Parental Alienation: Reunifying the Alienated Family

As a licensed psychologist for 30 years and someone who has evaluated almost 1,000 custody cases, Dr. Douglas Darnall is internationally recognized as an expert on parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome.

Darnall currently practices clinical and forensic psychology at PsyCare, Inc., where he is also the CEO.

His soon-to-be-released book “Beyond Divorce Casualties: Reunifying the Alienated Family” gives new information about parental alienation’s difficult aftermath and how parents can review previous issues and solutions, renew efforts to create healthy childrearing environments, and reunify their alienated family.

You can find out more information on Darnall and his books by visiting his website. talked with Darnall about the difference between parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome, the history and cycle of alienation, and why there’s hope for affected parents.

Note: Click here to read Part 2. First off, could you explain the difference between parental alienation and what’s considered the more severe parental alienation syndrome?

Doug Darnall: Parental Alienation is an act by a parent, or it could be a stepparent or another family member, that tries to denigrate and destroy the relationship between a child and the other targeted parent. In this case, we see refusal to comply with court orders, they are critical of the target parent’s parenting skills, they make degrading comments to the child about the targeted parent, etc. The focus is on the parent’s behavior.

If the child is influenced or in extreme cases essentially brainwashed and the child becomes the perpetrator of alienation, then it becomes Parental Alienation Syndrome. PAS only happens when the child acts on it and starts to display those alienating behaviors.


What is the history of parental alienation? When did this first become recognized and how prevalent is it now?

The notion of parental alienation, though it hasn’t always been called that, initially came to the forefront partly as a result of the women’s movement. Prior to the early 1960s, child custody was determined by this doctrine that the child and mother had a special relationship and the father couldn’t compete with that. The women’s movement and focus on equality helped shift those custody cases to focusing on the best interest of the child and pitting the two parents against each other. Now you have parents competing against each other, more contentious litigation and more of a battlefield atmosphere. …

If a mother seeks custody and loses, generally she is socially chastised. People say, “What’s wrong with her?” If the father goes for custody and loses, he is thought of as being a good father, who loves his kids, and was screwed by the system. That’s not equality.  Men are rarely stigmatized if they don’t gain custody. That creates anger and hurt feelings. …

I get more inquiries from stepmothers than I do from fathers about parental alienation. That makes no sense at all. If a father wants to be an active participant than the father needs to step up and not let the stepmother act as a go between.


In your book, you talk about the alienating cycle. What is that cycle?

What my book does is put the responsibility of change on the reader whether they are the targeted parent or the alienating parent. They’re going to learn about how they have to take personal responsibility.

The point of the cycle is to show how parents intensify the alienation. One parents feeds something to the other parent who responds to the first parent and this creates an ongoing cycle of animosity and hostility. The book addresses how to stop it.

People will either really love it or really get angry with me because it puts the responsibility of the reader to do things differently. It’s written for the parent and is a self-help primer for reunification.


Note: Click here to read Part 2.

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