Parental Alienation Syndrome – PAS Criteria for Diagnosis

Parental Alienation Syndrome is a disorder in which a child, on an ongoing basis, belittles and insults one parent without justification.  Typically children victimized by Parental Alienation Syndrome have felt forced to choose between their parents and have chosen the custodial parent over the other parent.  The term Parental Alienation Syndrome was invented by Richard A. Gardner in the 80’s.  It can be caused by a combination of two factors.

a.  Indoctrination by the other parent (almost always as a result of a child custody dispute).

b.  The child’s own attempt to denigrate the target parent.


Criteria a mental health professional may look for:

Access and Contact Blocking – Criteria 1

The abusive parent will actively block access to the children.  They justify this blocking in different ways but the most common justification is in the interest of protecting the child or children.

The blocking parent tends to feel superior and that the blocked parent is inferior, therefore should be pushed to the outskirts of the child or children’s life.


Unfounded Abuse Allegations – Criteria 2

False allegations of Abuse against the absent parent.   The most extreme version of this allegation is an accusation of sexual abuse.  Over half of all allegations of sexual abuse are made when parents are divorcing or in some post-divorce conflict.

Surprisingly physical abuse is less common. Missing bruises and other marks expected in a physical abuse investigation is often a deterrent for a physical abuse allegation from the alienating parent.

Emotional abuse is relatively common.  Most investigations into emotional abuse uncover disagreements between how the parents want their children raised as the source of the allegation.


Deterioration in Relationship Since Separation – Criteria 3

Deterioration in relationship since separation is the degeneration of a once positive relationship between the child or children and the absent parent.  If the absent parent is working to spend time with the child or children and be involved in their activities it is unlikely for a child or children to distance themselves from them.  Children typically do not become distant from their non-residential parent simply because they don’t live with them full time.  Consequently, if there is a big shift in this relationship Parental Alienation Syndrome is a common culprit.

Intense Fear Reaction by Children – Criteria 4

If there is an obvious fear reaction on the part of the child or children when around the alienated parent.  The child or children may fear they will be physically abused, sexually abused, even just emotionally abused.   It’s the genuine display of intense fear that needs to be look ford.  There are multiple factors that can contribute this intense fear. The child or children may be regularly threatened with abandonment by the non-absent parent.   The offending parent may be warning the child or children that if they are disobedient to them, then the child or children will have to live with the absent parent.  This appeals to the child’s sense of fear and positions staying with other parent as a punishment.




Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS may have some of the criteria above but not all.  These criteria are in and of themselves not proof that that a child or children are suffering from Parental Alienation Syndrome.  It takes a trained professional to diagnose PAS.  If you feel you are a victim of Parent Alienation Syndrome you should contact an attorney who is familiar with this syndrome or an expert in the medical field familiar with Parental Alienation Syndrome.

These criteria in and of themselves are not proof that a child suffers from Parental Alienation Syndrome, nor is it an exhaustive list of the cause and factors.



For more comprehensive write up on the Criteria please visit: