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Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Monday, May 4, 2020

Parental Alienation Proponents and the Child Protection Claim

Listening last week to a deposition by a proponent of the parental alienation belief system (PABS), I was struck anew by a claim I have heard many times before. The person asserted that a case where a young woman had been forced to go to an “intensive” treatment program was not a child custody case—instead, it was said, this was a child protection case and therefore protective separation from the preferred parent was needed
But, like most of these cases, the issue brought to court had to do with a parenting plan. One parent objected to the amount of time available to each in the present parenting plan. The child did not want to spend more time with that parent. Most of us would define this as a custody or parenting plan issue.

How do PABS  enthusiasts make such a case into a child protection case? I have tried to parse this and think I see what is going on.

There is only one observed factor in the argument.

1.     1. The child does not want to do something that one parent wants done. This is sometimes, but not always, about the child avoiding contact with the nonpreferred parent.

The next factor is inferred, not observed.

2.      2. It is inferred that the child’s avoidance results from actions on the part of the preferred parent—that the preferred parent has somehow manipulated the child into avoiding the nonpreferred parent.

The third step involves an assertion that the inferred factor is a subset of another identifiable factor.

3.      3. It is asserted that the inferred manipulation is a type of psychological child abuse.

The fourth step involves creating an analogy and generalizing from it, essentially saying that if two things share a feature, they must share more or even all features (this is similar to what Piaget described as transductive reasoning, typical of preschool children).

4.     4.  Psychological child abuse is a type of child abuse, therefore it is said to be the same as physical child abuse.

The fifth step draws a conclusion.

5.     5..   Because the equivalent of physical child abuse is present, the child is in need of protection.

The last step makes a recommendation on the basis of the last step.

6.     6.  Therefore, as children who are physically abused are ordered into protective separation for their safety, protective separation from the preferred parent is advisable in cases where it has been inferred that a child’s avoidance of a parent is due to the actions of the preferred parent.

Q.E.D.? I think not!  No, this list of inferences and assertions does not survive examination under a strong light. Cases involving custody issues are not child protection cases unless some actual harm to the child is demonstrated and the culpability of one parent shown. This cannot be done “by definition” or through proof by assertion or by abuse of analogies.

If any PABS proponents would like to correct my analysis of this matter, I would very much like to hear what they have to say.

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