Eight Symptoms of Parental Alienation


Eight symptoms of Parental Alienation Syndrome

by Linda Gottlieb, LMFT, LCSW

Eight Symptoms of the PAS.pdf


The campaign of denigration is an example of the construction of family myths which are

used for the purpose of turning a child against a previously loved and loving parent.

The child is programmed to believe that her/his other parent is: worthless, selfish,

unloving, malevolent, undeserving, and dangerous, etc. The effective result is that the

children become convinced they will be happier, healthier, and better adjusted if their

targeted parent is eradicated from their lives.

Examples of the denigrating behavior are listed below and are not inclusive:

1) Sabotaging and interfering with visits or not permitting visits at all.

2) Depriving the targeted parent of important information about the child, including but

not limited to medical, educational, and social activities.

3) Not informing and excluding the targeted parent from the child's activities, parent/

teacher conferences, birthdays, religious events, graduations, etc.

4) Programming the child against the targeted parent by belittling, criticizing, and

deprecating the targeted parent in the child's presence.

5) Removing the targeted pictures of the targeted parent from the child's awareness.

6) Interference with and not being supportive of contact between the targeted parent and

the child. This contact includes the telephone, text messaging, e-mailing, skype, or other


7) Making unilateral decisions in major areas regarding the child.

8) Verbally and physically abusing the targeted parent by the child and/or alienating


9) Defying the targeted parent's supervision and authority.

10) Rejection of the targeted parent's gifts, cards, vacations, and other offers of help.


This symptom no better reflects the distortion of family events or "the enshrining of

revisionist history" by the alienating parent and the PAS child about the targeted parent in

order to portray that parent in the worst possible light. PAS children remain armed with a

laundry list of vague injustices, deceptions, and disappointments which were allegedly

inflicted upon them by their targeted parent. These children exploit the opportunity to

reiterate their complaints ad nauseam when they respond with their inventory of

grievances to nearly every question asked of them about their relationship with their

targeted parent. When they are requested, however, to provide specific incidences or

explicit examples which support their accusations, they are unable to document credible,

significant, or factual examples. To the contrary, these children utter nothing more

explicit than vague comments such as “she/he lies;" "she/he is embarrassing," "she/he is

annoying," etc. Sometimes these children will say, "She/he is abusive," but they will be

unable to cite specific incidences to support the claims. These children, nevertheless,

have the potential to create havoc for their targeted parent when they fabricate fantastic,

ludicrous, and exaggerated accusations to justify their deprecation, such as child abuse

allegations. What these children can specifically articulate is the nastiness of their

alienating parent as well as that parent’s corroboration of their misperceptions of the

targeted parent. The PAS thus catapults to life because of the repetitive exploitation of

deceit, untruths, and hyperbole.

If the children and alienating parent are vague about alleged injustices committed by the

targeted parent, they are very specific about allegations of child abuse and domestic

violence. But these allegations are either entirely manufactured for utterly distorted and



PAS children can be predicted to recite a long list of deficits about their targeted parent

while minimizing or refuting any positive attribute or redeeming quality of that parent.

PAS children are curiously stricken with "amnesia" when it comes to acknowledging and

appreciating their targeted parent's lifetime involvement with them. Targeted parents

receive no recognition for the time, energy, and emotional and financial support which

they had invested and continue to invest in their children. Instead, everything targeted

parents utter, accomplish, propose, and offer to their children is viewed with disdain and

negativity. The inventory of characteristics is just the reverse for the alienating parent,

who is idealized, appears to possess a halo, is perceived as capable of walking on water,

and reveals no character flaws whatsoever. PAS children have relinquished any interest

in engaging in an objective assessment of each of their parents. On the one hand, they

consider their targeted parent to be unadulterated evil. On the other hand, they

demonstrate an unshakable reverence for their alienating parent, even when an objective

observer would evaluate the alienator to possess insufferable, problematical, and even

reprehensible attributes. These children think only in terms of black and white when it

comes to their two parents.


PAS children proclaim uninfluenced ownership of their "horrific" opinions of and

feelings for their targeted parent. Moreover, they accept sole responsibility for their

abusive, disrespectful and rejecting behaviors towards that parent, adamantly affirming

that their alienating parent does not encourage them in the slightest. Imagine, a child

accepting absolute culpability for their reprehensible deeds! And they will spontaneously

volunteer authorship of these ideas, frequently volunteering that their alienating parent

has not influenced their feelings and behaviors one iota.

CRUELTY towards the ALIENATED PARENT with no remorse or guilt

PAS children typically exhibit toward their targeted parent a cruelty so wounding that the

serpent's bite pales in comparison. Pouring salt in their parent's wounds, these children

reveal no remorse or guilt for having caused such pain.


The symptom called "reflexive support the alienating parent" is descriptive of the

process by which PAS children uncritically and dogmatically align with their alienating

parent, particularly when disagreements and hostilities arise between the parents. family

systems therapists labeled this coalition the "perverse triangle" whereby the child is

manipulated by one parent into forming a coalition to the disengagement of the other

parent. This interactional pattern acquired such a label because it is a dysfunctional

behavioral pattern: when a parent and child to collude (either consciously or

unconsciously) to deprecate and reject the other parent, the child often develops severe

emotional disturbances. The requirement of the coalition is a destructive demand for the

child to choose between parents: it creates a double bind in that the child must either

sever a relationship with the targeted parent or else incur the wrath and probable rejection

of the alienating parent for refusal to do so. In the face of parental disputes, PAS children

express unequivocal support for and allegiance to the feelings, opinions, and behaviors of

their alienating parent and absolute disregard for those of their alienated parent. They

assert that their alienating parent possesses a veracity above reproach in every dispute

while the alienated parent is always guilty of mendacity. Indeed, the enmeshment with

the alienator is so powerful, that these children will interpret their alienated parent's

struggle to defend against the alienating parent's humiliating behaviors and malicious

accusations to be an attack upon them.

