Challenging Parental Alienation : New Directions for Professionals and Parents book cover
1st Edition

Challenging Parental Alienation
New Directions for Professionals and Parents

ISBN 9780367559762
Published December 3, 2021 by Routledge
284 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book addresses the concept of parental alienation – the belief that when a child of divorced parents avoids one parent, it may be because the preferred parent has persuaded the child to do this. It argues against the unquestioning use of parental alienation concepts in child custody conflicts.

Increasing use of this concept in family courts has led at times to placement of children with abusive or violent parents, damage to the lives of preferred parents, and the use of treatments that have not been shown to be safe or effective. The 13 chapters cover the history and theory of "parental alienation" principles and practices. Methodological and research issues are considered, and diagnostic and treatment methods associated with "parental alienation" beliefs as well as those recommended by research and ethical evidence are analyzed. The connections of "parental alienation" with gender and domestic violence issues are discussed as are the experiences of individuals who have experienced "parental alienation" treatments. The book argues that "parental alienation" principles and practices should be avoided by family courts, in the best interests of children in custody disputes.

This book will be useful reading for lawyers, judges, children’s services workers including social workers, child protection court workers, and mental health professionals involved in child custody decisions.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Introduction to Parental Alienation Concepts and Practices
Jean Mercer and Margaret Drew

Part 1: When a Child Avoids a Parent: Understanding the Problem

Chapter 2 History of the Parental Alienation Belief System
Julie Doughty and Margaret Drew

Chapter 3 The International Expansion of the Parental Alienation Belief System Through the UK and Australian Experiences
Julie Doughty and Zoe Rathus

Chapter 4 Experiences of Parental Alienation Interventions
Adrienne Barnett, Arianna Riley, and "Katherine"

Part 2: When a Child Avoids a Parent: Identifying and Treating Problems

Chapter 5 Evaluations for the Courts in Child Custody Cases: An Attorney’s Perspective
Nancy Erickson

Chapter 6 Distinguishing Alienation from Child Abuse and Adverse Parenting
Madelyn Simring Milchman

Chapter 7 Comparison of Parental Alienation Treatments and Evidence-Based Treatments for Children
Sarah T. Trane, Kelly M. Champion, and Steven D. A. Hupp

Chapter 8 Gender Credibility and Culture: The Impact on Women Accused of Alienation
Margaret Drew

Chapter 9 Developmental Changes in Children and Adolescents: Relevance for Parental Alienation Discussions
Jean Mercer

Part 3: When a Child Avoids a Parent: Scientific and Legal Analyses

Chapter 10 Parental Alienation Concepts and the Law: An International Perspective
Suzanne Zaccour

Chapter 11 Questioning the Scientific Validity of the Parental Alienation Label in Abuse Cases
Joan Meier

Chapter 12 Parental Alienation, Science, and Pseudoscience
Jean Mercer

Chapter 13 Conclusion: Current Issues About Parental Alienation
Jean Mercer and Margaret Drew


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Jean Mercer is Professor Emerita of Psychology at Stockton University in New Jersey, USA. She is a developmental psychologist with concerns about potentially harmful therapies that are used for children, including "holding therapy" and other coercive methods. She has published a number of articles critiquing theory and research on parental alienation allegations in child custody cases.

Margaret Drew is an Associate Professor of Law who teaches at the University of Massachusetts School of Law, USA, and has represented domestic abuse survivors in trial and appellate courts. Professor Drew’s scholarship has focused primarily on intimate partner abuse and its impact on vulnerable populations. Some areas of interest are lawyer malpractice in domestic violence cases, the vulnerability of people living with HIV, the use of Collaborative Law in domestic violence cases, and bringing a human rights framework to legal remedies for survivors of abuse.