In This Issue:
- Letter from Pamela
Introducing Dr. Glenn Caddy
- Feature Article
The Continuum of Alienation and Its Impact on the Child
- News & Research
PAS and the DSM-V
- Support PAS Education & Awareness
Your support means everything
Letter from Pamela
How do I adequately introduce a man whose CV, if you include his list of references, runs over 60 pages? I can’t even begin to list the organizations he consults for, the countless teaching positions he has held, or the voluminous amount of written work he has produced.
I will instead focus on his extensive reputation in the area of Parental Alienation. Dr. Glenn Caddy is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist. He also holds a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Clinical Psychology.
From the 1970s to 1990, Dr. Caddy worked in the world of academia. A research scientist post at the Neuropsychiatric Institute of California in Los Angeles led to more senior positions at several major universities and medical schools, editorial boards of numerous scientific journals, published peer reviewed scientific manuscripts and four books. He has consulted with several divisions of the National Institutes of Health, the United States Air Force, the Secret Service, and the Veterans Administration.
Today Dr. Caddy runs his own forensic practice. He has served broadly as a clinician and/or expert in over two thousand legal cases and is well known for his involvement in serious criminal matters (especially death, post-conviction, and sex crimes cases.) He also specialized in matters of high trauma, head injury and multiple road vehicle and other head injury cases. His extensive work in issues involving cults, spiritual abuse, mind control, child abuse, and multiple aspects of family law led him to his interest and growing reputation in the area of Parental Alienation. Dr. Caddy has served as a consultant or been qualified as an expert in more than one hundred cases in Australia, Canada and the United States involving issues in Parental Alienation.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce Dr. Glenn Caddy as our guest writer for our second newsletter. His article, The Continuum of Alienation and Its Impact on the Child takes us on a journey he has experienced with three families entrenched in varying degrees of alienation. His insightful examples show us what every parent who has experienced PAS fears the most: that even a small amount of damage can have life time repercussions.
Author of A Kidnapped Mind
The Continuum of Alienation and Its Impact on the Child
by Glenn Ross Caddy Ph.D., A.B.P.P., F.A.P.A.
- The Alienation Process
- The Consequences of Alienation
- Case One: The Power of a Lie
- Case Two: The Never Ending Claim of Sexual Abuse
- Case Three: Hate, Legal Self Preservation, and Destruction
- Final Remarks
The edict “Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother and Thou Shalt Not Bare False Witness” has been a part of our culture in one form or another over more than two millennia. Meanwhile, in more recent times reports have surfaced of extreme cases of parental alienation in both print media and court files going back at least as far as the late nineteenth century. In stark contrast, the phenomena of parental alienation has been scientifically studied and clinically described within the mental health literature only over the past forty or so years. Nevertheless, the work that has been done at both the clinical and empirical research levels has become both very focused and multidimensional in scope and today we really do know a great deal about the dynamics of parental alienation and its consequences to all concerned.
There exists a continuum in the dynamics of familial alienation. At the low end we see remarks and acts aimed mostly incompetently to advance the alienator’s status in the eyes of the child via mind controlling distortions, while at the same time compromising a child’s relationship with the other parent. At the high end is to be found profound pathological conduct targeted maliciously to destroy a child-parent relationship. So profound an impact do the dynamics of alienation have on the well-being of families that some forty years ago these dynamics began to attract early empirical investigation from within the behavioral sciences. In that process progressively terms like Parental Estrangement, Alienation, and Parental Alienation Syndrome, were coined and the concepts that underlie them studied by behavioral scientists seeking to understand both the scope and the internal dynamics of these destructive interpersonal phenomena. In the process the construct of parental alienation in all its forms has garnered substantial scientific support in the behavioral sciences literature.
By way of example, in a very recent study by Baker and Chambers [in press], these investigators surveyed adults from divorced families and reported that in the course of the divorce or subsequently, a significant number of parents did the following: made negative comments about the other parent; confided in the child; made free communication with the other parent difficult; made the child chose; indicated discomfort when the child spoke about the other parent; became upset with the child being affectionate with the other parent; asked the child to keep secrets from the other parent; encouraged the child’s disregard of the other parent; made it difficult for the child to spend time with the other parent’s extended family; fostered the child’s dependence on him/her; fostered the child’s anger at the other parent; and said the other parent was unsafe. These behaviors and the dynamics that drive them are today well understood by mental health professionals working in the divorce arena. While such conduct often is unwelcomed by the child or children involved, and the other parent, these behaviors normally pass and do not provoke longer-term post divorce problems either between the two parents or between the parent emitting them and the child recipient unless they continue to persist and escalate.
There is now a great deal of reporting in the clinical literature together with a significant number of empirical studies that show even further strategies that are used maliciously by truly alienating parents to undermine the child’s or children’s relationship with the targeted parent. These strategies include: limiting contact; interfering with communication [including what is referred to as symbolic communication], threatening a withdrawal of love and/or support; telling the child that the targeted parent does not love him/her; forcing the child not only to chose the alienating parent but to reject the targeted parent; asking or requiring the child to spy on the targeted parent [perhaps even to steal sensitive material or special items from the targeted parent residence]; refer to the targeted parent by his/her first name; refer to the husband or wife of the alienating parent as “Mom” or “Dad” and encourage the child to do the same; [this may even apply to the stepparent's parents]; withhold medical, social, academic and athletically relevant information from the targeted parent; keep the targeted parent’s name from school and medical records; change the child’s name; forge a new birth certificate and social security number for the child [in extreme case]; cultivate inordinate dependency on the alienating parent; hide the child’s whereabouts from the alienated parent; bring knowingly false claims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse against the targeted parent or that parent’s new love interest; blaming the targeted parent for the dissolution of the relationship between the two parents; etcetera. These various strategies work by furthering the child’s cohesion and alignment with the alienating parent; by creating an unnatural psychological distancing between the child or children and the targeted parent; by succeeding in a relocation petition; by intensifying the targeted parent’s anger and hurt over the child’s behavior which may result in that parent distancing or giving up; by inciting conflict between the child and the targeted parent should that parent challenge or react to the child’s behavior; by bringing on such a barrage of litigation or otherwise manipulating within that litigation such that the targeted parent cannot compete in the chaos created; and by doing a whole host of other acts from seeking to undermine or destroy any support or advantage the targeted parent may otherwise have or to capitalize on any weakness, including bringing false claims of abuse, even raising the specter of criminal conduct, against either the targeted parent or, as is often also very effective, against his/her new partner.