PAS children, for example, uncritically align with the alienating parent even after that

parent’s allegations of domestic violence are dismissed, and even when having failed to

witness a single such incident. Whether it be issues such as child support, financial

disputes, infidelity accusations, fallacious child abuse allegations, or any matter arising in

the divorce proceedings, the PAS child will align with the alienating parent.


Because it is so illustrative of a programming, the symptom called "borrowed

scenarios" is highly indicative of the presence of the PAS. When interviewing PAS

children, one is inescapably impressed with how scripted they sound and how effectively

they employ language, concepts, and terminology commensurate with a cognitive stage

well beyond what is typical for their actual age. If the interviewer is unknowledgeable

about the PAS and its symptoms, the interviewer would likely conclude that these

children are child progenies! However, when the PAS-aware interviewer goes where

most interviewers fail to go by requesting that these children define their words and

explain the meaning of their phrases, they are unable to do so. Their precocious charade

then collapses like a house of cards. In addition to the sophisticated use of language,

another indication of borrowed scenarios is the commonality of expressions between

those of PAS children and those of their indoctrinating parent. Indeed, the litanies of

deprecation uttered by these children are often indistinguishable from the litanies

expressed by their alienating parent. A further indication of the presence this symptom

occurs when PAS children reveal an intimate knowledge of events that they could not

have witnessed or of which they have had no personal experience, such as events that

occurred before their birth. It is only because of the alienator's programming that these

children became privy to such information, which is usually inflammatory, exaggerated,

or completely fabricated about their targeted parent.


That is, the vilification and rejection of the targeted parent usually will extend to her/his

entire family of origin. These relatives, such as grandparents, who had had a previously

loving relationship with the child, will now be inexplicably rejected. The PAS child

utters no remorse regarding such rejection and expresses no feelings of loss for the

termination of these relationships. When these relatives attempt contact with the child,

their efforts go unanswered, and all requests for visits are refused.

The above excerpts are taken from the book, The Parental Alienation: A Family

Therapy and Collaborative Systems Approach to Amelioration, by Linda J. Gottlieb

Examples of Frivolous Rationalizations

Examples of Frivolous Rationalizations.pdf

The following are examples of the bizarre, unbelievable frivolous rationalizations that PAS children had expressed to me or to their targeted parent to "justify" severing a relationship with their targeted parent: "I hated the teen cruise you took me on; I hated the train show you took me to and the train exhibit you later built for me at my request; the only good time I ever had with you in 17 years was eating a candy bar; you would bribe me with a Barbie doll to see you; you would bribe me with $20 to see me; you were stalking me when you came to watch me play baseball; i read in the divorce papers you are trying to avoid child support; I won't expect you to pay for my cell phone because it was not a stipulation in the divorce decree; you only bought me that iPad to trick me into seeing you; the only reason I kept the necklace you got me was because i was able to sand off the "love, Dad." "You deserved to be hit mom because you nag; you fornicated with animals and that's why WE had to divorce you; you aren't my mommy anymore; you abandoned ME when you moved out.

Examples of the alienator’s feigned efforts to support the relationship between the targeted/alienated parent and their child

Examples of the alienator’s feigned efforts to support the relationship between the targeted.pdf

The following is a tiny sample of comments expressed by the alienating parents of the children discussed in this book----comments which are indicative of the alienator's "diligent efforts" to support and encourage the relationship with the targeted parent: "Perhaps you should go on the visit." "Maybe she won't be so selfish with you this time." "I think he learned his lesson and will be nicer to you." "Maybe his girlfriend won't be there to boss you around, and he will pay more attention to you." "Are you sure you don't want to go?" "Do you want to go with him?" "What goes wrong at your mother's that you would not want to go with her?" "I don't know why you would not want to go." "I believe he has discovered how to act in your presence." "Perhaps he is benefiting from the anger management classes." In addition to conveying that the child has a choice about attending the visit, these comments imply a veiled implication that there is a problem or a safety issue at the targeted parent's home. Just imagine giving children a choice about attending school! Would a parent actually say to her/his child, "Would you like to go to school today?" Imagine conveying to children the covert message that school is not important: "Maybe they will teach you something today if you go." Several alienating parents revealed a superficial helplessness with regards to getting their children to go on the visits. The following are typical comments which were expressed to me: "I do not know how to get the children to go." "It puts too much pressure on me to force them to go." When I asked these parents what they would do if their children refused to attend school or medical appointments, they all responded quite affirmatively, "I would make them go."

It is so baffling to me that alienators recognize the necessity for their children to acquire learning experiences from their teachers, medical providers, and even sports coaches while simultaneously being unable to appreciate the necessity for the learning experiences provided by the other parent. Out of this ignorance arises the failure to use their authority to require that their