Coping with the Parental Alienation Syndrome


Stan Hayward, Research Officer for the London Branch of Families Need Fathers.

April 2002



Ten years ago, the term 'Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)' was virtually unknown outside of the USA. Today it is one of the key factors in changing the laws of custody.

Paradoxically, at the time of writing it is not recognised by any government authority in the UK. Nor do the Family-courts, Family-lawyers, Child-welfare organisations or child psychiatrists generally accept it, yet they will admit that the problem of hostile separations, and the alienating of children against the non-resident parent is common, and well known by all who deal with these matters.

Understanding why those in the worlds of Family-law and Family-business do not accept PAS is the key to understanding why one father in three in the UK will not see his children grow up.


What is the Parental Alienation Syndrome?

The full description of PAS can be found in the works of Dr Richard Gardner MD, and on his website at and at also , but briefly:

It is the systematic denigration of the non-resident parent by the resident parent with the intent of alienating children against the non-resident parent. The pattern of PAS behaviour is common to some degree or other in all custody disputes.

Children who have been alienated will claim that it is their own decision to reject the non-resident parent. Once this happens, it could be several years before the non-resident parent will see their children again.

It is the child's claim that they are not influenced in their decision by the resident parent, which makes it difficult to deal with, as the child's 'evidence' is regarded as crucial to the courts decision.



Though PAS infers that it is a 'Parent' who is alienating the child, it could be just about anyone who has custody, control, or influence over the child. There are cases where a family member has gained custody of the child and alienated the child against the biological parent. There are cases where a friend or Guardian has gained custody or control, and alienated the child. There are cases where older siblings will alienated younger children against the parent. There are stepfathers who have had children alienated against them, and there are mothers who have children by more than one father, and will alienate the children against all the fathers.

Further to this, the alienation is not just against the non-resident parent, but also against that parent's friends, family, and common acquaintances. It may extend to avoiding the area where the 'hated' parent lives, and to denigrating the lifestyle and interests of that parent. It is in fact, brainwashing.

This guide is essentially aimed at fathers, as they are by far the most common victims of PAS. But where mothers are the victims, they are just as likely to suffer the same effects, and in many cases be will be worse off as they may find it more difficult to compensate through work or outside interests. A separate section relating to mothers who have lost custody is at the end of this guide.

The guide is set out in three parts.

1.     The background to the problem of PAS, and why the authorities have done very little so far.

2.     The common factors of PAS that will enable you to predict a sequence of events, and to some extent be prepared for them.

3.     What you can do to survive the trauma until such times as the situation changes in your favour, as it does in the vast majority of recorded cases,


In the UK it has been estimated that around 60,000 children a year lose their father (around 96% of single-parents are mothers). It is difficult to arrive at an accurate figure as somewhere around a third of the children in the UK are born to unmarried parents. In many cases the custody dispute is not brought to court or registered as the father has little chance of winning. The problem is likely to get worse as studies have shown that children from single-parent families are more likely to become single-parents themselves, or have problems with their relationships later in life. So it has become a vicious circle.