At the higher end of the alienation spectrum we see conduct by the alienating parent that moves closer to ignorant yet still profound child abuse and it is these behaviors especially that have the greatest potential to induce dynamics so extreme as to produce full blown Parental Alienation Syndrome [PAS] in a child or children. These dynamics, now increasingly well researched and documented in the scientific literature, are without question incredibly destructive, sometimes leading to even fatal consequences. It is at these levels of alienation that the alienating parent begins to function more like a misguided cult leader than a devoted and emotionally balanced parent. In such a role these parents inevitably employ black/white categorical thinking with the custody battle becoming a fight between good and evil; the inducing parent then attempts to manipulate the child’s social milieu to further inject the messages of the evil of the other parent and to ever increase the child’s sense of dependency on the alienating parent; the alienating parents then badmouths not only the other parent but undermines the child’s faith in much and perhaps almost all of those who otherwise they might trust in the outside world [this sometimes provoking true paranoia]; and finally, the alienating parent often will seek to present alternating concepts of rejection with acceptance themes about the other parent [in a sequence that represents the paradigm of intermittent reinforcement of the construct of the legitimacy of the alienation].
Despite all the evidence now present in the scientific literature, the construct of PAS attracts controversy in certain lay circles. The argument here seems mainly to be that PAS is a concept conceived of by fathers to break the bonds of the mother child relationship by increasing their odds of obtaining primary custody or substantial custody of the children. While this occasionally may be attempted in the everyday world, this argument changes nothing about the merits of the construct of PAS as far as the scientific study of the phenomenon is concerned. Yet a quick search of the web will promptly find sites that assert that PAS does not exist and that it is a product of “junk science”. My comment on such a claim is twofold: [i] I have yet to come across a really skilled and experienced custody evaluator who has not seen compelling evidence of the ability of one parent to irrationally and unjustifiably turn a child or children against the other parent; and [ii] Tell the parent who has suffered the victimization of such alienation that there is no such thing as that which he/she has experienced.
There are myriad reasons why a child and his/her parent or parents may not get along for a time. This occurs both in intact families and in divorced ones. As upsetting as these periods may be, in the vast number of cases there is no long term impairment in the relationship as a result of these temporary and transient conflicts. Concepts like estrangement and alienation however, move the family beyond the everyday range of what are otherwise really quite normal, if very distressing, events. The constructs inherent in estrangement and alienation represent behaviors and cognitions that reflect significant impairment in the relationships between a parent, even both parents, and a child or children and often extend out beyond the nuclear family to grandparents, other relatives, and even often the step-parents. Moreover, to add some complexity to the scene, within these general constructs there may also be sub-categories that shade or confound the purity of what is presently being studied in sub-specialties like clinical psychology, social psychology, and developmental psychology. Certainly through, within these various constructs we can see the consequences for the interests of the children. These consequences range from a low of moderately compromised emotional development all the way up to a high involving the emergence of gross psychopathology. No child ever really escapes freely from such processes.
The Alienation Process
It is hard to draw a clear precise straight line between the pathological conduct of a parent and subsequent pathological functioning in a child. But the lack of a clear straight line does not mean the lack of cause and effect dynamics operating in such a context. We see all too commonly the mental health and behavioral consequences of dysfunctional child rearing. To doubt that such connections exist is to doubt much of what we know about the entire processes of human emotional growth and development. We see the emergence of dysfunctional mental health processes especially in families where there exists abusiveness and disrespect between the parents, even when they continue to live together. Moreover, although we tend to think of estrangement and alienation and their consequences occurring only in divorced families, in fact these phenomena, including full blown PAS, can and do sometimes occur in “intact” families in which high conflict occurs and yet separation and divorce may not have taken place and may never take place. As a general rule though, it is separation between the parents that most readily induces the highest levels of estrangement and alienation. Allegations of child abuse also commonly add further complexity to the dynamics to be dealt with in cases of alleged parental alienation. In fact, it can be these very allegations, especially when the abuse claimed is “sexual” that can confound the underlying legal processes and greatly facilitate the alienation for years, while the courts fumble or fail to achieve a resolution to these claims. One of the clinical case examples I present below offers some perspective on this lack of resolution.
Estrangement [often referred to in the literature as realistic estrangement] occurs when a child rejects a parent for a reason that is realistic, such as abuse, or rejection, or withdrawal, on the part of the parent. Alienation occurs when a child [or children] rejects a parent in the absence of a legitimate reason and usually as a direct result of a favored parent’s use of strategies that induce the alienation. At the extreme high end of this continuum, we see the emergence of what is referred to as Parental Alienation Syndrome [PAS]. This is identified in the behavior and beliefs of the alienated child [or children] who transform their opinions of a once loved parent into a now targeted parent who comes to be perceived as unworthy of their involvement. Many times in a multi-child family, some but not all of the children may show full blown PAS. In such cases there is sometimes also a split between the loyalty of the children for one parent over the other, especially if the alienating parent is targeting only one or two of the children as opposed to them all of them. Children who show fully developed PAS will commonly exhibit many or all of the following characteristics: they will have enacted a campaign of denigration against the targeted parent; they erase their entire earlier loving history with that parent; they view the targeted parent in completely negative terms; they are eager to tell of the failures of the targeted parent; their claims justifying their rejection of the targeted parent are frivolous and often absurd while at the same time they lack any ambivalence about the alienating parent; they assert their free will and the ability to be independent thinkers regarding their opinions while at the same time they create inaccurate scenarios of justification; they lack any guilt about their treatment of the targeted parent; they show an almost reflexive support for the alienating parent; they demonstrate borrowed scenarios, like “I only want to have good childhood memories”; they reject the extended family of the targeted parent; and they refuse to consider any information that might otherwise undermine their viewpoint.
