PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome

PAS: Parental Alienation Syndrome

Dr. Miriam Adahan

Anyone even contemplating divorce must be aware of one of the most tragic situations

afflicting many divorcees: the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS). Without an understanding of this

terribly frequent phenomenon, it is impossible to understand the anguish of the victims. PAS, a term

coined in 1985 by Dr. Richard Gardner, M.D., refers to a brutal form of domestic violence.

In essence, the perpetrator of a PAS (or alienator) is an obsessive criticizer, constantly

accusing the victim (or alienated) parent of every possible form of abuse that they can imagine – and

such people have very rich imaginations. For example, I have known both male and female victims

whose lives have been destroyed by an alienator accused of sexual abuse, for example, when nothing of

the kind has ever taken place.

Typically, the alienator poisons the children, even before the divorce, by constantly criticizing

the spouse:

Your father/mother is stupid. Don’t ask him/her questions.”

Your father/mother isn’t really religious. Don’t trust him/her.”

Your father/mother is dangerous. Don’t be alone with him/her.”

Your father/mother is crazy. Hang up when s/he calls. Don’t listen to him/her.”

It is impossible for a child to resist such indoctrination, which often begins in the formative years,

when they are so suggestible to being programmed. Most perpetrators of PAS suffer from paranoia,

which is a delusion that one is being treated malevolently or being persecuted by others when there is

absolutely no justification for such a belief. The paranoid person feels victimized, denigrated,

persecuted and humiliated and, therefore, feels justified in victimizing, denigrating, persecuting and

humiliating the spouse, or former spouse.

I personally know of a father of nine who has not seen his children for 4 years. Another

father, a very loving, kind person, has watched helplessly as his two little boys, aged 8 and 10, have

deteriorated into mental illness. They would come to visitations with him covered with bruises, which

the mother would then accuse him of inflicting on them. The boys became abusive themselves after

years of living with a mother who “accidentally” pushed one of them down the stairs and often

punished them harshly for the most minor infractions. I know of a mother whose 13 year old son

refuses to see her, after the father kept telling him that she was treif , and would be punished with

gehinom if he even talked to her. A mother in Meah Shearim has not seen her 12 (!) children for six

years now, ever since the former husband began poisoning his children.

In every case, the children all become mentally disturbed. Often, they are extremely sadistic

themselves, having been taught how to torture people by seeing how one parent tortures the other.

No matter what the alienated parent does to try to have a normal relationship with the

children, his or her actions are criticized and “spun” into something else. For example, if the alienated

parent acts kind, the alienator tells the child that s/he is weak and wimpy. If the alienated parent tries

to discipline the child, the child is told that he is a cruel monster. The alienated parent is in a no-win

situation. If he phones the children, the alienator tells them to hang up and not to talk to “the monster.”

If s/he does not call, the alienator tells the children, “See, s/he never cared about you in the first place.”

If the judge demands that the children visit the alienated parent, the alienator will call

frequently to ask, “Is everything okay? Call me if s/he hurts you?” Or, upon arriving home, the

alienator will interrogate the children and then express horror at how the alienated parent has behaved.

“S/he let you stay up so late? Made you go to bed so early? How awful!” “S/He made you do your

homework/clean up your room/do the dishes? How cruel!” “He took you hiking? You must have

suffered terribly out there in those conditions.” “She bought you new clothing? She did that just to

buy your love.” “He hugged you? You tell that rat that he’s not allowed to touch your body!”

It is difficult for outsiders to catch onto the tricks of PAS perpetrators, as they are terrific

actors, playing the victim role to the hilt and adept at pressuring others to take their side, even offering

money to respected leaders in the community. A loving parent has no chance of winning against the

insidious campaign of lies waged by the alienator.


1. Absence of shame and/or guilt. The perpetrator is not at all ashamed of his/her actions and is adept

at justifying his/her constant criticism and vilification.

2. Lack of empathy. The perpetrator shows no appreciation for the damage he or she is causing the

children or the pain of the ex-spouse.

3. Impulsivity. Psychopaths live for the moment, showing little concern for the future consequences

of their actions. The perverse pleasure they get from being vengeful is what occupies their minds.

