New APA Position Statement: Some children are manipulated into rejecting a parent.

New APA Position Statement: Some children are manipulated into rejecting a parent.

February 12, 2016
Petition to
Dr. Antonio E. Puente (APA President) and 8 others
Signatures: 21,062Next Goal: 25,000
Support now

Why this petition matters

Started by Parental Restoration

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 122,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students as its members. This prominent group of leading professionals currently has no official position on whether children can be manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent who does not deserve to be rejected. This has provided too many people with the ammunition they need to cast doubt on innocent victims and to deny the existence of such a situation. The demands outlined below, if they are publically acknowledged, will end the debates and the controversies. A position statement by the APA will lift the long-standing stigma surrounding our situation that has driven away the vast majority of psychologists and other professionals. It will start to protect our families from therapists who do not have the expertise required to fully diagnose and treat our situation. It will start to protect our children from the abusive influence that has overtaken them. It will open the doors for adult children to find the true help and understanding they need so they can reunite with those they were pulled away from. A position statement will be the first step toward ending this nightmare.

Our situation is not a child custody issue, it is a child protection issue.

If you sign, and if you are comfortable with it, please consider sharing a summary of your story. Our stories are the force that will drive the changes we want to see. Thank you.

As parents who have lost children to this epidemic, as well as those who support us:

  1. We demand that the APA formally acknowledge and bring to the attention of the general public that children can be manipulated by one parent to reject the other parent who does not deserve to be rejected.

    At the June 2010 Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) Annual Conference in Denver, audience members at the Opening Plenary Session were asked to complete a one page survey. About 300 of the estimated 1,000 audience members completed the survey. Nearly all of the respondents to the survey (98%) endorsed the question, “Do you think that some children are manipulated by one parent to irrationally and unjustifiably reject the other parent?”

    AFCC eNewsletter, Vol. 6 No. 5, May 2011 (Page 5)

    The APA already recognizes that "refusal to visit a parent" and "parental undermining of the child’s relationships with the other parent" are "complex post-separation situations":

    Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination, APA, Jan. 2012 (Guideline 2a)

    The DSM-5 already recognizes "excessive parental pressure" and "unwarranted feelings of estrangement" as "Problems Related to Family Upbringing" under "V61.20 Parent-Child Relational Problem":

    American Psychiatric Association, (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Publishing

    The American Psychiatric Association already recognizes the existence of pathogenic parenting practices found within "the marriage and family lives of patients with BPD" (Borderline Personality Disorder):

    – "parentify their own children" (role-reversal relationship)
    – "excessively bind their children to themselves" (cross-generational coalition)
    – "exert extreme possessiveness of their children" (suppression of child's attachment motivations toward the other parent)
    – "demand absolute, unlimited control [over their children] while threatening rejection" (child becomes a regulatory object)
    – "projection of disavowed elements of the self onto the spouse" (projection)
    – "revive the feeling of attachment to early traumatic and disappointing objects" (trauma reenactment)

    The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Personality Disorders, (2005) (Page 364)

  2. We demand that the APA formally acknowledge and bring to the attention of the general public that manipulating a child in the manner outlined above is a form of psychological and emotional abuse which makes it a systemic, social problem that impacts society and causes devastation in families.

    Manipulation is a form of "coercive control" which the APA considers psychological abuse:

    Childhood Psychological Abuse as Harmful as Sexual or Physical Abuse, APA Press Release, Oct. 8, 2014

    Forcing isolation from family is considered a form of psychological abuse by the US Department of Justice:

    Domestic Violence, US Department of Justice, Oct. 6, 2015

    The APA considers childhood psychological abuse to be as harmful as sexual or physical abuse:

    Childhood Psychological Abuse as Harmful as Sexual or Physical Abuse, APA Press Release, Oct. 8, 2014

    “The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect has declared the problem of child maltreatment to have reached the level of a national emergency.”

    “[Child abuse (including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse) and neglect] often impedes the development of children and fosters psychological harm.”

