It is a psychological process that can be found in legal disputes about child custody. In practice, one of the two parents uses the child to put the ex-partner in trouble through direct and / or indirect action, aimed at destroy target parent. An example is the alienating parent says to child: “Do you see it? Your father / mother has abandon us”, “We are in economic trouble because he does not pay for the food”, “If you want to stay with him / her ok, but i do not agree”. The child, especially if at an early age, begins to introject the thoughts and emotions of the alienating parent, gradually experiencing a rejection of the other. The refuse is initially psychological, then also physical, with subsequent denial of any kind of contact with the target parent.
Of course, parental alienation corresponds to a psychological process structured by various phases and nuances, so if you intervene immediately you can block it, limiting potential damage.
What is the difference between PAS (Parental Alianation Syndrome) and PA (Parental Alienation)?
It’s substantial. The PAS refers to a “syndrome” and to the famous criteria described by Richard Gardner, US psychiatrist, who first coined this term. Until 2013, in fact, it was talking about Pas focusing almost exclusively on the alienating subject and on the child: if those criteria were met, then we could talk about Pas. The criteria assumed the value of real “symptoms” indicative of a disorder.
So structured the concept of Pas has failed to be included in the classification of mental disorders inside DSM-5 so that the scientific community, which had long ago started to revise that concept, began to widen the object of psycho-forensic investigation also on the alienated subject and on the psychological dynamics of parents-child triad. So no more symptoms that point to an individual disorder, but more complex psychological process where each member plays its part: a relational problem. If a parent denigrates the ex partner using his son, the target parent is not capable, by its specific characteristics, to counteract such bad actions. If it proves often responds in a dysfunctional way, so as to feed indirectly its position “down” instead of that alienating parent “up”.
So today it is best to talk about “Parental Alienation” rather than “Parental Alienation Syndrome”, though often using the term PAS for pure comfort and simplification.
In Italy until 2015 PAS was not recognized by the Courts. Until then there have been many judgments that did not recognize PAS. One on all, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Cassation no. 7041/13. In 2015, the Court of Cosenza recognized parental alienation, not as a syndrome, but relational problem, removing two children 8 and 6-year-olds from their mother’s house to move them to a children community sheleter for 6 months (sole custody to father). Following the judgment of the Court of Cosenza, there were many judgments in favor of the PA. One on all the judgment of the Supreme Court of Cassation no. 6919/16.
At present parental alienation is recognized by the Courts, although the major issue concerns the interventions to be implemented to counter the PA.
The Italian Court can:
– sanction the alienating parent (Art. 709-ter c.p.c. – Art. 96 c.p.c.)
– reverse child placement: from alienationg parent’s home to that of target parent (maintaing joint custody)
– sole custody to alienating parent (Art. 337-quater c.c.)
– loss child custody and child transitional site (Art. 330 c.c. – Art. 333 c.c.)
There are currently no specific PA psychological treatment. The Court can order psychological treatment for children only (such as psychoterapy).
The Court cannot order psychological treatment to parents. In fact, the Art. 32 of Constitution of The Italian Republic says:
The Republic safeguards health as a fundamental right ofthe individual and as a collective interest, and guarantees
free medical care to the indigent. No one may be obliged to undergo any given healthtreatment except under the provisions of the law. The law cannot under any circumstances violate the limits imposed by respect for the human person.