Some of these dynamics also may be seen in children who have been genuinely physically and/or emotionally abused by a parent. But there are important distinctions between the consequences of legitimate child abuse and parental alienation that a skilled differential diagnosis conducted by a clinician experienced in this field will show. Some of the differentiators include that children who have been abused: do not typically reject the abusive parent; rather, they blame themselves; they do not eagerly broadly tell about their abuse; they do not deny positive aspects of their relationship or negate the past; they do not worship the other parent; and they do not reject the extended family of the abusive parent. And of course, they do not show the full array of the symptom complex seen in full blown PAS.
One may ask: Why would any parent in their right mind ever wish to induce such a state in a child? If they were in their right mind, and had insight to the possible consequences, probably they would not. And would such a parent not see the potential for serious emotional and mental consequence to the child or children for so doing? If they were in their right minds, the answer would reasonably be “Yes”. Yet at the same time the research literature is clear that in many divorces one or both of the parents will engage in a variety of demeaning or negative remarks made to their child or children about the other parent. Sadly, this is statistically quite normal. What is far from normal though is that in some two to five percent of high conflict divorces in this country, and in many other countries as well, the so-called “inducing parent” is not fully in his/her right mind. Characteristics of cruelty, hatred, revenge, rage, fear, arrogance, blind stupidity, or some more serious mental illness [such as paranoia, delusional disorder, or a personality disorder] may well have taken over. And one more question! What is the probability that a child raised almost solely by a parent exhibiting such destructive and erroneous perceptions [such that they are prepared to disconnect a child from the other parent and induce PAS] will grow up free of any distorted reasoning and be mentally well balanced? The answer, inevitably, is that these children are at high risk of developing emotional impairment and even potentially significant mental illness as they grow older. In one case in which I have was involved the youngest child in a family of four boys became so distraught that at age eleven he began to experience such distorted thinking stemming from all the conflict and confusion that he was suffering that he experienced a transient childhood psychoses. The unique outcome of the individual case, of course, depends on the circumstances being imposed on that particular child.
There are numerous etiological dynamics that provoke these dysfunctional outcomes. Unintended modeling of the inducer’s behavior and attitude may play a role. Other operant [reinforcement] and social learning theory explanations and learned concepts of self as well as temperamental development all play a role here. So too the intellect of the child also may play a role for this variable either expands or restricts the choices and the coping that many children may see in front of them. There are also theories of the induction of mental illness that must be factored into questions of etiology in the emergence of the emotional problems that flow from the impact of the various levels of alienation and estrangement. One such theory addressing the etiology of some mental illness that I have found particularly helpful is what has become known as the Discontinuity Theory. This theory states that when people perceive an ambiguity, inconsistency, or violation in some domain that is vital to their sense of self, they search for ways to explain and sometimes even to rationalize their experience. In so doing if they happen to reason with insufficient or incorrect data, or they rigidly defend an inaccurate explanation or self developed theory to account for their circumstances, they risk suffering a discontinuity in their sense of self. Thus, they may begin to exhibit symptoms of maladjustment, or even mental illness, and if the distortion persists so too may the mental disarray.
The Consequences of Alienation
I noted previously that it is not possible to plot a straight line between the pathological conduct of a parent and the subsequent functioning of a child. Nevertheless, when a child is raised in a quasi or full blown shared delusional system and is also deprived of the possibility of the balance to be achieved through contact with the other rational and loving parent, the prospects for that child growing up free of the consequences of the abuse to which he or she has been subjected are essentially non-existent. In their teen years and thereafter these children and eventually adult children are particularly prone to problems of co-dependence with the favored parent, a lack of or a distorted sense self, difficulties linked to self respect, the emergence of arrogance, [which often exists in the inducer], a confused sense of identity, lack of the capacity to exhibit loyalty, lack of trustworthiness, problems of manipulativeness and dishonesty, academic difficulties including underachievement, difficulties establishing and keeping friends, a propensity to associate with fringe groups, suffering mood disorders, even major depression, sometimes being suicidal, experiencing mood swings such that they are clinically mood disordered, the possible start of bipolar disorder, the full array of the conduct disorders including oppositional defiant disorder, alcohol and/or drug abuse problems, a propensity towards addiction, the onset of anxiety and panic disorders, sexually acting out, prostitution [often linked to substance abuse], eating disorders [anorexia, bulimia and obesity], disordered sleeping, impulse control disorders including violence and acting out, the emergence of personality disorders, an inability to trust others, an increased risk of lifetime maladjustment, even the induction of psychotic process in a highly vulnerable child.
What I am referring to here are not simply minor problems in everyday living but serious and often profound life altering behavioral dysfunctions and ultimately mental illnesses. These are conditions that even in the hands of particularly skilled clinicians may require extended and expensive care to mitigate let alone resolve. They are conditions that so long as they exist compromise the future quality of the emotional life of the victims and those who love them.
Clinical Case Examples
Below are three examples of very different levels of psychopathology operating to induce different levels of parental alienation in three children, two of them now being adult. These cases are presented in a sequence that illustrates the progressively greater emotional chaos to which each of these children was exposed through the imposition of ever greater disconnecting and/or alienating forces.
Case One: The Power of a Lie
Robyn was a 37 year old single, never married, quite attractive female when first I met her. She is an Associate Professor at a university at which I also worked. She made an appointment to see me in my private offices because as she put it: “I had done some homework and wanted to have a consult with someone experienced in parental alienation”. The patient told me that she had fallen into a very severe depression after the death of her father some three years before, and she had not subsequently been able to escape the overwhelming flood of unanticipated feelings that she had been experiencing since that time. Her aim in seeking care was to understand why all this had happened and why, especially given she had never been depressed before, that she had not been able to overcome these feelings by now.
