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10/27/2005 Archived Entry: "Parental Alienation Syndrome?"

The following quote is from a press release issued by RADAR, Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting which is an organization working to assure balance and fairness in media coverage of the domestic violence issue. In essence it is a father's rights organization that works to correct the bias against divorced fathers vis-a-vis parental rights.

"The one-hour program, released by PBS this past Thursday, purports to be an exposé of how the court system ignores children subjected to parental abuse. But the program makes a number of claims about child abuse and custody that are refuted by government reports....Breaking the Silence asserts that parental alienation syndrome "has been thoroughly debunked" by the American Psychological Association. But Rhea Farberman, spokeswoman for the APA, recently labeled the PBS claim as 'incorrect' and 'inaccurate.' Over 25 counselors and psychologists are now calling on PBS to invite qualified mental health experts to give "a more accurate and complete view of parental alienation syndrome."

Within the men's rights movement, there has been a concerted letter-writing and protest effort aimed at exacting an apology or retraction from PBS for their recent TV program "Breaking the Silence." And, from all I hear, the program seems to have been a bad piece of reporting that was quite biased against fathers and inaccurate to boot. But the campaign against PBS is one of those backlashes that combine several issues together as tho' they were one and make it more difficult for there to be a broad base of consensus.

I'll take myself as an example. I have seen so much wildly inaccurate and biased material against divorced fathers and their parental rights that the call for accuracy on the stats is like music to me. But the press release referenced above is as much a call to validate Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS} as it is a cry for accuracy. I am certain that parental alienation -- by which one parent poisons a child against the other -- is a real and painful problem. But I am skeptical and cynical about turning every human problem into a psychological Syndrome registered with the APA so that is accorded legal weight and used in court decisions. (And legal weight seems to be the goal of PAS advocates.) The Battered Wife Syndrome, the Helsinki Syndrome, the Recovered Memory Syndrome...I think these have been damaging steps away from common sense and hard standards of evidence within the courts. In short, I couldn't in good conscience sign on to the above protest against PBS because I don't want to endorse yet another court room Syndrome.

I had a similar problem with the drive against the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) which I thought was a horrible measure on several grounds, one of which was the fact that it embeds gender more prominently, more deeply into the law. Most of my objections, however, revolved around the further expansion of the "domestic violence industry" through which massive government funds end up in the hands of ideologues: researchers, advocates, writers, lecturers, teachers, lawyers, etc. The solution favored by the men's rights movment -- which most of whom seemed to agree that the bill was bad in its essence -- the solution favored was to make the bill gender neutral by including men within its bad policies. I couldn't sign on to that either even though I opposed VAWA in several FOX News Columns. The intermixing of these two issues -- opposing VAWA and including men within its embrace -- is one of the reasons (I believe) that the drive against VAWA was so unsuccessful.

This makes you long for a single-issue issue. They are getting hard to find.

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