Gardner RA: The recent gender shift in PAS indoctrinators. News for Women in Psychiatry 19:11-13, 2001
  3. Gardner RA: Judges interviewing children in custody/visitation litigation. New Jersey Family Lawyer 7:153ff, 1987
  4. Gardner RA: The empowerment of children in the development of the parental alienation syndrome. The American Journal of Forensic Psychology 20 (in press)
  5. Gardner RA: Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 2001
  6. Gardner RA: The Parental Alienation Syndrome: Second Edition. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1998
  7. Gardner RA: Differentiating between PAS and bona fide abuse/neglect. The American Journal of Family Therapy 27:195-212, 1999
  8. Gardner RA: Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1991
  9. Gardner RA: The embedment in the brain circuitry phenomenon (ebcp). Jnl American Academy of Psychoanalysis 25:151-176, 1997
  10. Gardner RA: Should courts order PAS children to visit/reside with the alienated parent? A follow-up study. The American Journal of Forensic Psychology 19:60-106, 2001
  11. Gardner RA: Articles in Peer-Review Journals and Published Books on the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
  12. Gardner RA: Testimony Concerning the Parental Alienation Syndrome Has Been Admitted in Courts of Law in Many States and Countries.
  13. Gardner RA: Parental alienation syndrome vs. parental alienation: which diagnosis should evaluators use in child-custody litigation? The Amer Jnl of Family Therapy 30:101-123, 2002
  14. Gardner RA: Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1985
  15. Gardner RA: Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1989
  16. Gardner RA: The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1992
  17. Gardner RA: Testifying in Court: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, New Jersey: Creative Therapeutics, Inc., 1996


Title Page Footnote:

Dr. Gardner is Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY. Address correspondence to: Richard A. Gardner, MD, 155 County Rd., Cresskill, NJ 07626

©2002 Richard A. Gardner, M.D.




Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome
Ira Daniel Turket, PhD

With the increasing commonality of divorce involving children, a
pattern of abnormal behavior has emerged that has received little
attention.  The present paper defines the Divorce Related Malicious
Mother Syndrome.  Specific nosologic criteria are provided with
abundant clinical examples. Given the lack of scientific data
available on the disorder, issues of classification, etiology,
treatment, and prevention appear ripe for investigation.


A divorced man gains custody of his children and his ex-wife burns
down his home.  A woman in a custody battle buys a cat for her
offspring because her divorcing husband is highly allergic to cats.  A
mother forces her children to sleep in a car to "prove" their father
has bankrupted them. The actions illustrate a pattern of abnormal
behavior that has emerged as the divorce rate involving children has

Today, half of all marriages will end in divorce (Beal and Hochman,
1991).  The number of children involved in divorce has grown
dramatically (e.g., Hetherington and Arastah, 1988) as well.   While
the majority of such cases are "settled" from a legal perspective,
outside the courtroom the battle continues.

The media have spent considerable effort raising public awareness
about the problem posed by divorced fathers who do not provide
court-ordered child support payments.  Hodges (1991) has noted that
less than 20 percent of divorced fathers provide child support
payments three years after their divorce.  Research on the decline of
women's economic status following (e.g., Hernandez, 1988; Laosa, 1988) has contributed to recent legislation to address the "Deadbeat Dad" problem.

While the media correctly portray the difficulties imposed upon women
and children by the "Deadbeat Dad" phenomenon [but see], the cameras have yet to capture the warfare waged by a select group of mothers against child
support paying, law-abiding fathers. Everyday, attorneys and
therapists are exposed to horror stories in which vicious behaviors
are lodged against innocent fathers and children.  Unfortunately,
there are no scientific data on the subject.  Similarly, the clinical
literature has relatively ignored the problem..

A noted exception can be found in the clinical writings of Gardner
(1987, 1989)  who has provided excellent descriptions of the Parental
Alienation Syndrome.  Here, a custodial parent successfully engages in
a variety of maneuvers to alienate the child from the non-residential
parent.  Once successfully manipulated, the child becomes
".preoccupied with deprecation and criticism of a parent-denigration
that is unjustified and/or exaggerated" (Gardner, 1989 p. 226).  In
the typical case of Parental Alienation Syndrome, both mother and
child engage in an array of abnormal actions against the father.
Gardner views "brainwashing" as a concept "too narrow" (Gardner, 1989) to capture the psychological manipulation involved in turning a child against his/her non-residential parent.

