You know those horrible stories you hear about divorced moms and dads who make their children choose sides or, even worse, turn against the other parent? Now there’s a formal name for the condition: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).
The American Psychiatric Association is considering adding PAS to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders (knows as the DSM-5), which is scheduled for publication in May 2013. The move has caused a national lobbying and letter-writing campaign on both sides – those who see it as a legitimate psychological disorder and those who feel it’s simply “junk science” that will only be used as a tool in court by abusive parents.
According to an article in Slate magazine, William Bernet – a professor of psychiatry at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and an advocate for its inclusion in the DSM-5 – describes PAS as “a mental condition in which a child, usually one whose parents are engaged in a high conflict divorce, allies himself or herself strongly with one parent, and rejects a relationship with the other parent, without legitimate justification.”
Whether PAS makes it into the DMS-5 or not remains to be seen but, regardless, all parents suffering through a divorce should think of their children first: how the split affects them and what they can do to ease the pain. Because, whatever we choose to label it (or not), forcing your child to pick sides just isn’t cool.