Parental Child Abduction and Alienation Facts

Need for Control and Domination

Some alienating parents are driven by overriding needs for power, influence, domination and control (7). Engaging in PAS may provide the dual gratification of maintaining power, influence and control over the child and vicariously over the ex-spouse whose visitation and relationship with the child is frustrated by the alienating parent’s control maneuvers. Needs for domination and control are sometimes acted out by abducting the child and using it to taunt and torment the frantic target parent. In addition to mothers and fathers, a new partner can be the one with inordinate needs for power, domination and control. For example, a mother may become involved with a new partner who first seduces her away from her relatively weak husband and then acts as a sort of one-on-one cult leader to mother and child, who are both programmed and brainwashed into compliance and submission.

Medea Syndrome

The need for revenge is taken to an extreme in Medea Syndrome (4, 5). “Modern Medeas do not want to kill their children, but they do want revenge on their former wives or husbands-and they exact it by destroying the relationship between the other parent and the child…The Medea syndrome has its beginnings in the failing marriage and separation, when parents sometimes lose sight of the fact that their children have separate needs [and] begin to think of the child as being an extension of the self…A child may be used as an agent of revenge against the other parent…or the anger can lead to child stealing” (5). The “embittered- chaotic” parents described earlier by Wallerstein and Kelly may also fall in the revenge category (2). These parents act out their intense anger in a disorganized but chronically disruptive way which bombards the children, rather than protecting them, with the raw bitterness and chaos of the angry parent’s feelings about the ex-spouse and the divorce.

The Delusional Parent

Rogers refers to PAS in her report on five divorce/custody cases in which the falsely accusing parent, all mothers in this sample, suffered from delusional disorder (32). The children were subjected to undue influence to get them to accept the accusing parent’s psychotic belief and concomitant rejection of the other parent in a severe PAS scenario. Where the child succumbed, a diagnosis of shared paranoid disorder, otherwise known as folie a deux might also be made. According to Rogers, the first stages of the mother’s delusional disorder were present to some degree during the marriage and exacerbated parental conflicts prior to the separation. However, these subtle signs were not immediately discernible as a psychiatric illness and were only recognized in retrospect, as the mother’s symptoms became worse in the course of the divorce and its attendant disputes. One of the severe PAS cases reported by Dunne and Hedrick appears to be an example of the mother developing delusional disorder. The “subtle signs” were expressed as suspicions during her pregnancy that the father would molest the child, similar to a case encountered by the present author in which suspicions harbored by the mother even before the child was born prompted her to abduct the child a few months later. According to Rogers, the mothers who became delusional were usually the main caretakers for the children. In two cases they were awarded custody during the first round of custody litigation, before more noticeable deterioration in their parenting capabilities had occurred. With continued custody litigation, the intractable nature of their mental illness became apparent and the court gave custody to the father in four of the five cases.

Parental Child Abductors

According to Huntington, post-divorce parental child stealing has been on the increase since the mid-1970s, paralleling the rising divorce rate and the explosion of litigation over child custody (18). An abducting parent views the child’s needs as secondary to the parental agenda which is to provoke, agitate, control, attack or psychologically torture the other parent. It should come as no surprise, then, that post-divorce parental abduction is considered a serious form of child abuse. Psychological maltreatment may predominate or be accompanied by physical abuse and neglect. Abducting parents take the idea that the child would be better off without the other parent to an extreme. Clawar and Rivlin found that would-be abductors often felt frustrated in their efforts to gain access to their child through the legal system and felt “forced” to abduct the child (7). Sometimes, they became so convinced of the terrible scenario they were broadcasting about the target parent that they felt no “choice” but to flee with the child and go into hiding. In order to win the child’s cooperation in maintaining concealment, the abductor must continue to brainwash the child with fear of the target parent and what would happen if the target parent should find the abducting parent and child.