While Gardner's pioneering descriptions of the Parental Alienation
Syndrome provide an important contribution to our understanding of
divorce-related child-involved hostilities, the present paper is
concerned with a more global abnormality.  As noted in the examples
provided in the beginning of this manuscript, serious attacks on
divorcing husbands take place which are beyond merely manipulating the children.  Further, these actions include a willingness by some
mothers to violate societal law.  Finally, there are mothers who
persistently engage in malicious behaviors designed to alienate their
offspring from the father, despite being unable to successfully cause
alienation.   In sum, these cases do not meet the criteria for
Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Nevertheless, they portray a serious

The purpose of the present paper is to define and illustrate this more
global abnormality with the hope of generating increased scientific
and clinical investigation of this problem.


The present section provides a beginning definition of the
Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, which has been derived from clinical and legal cases.  As in all initial proposals, it is
anticipated that future research will lead to greater refinement in
the taxonomic criteria.

The proposed definition encompasses four major criteria, as follows:

1. A mother who unjustifiably punishes her divorcing or divorced
husband by:
    a.  Attempting to alienate their mutual children from the father
    b.  Involving others in malicious actions against the father

    c.  Engaging in excessive litigation

2. The mother specifically attempts to deny her child(ren)
    a.  Regular uninterrupted visitation with the father
    b.  Uninhibited telephone access to the father
    c.  Paternal participation in the child(ren)'s school life and
    extracurricular activities

3. The pattern is pervasive and includes malicious acts towards the
husband including:
    a.  Lying to the children
    b.  Lying to others
    c.  Violations of law

4. The disorder is not specifically due to another mental disorder,
although a separate mental disorder may co-exist.


In this section, I will provide clinical illustrations for each
criterion using the reference numbers provided above.  As criteria 1-3
are behavior specific to the Malicious Mother Syndrome, I will provide
a series of clinical examples.  The fourth criterion which addresses
the relationship of the proposed syndrome to other mental disorders,
will be discussed more generally.

    Criterion 1A:  Alienating the Children

The range of actions taken by a mother to attempt to alienate her
children from their father is impressive.  For example:

One mother lied to her children that she could no longer buy food
because their father had spent all of their money on women in topless

A doctor's wife forced her 10-year-old son to apply for federally
funded free school lunches to delude the boy that his "daddy has made
us poor."

A woman who for years was very close to the children in a custody
battle, was asked by their mother to give up neutrality and join her
campaign against the father to "dance on his grave." When the friend
refused to give up her neutrality, the mother falsely informed her
children that their father was having an affair with this woman.

These behaviors, if successful, could lead a child to not only hate
the father, but perhaps go years without seeing him.  As Cartwright
(1993) has noted: "The goal of the alienator is crystalline: to
deprive the lost parent, not only of the child's time, but of the time
of childhood." (p.210).

    Criterion 1B:  Involving Others in Malicious Actions

The second component of the first major criterion where the mother
attempts to punish the husband, involves manipulating other
individuals to engage in malicious acts against the father.  Examples
of this kind are as follows:

During a custody battle, a mother lied to a therapist about the
father's behavior.  The therapist, having never spoken with the
father, appeared as an "expert" witness to inform the Judge that the
mother should be the primary residential parent and that the father
needed to be in therapy.

One angry mother manipulated teenagers to leave anonymous threatening notes at the ex- husband's home.

A mother who had lost legal custody of her children, manipulated a
secretary at the child's school to assist in kidnapping the child.

In the above examples, it is important to note that the person
manipulated by the angry mother has, in a way, been "alienated"
against the divorcing husband.  Typically, the individual "duped"
takes on a righteous indignation, contributing to a rewarding climate
for the mother initiating malicious actions.

    Criterion 1C:  Excessive Litigation

There is little question that either party in a divorce or custody
proceeding is entitled to appropriate legal representation and action.

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, however, attempt to punish the divorcing husband by engaging in excessive litigation.

A belligerent and unreasonable mother verbally attacked her ex-husband
whenever she saw him.  Over time, his response was to ignore her.  She
then took him to court, asking the judge to require the ex-husband to
talk with her.

One mother told a judge that her daughter was not really her divorcing
husband's child

One woman refused to stop attacking her ex-husband through the courts, despite numerous attorneys being fired or voluntarily leaving the
case.  Over a three-year period, seven different attorneys were utilized.