Robyn reported that despite being readily attracted to men, and loving other peoples’ children, she had always been afraid to allow herself to become committed to any man. She indicated that she would terminate relationships with men who wanted to have children. Yet she really did not understand why it was that she felt that way, for she actually really liked other people’s children. Robyn presented a history of being an only child who was separated from her father when she was four years old. She had been told that her parents had experienced a lot of conflict throughout their marriage. Robyn said that following the divorce her mother moved both of them out of state to live with Robyn’s grandmother. From that point on, Robyn reported that she never saw or heard from her father again nor did she hear from any of his family. Moreover, she did not have any photos of her father or any of his family. All Robyn knew about her father was from her mother and grandmother and they had told her that her father had abused her and her mother and that he was “incapable of loving anyone”. From her mother she also received the message that her father could not be trusted with other women. Her mother also told Robyn on many occasions that men in general were not to be trusted. In the course of our time together, it eventually came out that that Robyn had believed since childhood that if a woman trusted a man she was almost certain to be let down. Thus she had come to evolve a paradox the origins of which she did not comprehend. That paradox was that bringing a child into the world would inevitably result in a loss of her autonomy, which in turn would cause her to have to rely on the help of a man, who she could never fully trust.
A little over three years before Robyn came to see me she received a call at her work from her paternal aunt who told her of the accidental death of her father. This call led Robyn to travel to meet her aunt and in the process most of the rest of her father’s family. During that week, Robyn learned that her father really loved her but that he did not have the financial resources as a young man to sustain a legal battle with her mother and her parents. She also learned that every month or two for more than ten years he had written her a letter in the hope that one day he would meet her and give her his letters, until eventually he gave up hope. The aunt also gave her all of these letters. Robyn had no idea that her mother and grandmother had hidden their whereabouts from her father. In fact, it had taken a private investigator more than two months to track Robyn down at the request of her aunt after her father was killed. Robyn made the point to me that not only had she lost the father whose family finally found her, but with the news that they gave her she had now also in many ways lost her mother. The problem for Robyn was that she became so upset with her mother [her grandmother had by this time passed away] that she felt she had also unnecessarily lost an entire element of her childhood and even her sense of who she really was. Robyn was very hurt and angry about being lied to. Even when she first came to see me she was stuffing this upset for she had not confronted her mother with what she now knew.
Over the course of my analysis of this patient I came to see her depression over the past three years as a product of her irrational guilt for believing what her mother and grandmother had told her about her father; her grief at the loss of a relationship with her father over all those years that she could never recapture; and her sense of hurt as a result of the betrayal and deception to which her mother and grandmother had subjected her.
While Robyn’s story is not all that rare. The, fact is that she lost contact with her father at a very tender age; she had so few memories of him; and because she was well nurtured by her mother and grandmother, and told a story about her father that she never had doubted, she experienced a good emotional adjustment to the loss of contact with her father [it was as if he were dead for all those years]. Robyn also had the advantage of being a very gifted child. She excelled in school and had a cadre of good friends. Thus, the unknown alienation that Robyn experienced did not harm her as a child. [Older children who are successfully indoctrinated by an alienating parent are far more prone to suffer various symptoms that result from the alienation. Robyn's impaired functioning by early adulthood was limited to a set of global aberrant constructs about the risk of trusting men and about women's loss of autonomy and control in the event of pregnancy.
It was not until Robyn came to understand the alienating processes to which she had been subjected that she rapidly fell into a depression for all the reasons of loss and betrayal stated previously. Robyn experienced a reactive depression with powerful existential implications dealing with the entire question of trust of so much of what she had been told growing up. In therapy she came to recognize that while her mother had been very loving, she also had been profoundly fallible and subtly abusive in disconnecting [alienating] her daughter from her father. While Robyn had been subjected to certain powerful processes of alienation, as a child she never suffered any of the symptoms that characterize PAS. Understanding this became a substantial help to Robyn in her framing of the larger perspective on precisely what she had gone through. That clarity ultimately became a large part of what she was seeking in therapy.
Case Two: The Never Ending Claim of Sexual Abuse
Cassie was a twelve year old girl who together with her mother was ordered by the court to be evaluated by me in a comprehensive review of the child’s best interests. The goal of the court was to permit an expert to weigh in on whether or not there was evidence of parental alienation as the father was claiming or whether there was a justifiable estrangement based on prior sexual abuse as the mother was claiming. The father was seeking to force the mother to provide access but [and this would prove very significant] he was not seeking a change of custody. According to the mother, the child was afraid of the father and had become progressively more strident in her refusal to visit him over the prior eight years. According to the father, the mother had used false claims of sexual abuse to instill fear in the child as far as seeing her father was concerned. The data that I developed came from the child, both of the parties, a small number of collateral sources, and from a review of the court file and the investigative file of the Department of Children and Families. Unfortunately, my work in this case was never finalized because of an ultimate lack of cooperation on the part of the mother and the failure of the father and the legal system to stay fully focused on the matter. Nevertheless, my opinions were framed based on all the data available.
Cassie’s parents, Sally and Joe, had both led quite colorful lives with a significant amount of alcohol, marijuana, and even some cocaine use. They also had done some “swinging” while they were dating and both, at one point or another had been unfaithful during this phase of their relationship. Sally was variously a waitress and a secretary and Joe a computer programmer. After dating for three years the couple married. The marriage was one of conflict from very early on with Joe progressively feeling that he had made a serious mistake. Cassie was born at the end of the second year of the marriage and with her birth Joe reported that though he tried again to make a go of the marriage by this point in time he no longer really had his heart in it. Over the next three years there were three separations, some mutual physical abuse, and a lot of emotional abuse in the form of yelling and screaming at one another.
