What to know about what you don’t know you know. #1: Intuition is very efficient—if you don't overthink it.
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My clinical experience doing hundreds of custody evaluations supports the findings of Rowen and Emery, i.e., badmouthing is more likely to backfire than lead to alienation.
While I have myself diagnosed alienation, I have frequently found evaluators to diagnose it when the real issue was that the rejected parent treated the children poorly.
There are a group of followers of Richard Gardner who find alienation in case after case. I have reviewed the custody reports of a number of these evaluators. The evaluators repeatedly made the "diagnosis" of parental alienation based on Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome, which has been soundly rejected by serious researchers. No research has shown that the factors differentiate between alienation and estrangement. Nevertheless, some evaluators repeatedly make claims that the factors are "unique" to alienation and misdiagnose alienation using them, failing to even point out to the court that there is a huge controversy over the alleged syndrome and that it has been widely rejected. The factors that Gardner claimed indicated alienation are present in both alienation and estrangement (rejection of a parent because of the parent's poor behavior).
The reports were deeply flawed in other ways. Evidence contradicting the conclusion was often not presented, or was not noted to be significant and in contradiction to the conclusion. Overall the data was heavily spun to support the alienation hypothesis. It appears that the evaluators started with the incorrect assumption that the issue is almost always alienation when a child rejects a parent, confirmation bias took over and the data was heavily spun to support the predetermined conclusion.
Saini et al are correct that the research supporting parental alienation is weak. In addition to methodologic problems the data is often interpreted incorrectly. Causation is often claimed when only correlation was found. Validity is claimed when only reliability was found.
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