    “Abused and neglected children often are not provided with treatment that may alleviate such harm and that may prevent further ill effects.”

    Psychological Issues Related to Child Abuse and Neglect, APA

    “Of greatest concern is the pattern of violence characterized by coercion and control, psychological abuse, intimidation and threats of harm, economic control, and often severe physical and sexual violence. Victims of such violence are at very high risk following separation and in contested custody cases and may be best served before and after divorce by court intervention.”

    Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination, APA, Jan. 2012 (Guideline 4)

    We expect that all mental health professionals would agree that teaching, conditioning, and/or empowering a child to be psychologically and emotionally abusive toward another person is itself a form of child psychological abuse.

    We expect that all mental health professionals would agree that this form of abuse becomes especially horrific if the child had previously formed a deep attachment to the person that they are now being manipulated into abusing.

  3. We demand that the APA formally recognize our families as a special population who require specialized professional knowledge, training, and expertise to appropriately and competently diagnose and treat.

    “Family law cases involve complex and emotionally charged disputes over highly personal matters, and the parties are often deeply invested in a specific outcome. The volatility of this situation is often exacerbated by a growing realization that there may be no resolution that will completely satisfy every person involved.”

    Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Family Law Proceedings, APA, Dec. 2010 (Guideline 5)

    “The complex conflicts of interests and values present in many child maltreatment cases create needs for special training of psychologists and other professionals involved in such cases.”

    Psychological Issues Related to Child Abuse and Neglect, APA

    “Particular competencies and knowledge are necessary to perform psychological evaluations in child protection matters so that adequate and appropriate psychological services can be provided to the court, state agencies, or other parties.”

    “Professional competence in performing psychological assessments of children, adults, and families is necessary but often insufficient to address, competently and ethically, many referral questions in child protection matters. For example, because child protection proceedings specifically focus upon allegations or findings of abuse and/or neglect of a child, psychologists conducting assessment in these matters seek to develop sufficient expertise in assessment of child maltreatment that is often beyond the scope of general clinical psychology practice.”

    Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters, APA, Jan. 2013 (Introduction & Guideline 5)

    “The practice of parenting coordination requires the acquisition and application of specialized psychological knowledge relevant to effective implementation of the PC (Parenting Coordinator) role.”

    “Review of these topics may not reflect a sufficient and exhaustive understanding of the content relevant to all parenting coordination cases. The PC may need to gain additional specialized knowledge or training.”

    “Given the unique and complex role of the PC, competencies for standard psychological practice are generally insufficient for competent functioning as a PC.”

    Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination, APA, Jan. 2012 (Guidelines 2a & 3)

    We expect a therapist who diagnoses and treats our families to be required to have much greater specialized knowledge, training, and expertise than a Psychological Evaluator or a Parenting Coordinator. We say "much greater" because, when acting within these roles, Parenting Coordinators are not allowed to diagnose nor treat, and Psychological Evaluators are not allowed to treat.

  4. We demand that the APA formally acknowledge and bring to the attention of the general public that attempting to clinically treat a child who is being psychologically abused in the manner outlined above, without a period of separation of the child from the abusive parent, can present a serious risk of harm to the psychological well-being of that child.

    “[Parenting Coordinators] understand that when intimate partner violence and/or child maltreatment is present or alleged in a custody case or ongoing litigation, parent–child contact may create opportunities for renewed intimidation, violence, or trauma and pose risks of abuse and exposure to the children.”

    Guidelines for the Practice of Parenting Coordination, APA, Jan. 2012 (Guideline 4)

We do not bring you these demands because we think they are "a nice idea". We bring them to you because our children have been kidnapped from us, they are being psychologically abused, and we expect the proper authorities to protect them and to restore our families. We have found ourselves powerless to protect them ourselves. Only the mental health and legal systems have that power, but they have failed our families in every way. So now we are beginning to band together in order to demand that the mental health system listen to us and help us. There are an estimated 22 million families in the United States alone who are affected by this epidemic, and we intend to recruit every one of them to continuously contact the APA and make demands until action is taken to protect our children and to restore our families.