It was after Cassie had spent a week-end with her father during the separation before the last [she was two and a half years old at the time] that Sally noted Cassie to have an irritation in the vaginal area and she took the child to her pediatrician. The doctor’s record of that visit indicated that the mother stated she believed that the father may have fondled the child. This was the first of three occasions when Sally made statements that brought about mandatory reporting by a health services provider. The investigation that followed this reporting led to an “Unfounded” conclusion. Soon after this finding was released Sally apologized to her husband for doubting him and she and Joe reunited. However, Joe told me that from that point on Sally seemed never to really trust him around little Cassie. After a further nine months of recurrent conflict, during yet one more argument Sally told Joe that she did not believe that he had not molested Cassie. This statement led Joe again to depart the residence and this time for good. Within several months of Joe moving out Sally made another report, this time that the child had told her that “daddy touched my pee-pee”. The investigation that followed this complaint, together with yet one further complaint, brought six months thereafter [this complaint involved the claim that Cassie had told her mother that "Daddy touched my bottom"] both led to further findings of “Unfounded” as the child’s reporting was not seen to be credible by the investigative team involved. The third investigative report even went so far as to suggest that the mother may have triggered this reporting for secondary gain. After Joe moved out of the marital residence for the final time, with advice from his attorney, he made the decision not to try and see his daughter without supervision and because he then decided that he was unwilling to participate in a supervisory process Joe simply did not see Cassie again until she was seven years old.
It was then that Joe, having remarried and with the support of his new wife, decided again to embark on an effort to reconnect with Cassie. Meanwhile, Sally “got religion” and even obtained a low paying position as the bookkeeper at her local church. When Joe began to take legal action to see his daughter, Sally was able to get some support from her mother and from her church to help fund the legal effort to “Protect Cassie”. By this time Cassie was seven years old and Joe filed a legal claim seeking access to his daughter. In fact Joe did see Cassie during eleven supervised visitations at that time but Sally continued to resist him seeing Cassie unsupervised and Joe felt that he was getting nowhere. In frustration he gave up and abandoned his claim. It was not until Cassie was twelve years old that Joe again made an effort to see his daughter, with a further court filing. But as previously, this action was brought to seek unsupervised access and no more.
When I first met Sally she was a pretty faced blond who stood 63 inches tall and weighed [she claimed] 215 pounds. [Joe told me that Sally had blown up from 120 pounds when they first met and she had been near her present weight for at least the past four years]. When I first met Cassie she too had a pretty clear skin and nice curly blond hair. She was 60 inches tall and told me she did not know her weight but I estimated that she was easily 185 pounds. [Her mother had brought both Cassie and her cousin to the meeting and had supplied both with a vast supply of snacks to eat while they were waiting]. Meanwhile, I had made the decision to video-record all of the examinations of Sally and Cassie and during my initial four hour meeting with Sally, despite the video recording, she was at times slightly seductive as well as being almost singularly focused on convincing me that she was convinced that Cassie had been vaginally penetrated and that she may also have been penetrated anally because “Joe used to do that to me”.
The next step in my involvement in this case was to do an initial examination of Cassie but from the outset my plans here were derailed by Sally’s determination that I was not going to video record Cassie’s examination because “Cassie did not want to be taped”. I ultimately told Sally that I would be fine not taping Cassie if the child did not wish to be video recorded but that she had to allow me to tape record Cassie’s refusal and Sally agreed to this. What I got when this taping took place was 20 minutes of Cassie repeatedly telling me that she would not permit me to tape her. But she offered no reason beyond that she did not want to be taped. Having got beyond this point, I attempted to get to know Cassie and get some background information on her directly but within the first five minutes Cassie informed me that this entire examination “… Was a waste of everyone’s time! My father abused me and I will never see him again”! At the time of my examination, more than nine years had passed since the first sexual abuse complaint was filed. Based on the record data from that investigation, back then Cassie was not able to state that anything untoward had happened to her. Moreover, except for their time seeing each other in supervised visitation for some two months more than four years previously, Joe had not had contact with Cassie or been in a position to be abusive to her for some nine years. The prospect of a child of age three and under being able to recall original memories going back such a long time is extremely remote. In fact, while Cassie told me that she was certain that her father “had touched me in her privates” on a number of occasions, she was unable to provide me with any meaningful detail of what precisely that meant, or of any contextual framework [the room, the apartment, the time of day, what she was wearing, etc].
Most importantly, it was clear that while her mother meant everything to Cassie, the messages about her father [who she called "Joe"] were that: “Joe abused me and he abused my mother”; “I never liked him and I never want to see him again”; “Being around him would not be safe for he could abuse me again”; :My mother has nothing to do with my determination never to see him again”; “If I have to see him it should not be before I am eighteen and can defend myself”; “I don’t care if it upsets him that I won’t see him. He should have thought about that before he abused me”; “I don’t want to come here to have you try and talk me into seeing Joe”. [When I asked Cassie where she got the notion that I might try and encourage her to see her father, she simply stated that she did not know but still she was letting me know that if that was what I was going to do, it was not going to work. In fact, this young girl was not only asserting herself here but being downright rude]; “I don’t want to see any of Joe’s family. I have never met them and why should I want to now”; and finally, “Just because he is married now does not mean that his wife could stop him abusing me again”.
In fact, while I ultimately did give testimony in this case asserting that the mother had been successful in creating in her daughter a full blown PAS state, I also made the point that the father’s active avoidance of any contact with Cassie for a very extended period of time had created a fertile ground in which her mother’s seed of alienation could grow strong and ever flourish. It was also the case that while the father claimed he wanted to have a good relationship with Cassie, neither he nor his second wife were willing to take on the responsibility of caring for the child on a full time basis. As I came to understand the dynamics in the father’s household, it became clear that both Joe and his wife were not planning to have any children, and while they could afford to battle this matter out in court, they did not want to create a change of custody nor did they wish to support extensive therapy for the child. Thus, their options at court were limited to a request for the rather lame orphan request for unsupervised access. They presented no plan to achieve Cassie’s rehabilitation and were not prepared to allocate financial resources to maximize the potential to reverse the alienating process to which Cassie had been long exposed. I had made the point to the court that Cassie required a level of therapy that would be very expensive if she were to be deprogrammed in such a way as to permit her to recapture a new balance and a realistic devotion to both of her parents. When her mother vigorously resisted this notion and her father saw the plan as unrealistic for him the legal process ground to a halt. The father decided that he just could not continue to fight endlessly in the legal system for visitation and that was all he was willing to fight for. Yet his daughter wished to have nothing to do with him, and so ultimately Joe allowed his visitation action to wither on the vine.