REFERENCES

1. Gardner R: Recent trends in divorce and custody litigation. Academy Forum 1985; 29:2:3-7

2. Wallerstein JS, Kelly JB: Surviving the breakup: how children and parents cope with divorce. New York, Basic Books, 1980

3. Blush GJ, Ross KL: Sexual allegations in divorce: the SAID syndrome. Conciliation Courts Review 1987; 25:1:1-11

4. Jacobs JW: Euripides’ Medea: a psychodynamic model of severe divorce pathology. American Journal of Psychotherapy 1988; XLII:2:308-319

5. Wallerstein JS, Blakeslee S: Second Chances. New York, Ticknor & Fields, 1989;

6. Turkat ID: Child visitation interference in divorce. Clinical Psychology Review 1994; 14:8:737-742

7. Clawar SS, Rivlin BV: Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago, American Bar Association, 1991

8. Johnston JR, Campbell LE: Impasses of Divorce: The Dynamics and Resolution of Family Conflict. New York, The Free Press, 1988

9. Johnston JR: Children of divorce who refuse visitation, in Nonresidential Parenting: New Vistas in Family Living. Edited by Depner CE, Bray JH, London, Sage Publications, 1993

10. National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect: executive summary: study of national incidence and prevalence of child abuse and neglect. Washington DC: Department of Health and Human Services 1988, Contract 105-85-1702

11. Stewart JW: The molestation charge. California Family Law Monthly 1991; 7:9:329-335

12. Thoennes N, Tjaden PG: The extent, nature, and validity of sexual abuse allegations in custody visitation disputes. Child Abuse & Neglect 1990; 12:151-63

13. National Council on Children’s Rights: CAPTA revised to provide relief for false allegations. Speak Out for Children, Fall 1996/Winter 1997

14. State of California: The California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Law: Issues and Answers for Health Practitioners, 1991

15. Gardner RA: The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sex Abuse. Cresskill, NJ, Creative Therapeutics, 1987

16. Gardner RA: The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill, NJ, Creative Therapeutics, 1992

17. Gardner RA: Family Evaluation in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, NJ, Creative Therapeutics, 1989

18. Huntington DS: The forgotten figures in divorce, in Divorce and Fatherhood: The Struggle for Parental Identity. Edited by Jacobs JW, Washington DC, American Psychiatric Association Press, 1986

19. Lund M: A therapist’s view of parental alienation syndrome. Family and Conciliation Courts Review 1995; 33:3:308-316

20. Maccoby EE, Mnookin RH: Dividing the Child: Social and Legal Dilemmas of Custody. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, I992

21. Garrity CB, Baris MA: Caught in the Middle: Protecting the Children of High-Conflict Divorce. New York, Lexington Books, 1994

22. Dunne J, Hedrick M: The parental alienation syndrome: an analysis of sixteen selected cases. Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 1994; 21:3/4:21-38

23. Rand DC: Munchausen syndrome by proxy: a complex type of emotional abuse responsible for some false allegations of child abuse in divorce. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 1993; 5:3:135-155

24. Cartwright GF: Expanding the parameters of parental alienation syndrome. American Journal of Family Therapy 1993; 21:3:205-215

25. Tucker LS, Cornwall TP: Mother-son folie a deux: a case of attempted patricide. American Journal of Psychiatry 1977; 134:10:1146-1 147

26. Ross KL, Blush GJ: Sexual abuse validity discriminators in the divorced or divorcing family. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 1990; 2:1:1-6

27. Blush GJ, Ross KL: Investigation and case managementissues and strategies. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 1990; 2:3:152-160

28. Wakefield H, Underwager R: Personality characteristics of parents making false accusations of sexual abuse in custody disputes. Issues in Child Abuse Accusations 1990; 2:3:121-136

29. Reich W: Character Analysis. New York, WR Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Noonday Press, 1949

30. Turkat ID: Divorce related malicious mother syndrome. Journal of Family Violence 1995; 10:3:253-264

31. Spiegel LD: A Question of Innocence. Parsippany, NJ, Unicorn Publishing House, 1986

32. Rogers M: Delusional disorder and the evolution of mistaken sexual allega lions in child custody cases. American Journal of Forensic Psychology 1992; 10:1:47-69

33. Sinanan K, Houghton H: Evolution of variants of the Munchausen syndrome. British Journal of Psychiatry 1986; 148:465-467

34. Meadow R: False allegations of abuse and Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Archives of Disease in Childhood 1993; 68:4:444-4.47

35. Jones M, Lund M, Sullivan M: Dealing with parental alienation in high conflict custody cases, presentation at conference of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, San Antonio, TX, 1996

36. Bools CN, Neale BA, Meadow SR: Co-morbidity associated with fabricated illness (Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy). Archives of Disease in Childhood 1992; 67:77-79

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Deirdre Conway Rand, Ph.D. practices clinical and forensic psychology in Mill Valley, California. She specializes in complex forms of emotional abuse, such as severe Parental Alienation and Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy. She is the author of articles on the latter and of two chapters in the book, Spectrum of Factitious Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association.

http://deltabravo.net/custody/rand02.php

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