Data exist which can help in determining the range of excessive
litigation.   For example, Koel et al. (1988) report on the frequency
of post-divorce litigation in a sample of 700 families.  Their data
indicate that only 12.7% of families file one post-divorce petition to
the court, whereas less than 5 percent file two or more petitions
(Koel et al. 1988); less than one percent file four or more petitions.

    Criterion 2A: Denying Regular Visitation

Experts are in relative agreement that regular and uninterrupted
visitation with the non-residential parent is desirable and beneficial
for children, except in extreme circumstances (Hodges, 1991).  In
fact, some states, such as Florida, have laws written to reflect this
view (Keane, 1990).  Unfortunately, even when the father and children
have legal rights to visitation, individuals with Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome continue to interfere with it.

A mother who previously attacked her ex-husband physically during
visitation transfers of the children, refused to provide the children
when the ex-husband had the police attend to monitor exchanges.

When one divorced father arrived to pick up his children for
visitation, the mother arranged for her and the children to be
elsewhere so that the father could not visit with the children.

One mother had her physically intimidating boyfriend assault her
ex-husband when he came to pick up his children for visitation.

The President of the Council for Children's Rights (Washington, D.C.)
notes that such alienation is considered a form of child abuse (Levy,
1992).  Unfortunately, the police typically avoid involving themselves
in such situations.  Furthermore, unless a victimized father is
financially capable of returning to court on an ongoing basis, there
is little that can be done to prevent such mothers' behavior.
Finally, even when such cases are brought to trial, the courts are
often inadequate in supporting fathers' visitation rights. (Commission
on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992).

Given the physical absence of one parent, the telephone plays an
important role in maintaining the bond between child and
non-residential parent.  Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome engage in an array of actions designed to
circumvent telephone access. [English judges have a habit of interfering in telephone contact between father and child, thus either aiding and abetting the mentally sick mothers here described, or demonstrating that the judge suffers from this syndrome. – Ivor Catt.]

A father called to speak to his children and was told that they were
not at home when, in fact, he could hear their voices in the

When one father called to speak with his children, the mother put him
on "hold," informed no one, and then left him on hold.

Knowing that the children's father was away on vacation, one mother
encouraged them to leave several messages on his answering machine to call back immediately only if he would like some additional visitation
time with his children.

Some fathers find the alienation attempts so painful and fruitless
that they eventually are extinguished from calling their children;
they simply "give up."  Placed in a no-win scenario, the father's
"abandonment" (Hodges, 1991) unfortunately achieves the precise result aimed for by the individual suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

    Criterion 2C: Denying Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities

An integral part of the process of maintaining one's bond with one's
child is to participate in activities that one did before the parents
separated.  School plays, team sports, and religious events are just
osme of the type of activities of importance.  Malicious Mothers
frequently engage in maneuvers designed to prevent participation in
these activities.

One father was deliberately given the wrong date and time for an
important event for the child.  The child was asked by the mother, "I
wonder why your father didn't want to come to see you today"?

One mother refused to provide the father with any  information about
any extra-curricular activities in which the children were engaged.

Prior to a child's soccer game, one mother told many of the team
parents disparaging falsehoods about the visiting father.  When he
came to watch his son's soccer game, many of these parents looked at
him with angry eyes, refused to talk with him, and walked away when he
moved toward them.

Malicious Mothers who engage in such behaviors rarely have to face
penalties for such actions.  Judges, attorneys, and policemen cannot
involve themselves in every instance of blocked paternal access.
Furthermore, most fathers cannot afford the financial requirements
involved.  As such, the cycle of access interference perpetuates

    Criterion 3A: Malicious Lying to the Children

Given their developmental status, children in a disputed divorce
situation are quite vulnerable.  When one parent decides to attack the
other by lying to the children,  examples of this type of malicious
behavior may include some of the following:

One divorcing mother told her very young daughter that father was "not
really" her father, even though he was.

An eight-year-old girl was forced by her mother to hand unpaid bills
to her father when he visited because the mother had falsely told the
daughter that the father had not provided any economic means of
support to the family.

One mother falsely told her children that their father had repeatedly
beat her up in the past.