That was four years ago. Today what Joe knows about Cassie is that she has continued to gain weight, she is doing poorly in school, and her only friend is her mother.
Case Three: Hate, Legal Self Preservation, and Destruction
Ed was an intelligent, extremely wealthy, and very arrogant businessman in his early 40′s when he met, wooed, and eventually married Petra, a beautiful 22 year old Canadian college student who was swept off her feet by the private jet, the sophistication, and all the promises. Over the next few years Petra gave Ed a daughter, Veronica, and then three years later Cassandra came along. Over the course of these six years however, Petra increasingly came to realize that there was something very wrong with her husband. She noted that he was drinking a lot, that he was having severe mood swings, that he was taking prescription drugs including antidepressants and sleeping pills, that he was becoming more and more angry and morose, and he seemed constantly stressed over work. He also began to try to restrict her access to making new friends in the community to which they moved. But even more strange was that he was recurrently suing companies with which his companies did business. Further, he had sued the town in which they were living [which ultimately resulted in Ed deciding the family would relocate]. After the relocation Ed also sued both the Chief of Police and the Mayor of their new town, and so again they moved to get away from the publicity. Ed even donated a million dollars to a charity and then sued the charity.
Seven years into their marriage Ed came home one day and told Petra that he had decided that he wanted to relocate to Toronto and ease back from all of the stress. Such news was out of the blue as far as Petra was concerned and she really did not understand why all of a sudden Ed wanted to move to Canada. Nevertheless, she was worried for Ed and considered that easing back in Canada may be exactly what both she and he needed to reconnect. On the other hand her family lived in Vancouver and she would have much preferred to relocate there [later she would find out that it was because her parents lived in Vancouver that Ed insisted that they move to Toronto]. By this point in time the guild had gone off the lily for Petra, she was maturing and recognized more and more the bizarreness and other shortcomings of her husband. She was becoming uncertain about their future together yet she was also unexpectedly pregnant again. So she decided to hope for the best and stay with the program.
Petra had only just settled into their new home in Toronto when she was ordered to have bed rest for the pregnancy was becoming high-risk. Over the next six months Ed mostly stayed home and moped, drank whiskey, took his psychotropic medications, and had endless secretive calls with lawyers both in Canada and the United States. Ed also began to do things with Veronica [but not with little Cassandra] that were unusual. He began taking her out to restaurants, even fine dining ones, to shows and movies, and to the art museum and he spent hours with her at the local library. He even took her with him to several business meetings [he attempted to explore business options in Canada]. It was also the case that while Petra considered Veronica a child of average intellect, Ed decided that Veronica was gifted and so he insisted that next year they must place Veronica in a French School [the idea being to advance her cultural learning through French immersion]. Finally, Tiffany was born and with great relief Petra began to get back into the duties of life with a new baby.
Over the next several months Petra realized that during her pregnancy something had changed in her relationship with both Ed and with Veronica that she did not realize being bedridden. As she would later describe the situation: “It was weird. It was like Ed was treating Veronica as if she was his wife and yet he disregarded Cassandra almost completely. Everything was about Veronica. As for me, I was there in bed almost like the furnishings”. It was also the case that Ed had been drinking more and more, he was gaining a lot of weight, he was taking what seemed to Petra to be large qualities of medication [anti-anxiety medication was also now added to the list] and he was beginning to direct his anger and his propensity for control abusively at Petra unless she fully complied with all his often petty demands. On one occasion Ed had become so enraged that he threw some furniture around the dining room. For the first time, Petra began to fear his rages and feel that she could not sustain a marriage with this man.
One morning about five months after Tiffany was born Petra got a call from a friend in Nevada, where they had lived before the move to Toronto. Her friend told Petra that Ed had been indicted in the United States on Federal Fraud, Racketeering, and Tax Evasion charges [the tax evasion alone amounted to more than twenty million dollars]. All of a sudden, the prompt decision to move to Toronto, all those months of so many secretive calls to lawyers in the States and in Canada, and all the drinking and emotional chaos made sense to Petra. She had been lied to and used to take Ed out of easy reach of the U.S. authorities. Petra confronted Ed on this matter and in the fury that followed Ed backhanded Petra causing extensive nose bleeding as he also pushed her face first into a wall. Petra called the police but because she was not willing to press charges, the police simply required that Ed leave the home that night. For Petra that was it. She filed for divorce, got temporary support, and got temporary residence of the family home.
From that point on Ed was at war! He set out to break and terrorize Petra while he continued courting Veronica and he began now to court Cassandra. Within the first several months of Petra filing for divorce, Ed filed literally several dozen motions pro se [i.e. representing himself]. Meanwhile Petra would go out with friends and realize that she was being followed by private investigators; on several occasions her car tires were flattened; her phone would ring at all hours of the night and no one at the other end would speak; finally some six months into the divorce, Ed refused to return Veronica from a weekend visitation claiming that Petra was abusing her. Petra called the police but Veronica told them that her mother had beaten her [which Petra denied] and that she was afraid to go home to her mother. Because there were no temporary custody orders in place, the police did not act in the domestic matter.
