Expert Evidence

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 127–146 | Cite as

Divorce, Children and the Courts:Evaluating the Use of the Parent Alienation Syndromein Custody Disputes

  • K. Daniel O'Leary
  • Kirstin C. Moerk


Parent alienation is often a central issue incontested child custody cases and has become thesubject of significant debate. The debate centerspartly around the extent to which there is anidentifiable syndrome related to parent alienationsuch as the Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) proposedby Gardner (1998). According to the PAS, custodialparents will often act to denigrate their ex-spouse infront of their child to promote a dislike of the otherparent. These parental acts create an atmosphere ofalienation between the child and the non-custodialparent, and it is argued that this alienation willmanifest itself through the child's behavior. Thispaper argues that although parents often act in waysthat serve to alienate the child from the other parentin custody cases, there is very little empiricalevidence of a specific syndrome that accounts for thediverse behaviors that fall under the rubric of parentalienation. Specifically, current descriptions ofparent alienation as a syndrome do not meet acceptablescientific criteria levels related to reliability andvalidity and should be carefully scrutinized by thecourts. Future areas for empirical examination of PAS,as it relates to custody cases, are discussed.


Criterion Level Central Issue Specific Syndrome Empirical Examination Future Area 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Daniel O'Leary
    • 1
  • Kirstin C. Moerk
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentState University of New YorkStony BrookUSA

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