4. Inability to form stable relationships. Psychopaths can act charming and affectionate at times, and

will often proclaim great love for their children, but are not capable of stable relationships, as seen

from the fact that they do not care that they are permanently destroying their children’s health.

5. Deceit. Psychopaths are flagrant liars, professing complete honesty, perjuring themselves on the

witness stand with aplomb. They have two goals: money and vengeance.

6. Manipulative. They are very manipulative of others, appearing articulate, socially attractive and

convincing. They are very skillful at exploiting others and can manipulate juries and judges,

convincing them that they are completely honest.

7. Irresponsibility: They are basically unreliable, saying whatever they think will be effective at the

moment and attacking anyone who catches them in a lie.

8. Disloyalty. Typically, psychopaths have no sense of loyalty to anyone. A loyal person would not

brainwash his children and ruin their lives by denigrating the other parent in such a malicious manner.

Psychopaths are essentially takers, though they can give lavish gifts if doing so will enable them to

manipulate others. They will profess friendship and gush about how wonderful you are, only if you

join their campaign of vilification.

9. Lack of fear. Psychopaths feel that they are above the law and show no fear of punishment or being

caught in a lie.

10. End justified the means. Whatever it takes to “win” – that’s what they will do. To destroy a parent

who loves his/her children is the goal which they pursue obsessively and tenaciously.


1. Unsubstantiated criticism. The children parrot back the same criticisms as the alienator, like a

rehearsed litany. For example, “He’s mean and stupid.” When asked for examples, the child often

cannot think of any specific instances.

2. Frivolous and absurd justifications for the denigration. For example, the child will complain, “He

makes me do my homework before letting me go out to play.” Or, “She makes me clean up after

myself, like I’m her slave.” “He smells funny.” “She makes me sit at the table when I eat.” “He made

me go to my room for 10 minutes when I was insolent.” “He’s always asking me how I feel.”

3. Lack of ambivalence. Children often have both positive and negative emotions toward parents. In a

PAS situation, the children will feel total disgust and horror toward the alienated parent, as if there is

absolutely nothing positive in the person.

4. Independent thinker phenomenon. The child insists that he has come to his own conclusions, for

example. “She’s not really frum. That’s why I don’t like my mother.” “I don’t want to have anything

to do with my father. That’s my own decision.”

5. Reflexive support for the alienating parent. No matter what the alienator does, the child supports

him or her. For example, a mother claimed that the father never sent money. When the judge showed

the child the receipts that the father had, indeed, sent money, the child said, “They’re forged.”

6. Absence of guilt. The children show no guilt over their cruelty and exploitation. They will say

right out, “She doesn’t deserve to see me. She doesn’t cover all her hair.” Or, “I want as much money

as I can get from him, and that’s all.” “I like to see him cry.” “I enjoy it when she feels bad.”

7. Animosity toward extended family. The alienator will usually extent the venomous assaults to

formerly loving grandparents, aunts and uncles so that the children are isolated from anyone who might

influence them to think differently about the alienated parent.

I have never seen an alienated parent win in a PAS situation. Even if the judge awards

custody to the alienated parent, the alienator will win the child’s heart with his or her incessant

brainwashing. The only advice I can give the alienated parent is to let go and try to start a new life.

But this is extremely difficult. If the woman is the alienator, she will usually destroy the man

financially, making it almost impossible for him to remarry. These often nice, well-meaning men are

usually devastated emotionally as well and shell-shocked at what has happened. If the man is the

alienator, the former wife may be an agunah and is in a state of depression and despair after being

criticized for years. The victims often lose their children, who are so sadistic toward them that even

when they do get together, it is such an unhappy experience that the loving parent is simply unable to

bear the humiliation and pain.

It is extremely important to recognize that this evil phenomenon does exist. Many parents are

terrified of getting divorced because they are afraid of losing the affections of their children. Indeed, if

a spouse is extremely critical before the divorce, it may increase afterwards, as the alienator takes pride

in being able to get the children on his/her side. The fact that the children are destroyed in the process

has no impact on them. The best way to insure the mental health of children is for parents to treat each

other with respect. Unfortunately, when PAS is present, this is impossible.

For further reading about this tragic situation, see THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME, by

Richard Gardner

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