Over the next two years the alienation between Petra and her oldest child became profound. Petra would be overjoyed when Veronica would call and ask to visit. But then she would find out that when the child came to spend time within the family, all along she was spying for her father. For example, one volume of Petra’s quite extensive correspondence file was taken and this included not only some of her legal correspondence but some cards from a new male friend and other friends known to both parties. Moreover, each of these visits became an opportunity for Veronica to “work” on little Cassandra [over and above that which occurred when Cassandra visited her dad and older sister]. Over the course of those two years Ed [who was acting pro se and claiming poverty in the Family Court, while hiring one of the top criminal law firms in Canada and a slew of similar counsel in the States], filed some one hundred and seventy motions in the Family Court. He further filed six child abuse reports against Petra and two further such reports against the man who she began dating. Later Petra married this man, Mark, and within six months and Ed accused Mark of sexual abuse against both of his youngest children and each of these claims of course had to be investigated. By the end of the second year of the custody battle [they were already divorced] Veronica refused to have anything to do with her mother and she claimed that she wished her mother was dead. Eventually, being starved of money to continue to fight over the custody of all three children, Petra succeeded in getting a court order that permitted her to relocate to be near her family and to be granted the right to take Cassandra and the baby, Tiffany, with her.
Throughout the entire period of this conflict Ed was claiming poverty in his family law matter [most of his money was in Switzerland]. Nevertheless, he filed suit against a mining company in Canada in which he had both invested in and then attempted a hostile takeover. Further, in his criminal court matter, that extended over nearly four years, he ultimately successfully defended against his extradition on the basis that the United States was principally engaged in a “tax witch hunt” and further, that he was the sole caretaker and guardian of a Canadian citizen child [this was because Petra had arranged for Veronica to be a Canadian as well as an America citizen soon after the child's birth]. After the actual divorce was finalized, even though the child custody matter would not be resolved for two and a half more years, Ed married a Canadian woman and then promptly divorced her when the Canadian High Court finally supported his claim against extradition to the United States. Ed had used his first wife, his oldest child, and his second wife, all to manipulate the Canadian legal process in his favor.
Veronica was six years old when Ed began the alienation. When she was almost ten Ed married his sham bride and a few months thereafter Veronica called her sisters and told them how much she loved her new mother and how wonderful it was that she did not have to live with “Petra”. In fact, because Veronica was so resistant to seeing her mother [though Petra was required to ensure that the two younger ones see their father regularly] it would not be until Veronica was twelve years old that she again saw her mother. Meanwhile, Petra was granted permission to relocate with her two youngest children to San Francisco, California where her husband had been offered an excellent position. Following the move, as Petra put it: “Every phone call from Ed to the children became a grilling: What were they doing? Was Mark with them? What do they call Mark? Does Mark ever put them to bed?
Fast forward three years! Petra stopped the two youngest children from visiting their father after he had refused to return them after a visitation. This action led to the Toronto police intervening and arranging to obtain the two girls and transfer the girls back to the care of their mother. Another year later, and now with very little communication coming from their father to Cassandra and Tiffany, Petra got a call from the Toronto Police. They advised that they had Veronica in their custody and that her father had taken a drug overdose and was in a coma in hospital. It was thus arranged that Veronica would fly to San Francisco and stay with her mother until all of the issues in Canada had been sorted out. When Veronica landed Petra knew that there was something wrong with her daughter in that she was very spacey. While Veronica started off both insolent and evasive, she ultimately told her mother that she was taking the psycho-stimulant Adderall under her doctor’s orders [allegedly because she was suffering Attention Deficit Disorder]. However, within several days of being with her mother, Veronica advised that she was running out of Adderall and that she must get a prescription for more. Petra was suspicious of the entire matter and she and Mark took the girl to the family pediatrician. It was agreed that until they could get the records of the pediatrician in Toronto and there was evidence that Adderall was the drug of choice, Veronica would not be given any further psychoactive medication. Veronica’s immediate reaction to this was an angry outburst and then the slamming of doors once she got to the house. [Years later, Petra would learn that there was no Canadian physician prescribing medication but that since she had been eleven years old Veronica had been stealing money from her father and buying the Adderall on the streets].
As soon as it could be organized, Veronica was enrolled in a private school near the home but that all blew up within three weeks when she was caught smoking marijuana in the female bathroom. The police were called and Veronica was arrested. Meanwhile, though he was in hospital for nearly a month, Ed finally pulled through and as soon as he was able he began to barrage Veronica with calls insisting that she return. Petra and Mark tried to connect with Veronica but as the mother stated: “It was as if the child was cold inside and we just could not connect with her on any emotional level no matter what we tried”. Now out of school and creating chaos with the other two children, Petra was torn between the idea of filing suit to seek full custody of Veronica and letting her return to Ed, yet all the while knowing that Veronica being around her father would be nothing but destructive for the girl. Veronica and Ed jointly solved Petra’s ambiguity when one afternoon Veronica when for a walk down the street with her passport in hand, got into a limousine provided by her father, and was driven to the airport where Ed arranged to have her accompanied back to Toronto. [He could not risk entering the United States as he was on the Federal watch list].
Soon thereafter Ed filed suit in San Francisco against Petra, Mark, and the pediatrician who examined Veronica. The suit claimed that he had the sole authority over any medical decisions or care that the child was to have and that none of them had any right to be involved in providing his daughter any care whatsoever without his knowledge and consent. While the suit was ultimately quashed it offers just one more view of the litigiousness and pathology of this man.
Petra did not hear from or see Veronica again until she was seventeen. During this period Ed had been able to get the Canadian Superior Court to reinstitute his custody rights and so in accordance with the Canadian custody orders, Petra found herself having to worriedly put Cassandra and Tiffany on a plane to see their father and sister for several weeks over most of the school holidays every year. Cassandra always had very mixed feelings about spending time with her father, for while she enjoyed being with Veronica, nevertheless, she realized that her father had serious mood problems and would often stay in bed for days at a time. The baby, Tiffany, was emotionally disconnected from Ed and did not like visiting him. When the girls would return to their mother the child who required the most re-stabilizing was always Cassandra.