These examples of malicious lying can be contrasted with the more
subtle maneuvers typically seen in Parental Alienation Syndrome, such
as "virtual allegations" (Cartwright, 1993).  Here, the mother setting
up a Parental Alienation Syndrome may hint that abuse may have
occurred, whereas the individual suffering from Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome falsely claims that abuse has actually

    Criterion 3B: Malicious Lying to Others

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome may engage a wide range of other individuals in their attacks upon the ex-husband.  However, with this particular criterion, the individual with Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome specifically lies to other individuals in the belligerency against the father.  Some examples include the following:

One furious mother called the president of the (1500 employee)
workplace of her divorcing husband, claiming falsely that he was using
business property for person gain and was abusing their mutual
children at his work locale.

One woman falsely told state officials that her ex-husband was
sexually abusing their daughter.  The child was immediately taken away
from him and his access to her was denied.

During the course of a custody dispute, one mother falsely informed
the guardian, who was investigating the parenting skills of each
parent, that the father had physically abused her.

Snyder (1986) has reported on the difficulty imposed upon legal
authorities when confronted with someone who is an excellent liar.
Consistent with research on the inability of "specialists" to detect
lying (Ekman and O'Sullivan, 1991), a skilled fabricator can be a
compelling witness in the courtroom (Snyder, 1986).  While sometimes
seen in borderline personalities, Snyder (1986) notes that
pathological lying (Pseudologia Fantastica) is not restricted to that
particular character disorder.

    Criterion 3C: Violating Law to Attack the Husband

Individuals suffering from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, have few, if any boundaries in their campaign against the divorcing husband.  Violations of law are common in many cases, although the laws broken may be relatively minor.  However, in some cases, the violations of law may be quite serious.

One woman deliberately drove her automobile into the house of the
ex-husband where their mutual children resided.

In the midst of a custody battle, one woman broke into the residence
of her divorcing husband and stole important business papers.

An angry divorcing mother called a Christian evangelical television
station and pledged $1,000, giving the name, address and phone number of her divorcing Jewish husband as the pledgee.

The above descriptions may remind the reader of certain personality
disorders (e.g., antisocial, borderline, sadistic) but these behaviors
may be demonstrated by individuals with Divorce-Related Malicious
Mother Syndrome who do not appear to meet official diagnostic criteria
for an Axis II disorder.  Further, in each  of the four examples
provided above, none of the Malicious Mothers involved was sentenced for such behavior by a Judge.

    Criterion 4:  Not Due to Another Disorder

In assessing the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome, it is
important to note that many of the above clinical examples seem to
have occurred in individuals who had no prior mental disorder
diagnosis or treatment.  In fact, one mother who engaged in extreme
maliciousness toward her divorcing husband had several mental health
professionals testify that she was not suffering from any type of
mental disorder.

In the author's experience, for each mental disorder that might come
to mind to account for some of this behavior, an exceptional case
presents.  For example, in some cases, an Adjustment Disorder might
seem an appropriate diagnosis, yet one woman still denied her
ex-husband visitation 10 years after the divorce.  Other cases might
suggest a possibility of a personality disorder diagnosis, yet one
woman who repeatedly violated the law in attacking her ex-husband,
received no personality disorder diagnosis despite being evaluated by
masters level and doctoral level examiners.  In some instances,
Intermittent Explosive Disorder might be considered, yet the anger for
many of the mothers does not appear to be intermittent.

Finally, the reader should appreciate that while diagnostic accuracy
for certain psychiatric difficulties is not as good as one would like
(e.g., the personality disorders, see Turkat, 1990), the problem is
compounded in family law where incompetent mental health examiners
sometimes become involved in the judicial process (Turk, 1993). 
Clearly, the relationship between Divorce-Related Malicious Mother
Syndrome and other mental disorders is a complex one which requires
significant investigation.


The above description of the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome raises a variety of important  clinical, legal and scientific issues.

From a clinical perspective, families that involve a Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome are subject to serious episodes of stress
and distress.  Yet, there is no scientific evidence on how to treat
this phenomenon.  It is particularly compromised by the fact that many
of these cases that appear to meet the proposed diagnostic criteria
deny that there is anything wrong with them.

An additional difficulty is that many therapists are unaware of this
pattern of malicious behavior (Heinz and Heinz, 1993).  As such, there
are malicious therapists who are "fooled" by such cases and, as noted
earlier, will come to court testifying that there is nothing wrong
with the mother involved.

