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go to Charles Pragnell's Biography

Parent Alientation - truth or myth?

Parental Alienation Syndrome...does it exist?
When children reject a parent

Opinion | Charles Pragnell for | May 22, 2011

Eminent Child Advocate Charles Pragnell comments on the issue of whether or not there is a mental illness called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

If there are situations where a parent may seek to persuade or coerce a child into rejecting the other parent, then clear and convincing evidence of that should be presented to the Court, with corroborative evidence of course. With the right of rebuttal on the basis that such rejection was self-induced.

Such behaviour by a parent is far from being a mental illness which require very clear scientific evidence of their existence (e.g. field trials, and clinical evidence to prove a hypothesis, clear diagnostic criteria, and treatment programs which have been proven to be effective – there should also be statistics on false positives and true negatives).

Simply to give it a Label of PAS based on a survey of people who will hugely financially benefit from a positive result, is not a scientific methodology.

If PAS were to be accepted by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Asscn – Fifth Edition (and the Family Courts as it was in the past), then all of the above proofs would be by-passed and it would simply become a `Finger-pointing’ exercise the same as in days of witchcraft and with equally horrendous outcomes. (which was the international scenario created by Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy which similarly had no scientifically conducted research base and which led to many thousands of children worldwide suffering harm by removal and complete loss of contact with parents).

If we stick to words such as `persuasion’, `coercion’ etc. this would make far more sense and be far more accurate than merely to label someone as mentally ill, with no quantifying or qualifying criteria and no effective treatment method, except to remove the children and stop contact (thereby punishing the children for the actions of a parent).

Charles Pragnell

Charles Pragnell

go to Charles Pragnell's Biography

Charles Pragnell is an independent Expert Defence Witness for Child Protection and has given evidence to courts in England, Scotland, and New Zealand. Since 1990 he has acted as an advocate/representative for children and families in child protection matters and other proceedings involving various state agencies. Since 1996 he has made special studies of issues involving Munchausen's Syndrome By Proxy, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Shaken Baby Syndrome read more...

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What does it mean to be a single mum?Of course, the


are the most important thing in a single mum's life. Kids are the focus and always have been. But along with the children, there are other matters that can confuse a single mum's life.


plays a big part of a single mother's life, mainly because this is where a large percentage of single mums get their finances from. Centrelink are the source from where the

single mother pension

, or as it is otherwise known, the single parent payment comes from. The single mother pension is a subsistence amount, but just the same, it is money to live on, and so it is important, no matter if it is called single parent payment, single mother pension or whatever Centrelink welfare classes it at the time

Often, single mums come out of a


or defacto relationship only to find that their troubles have just begun, and find that their first step leads them towards Family Law - it's time to engage a lawyer.
There are more than just Centrelink finance problems to worry about, as mentioned before, but also

child custody

issues. Child custody is something that hits right at the heart of

single mums

. If a single mother's ex husband or ex partner has been a domestic violence perpetrator, the mum may be greatly worried about child custody. They worry that their kids won't be safe with their spouse, who has already proven to be abusive because they caused

domestic violence

, which resulted in a divorce or separation.

Even so,

Family Court

will often still order a form of child custody named

Shared Parenting

. Shared Parenting is a form of child custody division of time or parental responsibility between the parents. Mother's often look for a good divorce lawyer to try to avoid share parenting with an abusive ex-spouse after divorce, however in many cases Shared Parenting is still the outcome after the divorce, no matter how good the divorce lawyers have been. They will often settle for visitation at a contact centre or access centre where fathers or mothers are supervised during child custody access.

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