When Veronica was seventeen Petra got a call from a woman whose daughter was a friend of Veronica. This woman told Petra that Veronica had been living at her house for a week after a very violent incident in which Ed had beaten Veronica and thrown her out of the house. This time, Petra and Mark flew to Toronto and picked Veronica up at this neighbor’s residence and brought her back to their home in San Francisco. Once back in her room at her mother’s house, Veronica seemed this time to be different. She appeared to be trying to connect again and Petra had great hopes that finally things might work out between Veronica and her family in California. Veronica seemed to now readily connect with her sisters and a three year old stepbrother, who she had never previously met. This time Veronica was enrolled in a public school and she began seeing a psychologist. Over the course of the next nine months Petra found out that Veronica had been pregnant and had an abortion; that she had been seriously involved in both alcohol and drug abuse and that the young adult who got her pregnant was her cocaine dealer; that it was not uncommon for Ed to permit Veronica be out until three o’clock in the morning and that increasingly she was staying out all night; that she had been thrown out of her father’s home several times before and had stayed with friends on those occasions for weeks on end until Ed told her that she could return home; that when she started school in San Francisco, it was found out that she had missed so much school in Toronto and fallen so short with all her schoolwork that she had to be started in California at a lower grade; they were also told that Ed had been taking an array of psychoactive medications and that he had been using his daughter to get him various street drugs, primarily cocaine; finally, they were told that Ed had been having young prostitutes come to his home while Veronica was living there. Despite this information however, Petra and Mark were unclear about what to do with and for Veronica. While Veronica’s psychologist told Petra that he believed Veronica in these assertions nevertheless, Veronica had lied so much in the past that Petra just did not know what to do.
Veronica had been in California this time for some five months before Ed contacted her but it was not long after that first call that his calls again became regular and persistent. He also attempted to routinely involved Cassandra in these calls but Cassandra chose not to be drawn into an involvement with her father. In fact, Petra thought that Veronica seemed to be coping reasonably well and she believed that this time Veronica was not allowing her father to manipulate her. Some three months thereafter however, Petra found a stash of various drugs in Veronica’s bedroom [Adderall, Xanax, Oxycodone and Marijuana]. This led to a great deal of rage in Veronica. But things were to get worse, for Mark’s 24 year old son came to visit for a few days and Mark got up one morning early to find Veronica coming out of the guest room where this young man was sleeping. Mark confronted his son regarding this observation and he was told that Veronica had come into his son’s room high on some drug and had tried to get him to have sex with her but that he had refused and told her to go back to her room. When Petra confronted her daughter about what had happened Veronica simply denied doing anything inappropriate. However, less than three weeks later and after a great increase in calls between Veronica and her father, Mark got a call from the local police asking for a meeting and for the contact information of his son. Ed had filed a claim of statutory rape against Mark’s son and again the household was in chaos. Within four days the limousine again arrived and Veronica returned to her father. But things did not stop there! Ed also then claimed that Mark and his adult son were both pedophiles and that led to a social investigation from the State of California [the findings were "Unfounded"]. Ed even put up a website for a time showing photos of a much younger Veronica But from that point on, irrespective of the Canadian access orders, Petra refused to send her two younger daughters to visit their father and she made a counterclaim against Ed with the Canadian authorities. Thus, there existed a legal Mexican standoff that was never resolved.
The next contact that Petra had with Veronica came when her daughter was 21 years old. One Saturday afternoon Petra again got a call from the Toronto Police. They had Veronica in their care and they told Petra that Ed had died early that morning from a multiple drug overdose and that Veronica had found him. Over the next weeks Petra came to find out that everything Veronica had told her about the degradation of life with her father was true and more. Yet Ed had so manipulated his daughter through recurrent mind control that he had caused her to believe that even with all the abuse and chaos that it was really only he and he alone who really loved her and that they must be willing to do whatever is necessary to help or even to save each other.
Over the next six months Veronica went to visit her father’s sister in Boston and she went through a 30-day drug inpatient detoxification program and also intermittently attended meetings within Narcotics Anonymous. She was also then for a time taking a prescribed antidepressant [Prozac]. Veronica had not completed high school beyond the tenth grade; she had never held a job beyond being a drug mule and a prostitute; she had no bank account; she had no sense of hope or confidence that she could succeed at anything; she was hypersexual; she had a boy friend who was also drug addicted; and she rejected her mother’s offer for assistance [on Petra's terms]. Tragically, what she did have was that she was the sole beneficiary of her father’s remaining funds in Canada, some $140,000. As soon as she received these funds, Veronica succeeded in going through most of them within six months. One of her purchases alone, a new Chevrolet Corvette cost her some $68,000. That purchase also led Veronica to lose her driver’s license following multiple speeding offenses. Twenty-two months later Veronica was arrested in Chicago, Illinois in a United States Drug Enforcement Agency anti-trafficking sting. Veronica is now serving an eight-year sentence in a Federal Prison.
There exists today a solid body of scientifically derived knowledge that can be drawn on to codify the specific elements that operating along the Estrangement and Alienation Continua. We can also analyze cases such as those presented above at a level of detail that permits us to develop an understanding of the mechanisms by which the specific dynamics of alienation not only came about but now we can best address solutions. What is crucial however is the integration of both a comprehensive legal and mental health strategy to maximize the chances of a successful emotional outcome for the child [or children].
Additional information on matters of Parental Estrangement and Alienation may be obtained from the author:
Glenn Ross Caddy Ph.D., A.B.P.P., F.A.P.A.
One Financial Plaza, Suite 2010
100 Southeast Third Avenue Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33394
United States of America
Phone:  565-8850;
G-Phone [Worldwide]:  845-3660;
Cell:  547-5100
News & Research
- Parental Alienation: Dead or Alive in the DSM-5?
Will the APA include Parental Alienation Syndrome in the DSM?
(via A Family’s Heartbreak)
- Existence of Parental Alienation Is Now Beyond Debate by Dr. Richard A. Warshak
Survey results just released show near unanimous agreement among professionals that children can be manipulated by one parent to turn against the other parent.
(via PAD Support)
- What is in the Best Interest of the Children?
Problems associated with parental divorce and separation, by Ludwig.F. Lowenstein Ph.D
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