From a legal perspective, there are some attorneys who may
unintentionally encourage this type of behavior (Gardner, 1989).  On
the other hand, there are some attorneys who deliberately encourage
such behavior as the financial rewards for them are time dependent.
In other words, the more involved the litigation process, the greater
the profits for the attorney.  (Grotman and Thomas, 1990).  However,
even for the subset of attorneys for whom this may be true, there is a
point of diminishing returns.  Furthermore, independent of economic
considerations, many who become involved with family law courtrooms
find that these types of cases are not handled well (Greif, 1985;
Levy, 1992).

The woman who is not disturbed "enough" to lose custody of her
children in the courtroom will not have money denied to her because
she engages in this behavior; nor will she go to jail.  Thus, many
clients report significant frustration when they and their children
are exposed to this type of behavior, and the courts seem to do

In a review of  pertinent law literature on bias against men in family
law proceedings, Tillitski  (1992) concluded that there is widespread
discrimination.  This is well illustrated by one family law Judge's
statement that, "I ain't never seen the calves follow the bulls, they
always follow the cow; therefore, I always give custody to the mamas."
(Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992, p. 741).
Similarly, it is noted that visitation rights of fathers are not
enforced as rigidly as are child support orders (Commission on Gender
Bias in the Judicial System, 1992.)  Such bias against men in family
law proceedings results in a unique group of fathers who
unintentionally become relatively helpless victims of the system
(Tillitski, 1992).  This situation would seem to reinforce much of the
vicious behavior displayed by women suffering from Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome.

The issue of sex distribution of the disorder certainly needs to be
addressed.  The overwhelming majority of custodial parents are female
(Commission on Gender Bias in the Judicial System, 1992).  Gardner
(1989) has noted that Parental Alienation Syndrome appears most
commonly in females, although it is possible for a male who has
custody of the children to engage in the same type of alienating
behaviors.  The author's experience with Divorce-Related Malicious
Mother Syndrome is similar to Gardner's.  However, the present writer
has yet to see a case of a father engaging in all of the criteria
listed.  This does not mean that it is not possible for there to be a
"Malicious Father" Syndrome.  In fact, Shephard (1992) reports that
there is significant abuse of some custodial mothers by
non-residential fathers.  On the other hand, it should be noted that
there are females who are required to pay child support, but we have
yet to hear about "Deadbeat Moms."  Given at the present time that a
case in which the father met all of the criteria for Divorce-Related
Malicious Mother Syndrome has yet to be documented, it appears
advisable to await scientific evidence to guide issues of nosologic

How prevalent is the Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome?  The answer is unknown.  Gardner (1989) reports that approximately 90
percent of all custody battles involve some aspects of parental
alienation.  Further, Kressel  (1985) reviewed data indicating that up
to 40 percent of maternal custodians denied visitation to the
ex-husband in order to punish him.  Relatedly,  Arditti (1992)
reported that 50 percent of a sample of divorce fathers (N=125)
indicated that visitation was interfered with by the mother.  While
aspects of parental alienation may be common, it is highly unlikely
that such a percentage of maternal custodians would meet all of the
criteria for Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

In regard to incidence, it would appear through the title of this
syndrome that the malicious behavior is precipitated by the divorce
process.  However, this is clearly an empirical question.  While the
malicious actions may first be noted during a divorce process, it is
possible that maliciousness may have been present earlier but
undetected.  Research on pre-divorce parental conflict (Enos and
Handal, 986) supports this speculation.  Relatedly, it may also be
that there are some cases of pre-existing mental disorder that have
not been discovered until the stress of the divorce itself unfolds.

Finally, it should be noted that research on the nature of
post-divorce family functioning is beginning to emerge.  Some data
exist on the role of parental conflict in children's post divorce
functioning  (e.g. Frost and Pakiz, 1990; Furstenberg et al., 1987;
Healy, Malley and Steward, 1990; Kudek, 1988), but studies have yet to
appear on the more extreme cases of Parental Alienation Syndrome and
Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.

The Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome represents an important societal phenomenon.  The disorder affects children, parents,
attorneys, judges, guardians, mental health professionals and others.
Until this phenomenon is explored more thoroughly in the scientific
and clinical literature, the problems imposed by individuals suffering
from Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome will continue to plague us.  Hopefully, the present manuscript will stimulate research so that clinical and legal management guidelines can be developed.


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