What is happening to us is not some "new" phenomenon that just surfaced 30 years ago. What is happening to us is a timeless issue that has been happening since families ever existed. There is no need for the APA to conduct extensive research into our situation before they can help our families. The APA has already done such an incredible job of defining pathologies and psychological constructs that there is already a way to diagnose and treat our problem. Our situation is not some form of "new" disorder, our children are not suffering from some form of mental illness, "new" or otherwise. There is no need to define our situation as a "new" syndrome or a "new" pathology.

Defining our situation as some sort of "new" pathology would be like trying to say that a person with athlete's foot and a cold has some sort of "new" disease, when in fact they just happen to have athlete's foot and a cold at the same time. Imagine the confusion if people kept insisting that when you have athlete's foot and a cold at the same time, you actually have some "new" disease that nobody knows how to treat yet. Imagine if doctor's couldn't get past the idea that if you have athlete's foot and a cold, then there was nothing they could do for you because nobody has done any research on this "new disease", so nobody knows how to diagnose it or treat it. So now hundreds of patients suffer with athlete's foot and a cold, without treatment, until years and years of research are completed, only to discover that, all they ever really had was athlete's foot and a cold. This is exactly the situation that our families are in.

Everything that is happening to our families can already be diagnosed and treated using existing and well-established psychological principles and constructs. For all of us, we have found our situations to be composed of the following components:

  • Cross-generational coalition
  • Narcissistic/borderline personality pathology
  • The pathology of splitting
  • The pathology of projection
  • The psychological decompensation of narcissistic/borderline personalities into delusional beliefs under stress
  • Role-reversal relationships
  • The attachment system
  • Internal working models of attachment (schemas)
  • Attachment trauma (disorganized attachment)
  • The association of childhood attachment trauma to the formation of narcissistic and borderline personality traits
  • The reenactment of attachment trauma patterns
  • The misattribution of anxiety
  • The misunderstanding of a grief response

Any therapist whose domain of professional competence includes "Attachment Theory", "Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorders", and "Family Systems Theory", should be able to accurately diagnose and treat our families. They should already have everything they need to help us.

When you mix a cross-generational coalition with the pathology of "splitting", you end up in the situation that our families are in. In order to survive emotionally, our children have had to become allied and enmeshed with a highly manipulative parent. The "allied" parent, through the enmeshment of our children, has created a trauma reenactment narrative where our children are induced into the role of the allied parent as a "victimized child". This trauma reenactment narrative is a false drama created from the decompensating delusional pathology of the allied parent.

  • Our children have been assigned the allied parent's internal working model of the "victimized child" role.
  • By way of our children's rejection, we have been assigned the allied parent's internal working model of the "abusive parent" role.
  • This has allowed the allied parent to self-adopt and conspicously display their internal working model of the all-wonderful, ideally nurturing and "protective parent" role.
  • The "bystander" therapists, attorneys, social workers, teachers, and judges will then become witnesses to and validate the authenticity of the false narrative being created by the pathology of the allied parent.

In all of our situations we have found that the allied parent has:

  1. censured our children for expressing love toward us;
  2. coerced our children into adopting the allied parent's negative beliefs about and attitudes toward us;
  3. deceived our children into believing that we are bad and/or abusive parents, despite evidence to the contrary.

The above actions of the allied parent have, over time, caused our children to:

  1. entirely reject us;
  2. treat us as dangerous, and/or treat us as inferior and punish us without mercy;
  3. hold grudges against us with no avenue of recompense and/or falsely accuse us of abuse.

Psychologically speaking, the clinical symptoms that our children display in relation to the above are:

  1. a complete suppression of their attachment bonding motivations toward us;
  2. narcissistic/borderline personality disorder traits (but only in regard to us) which include:
    – grandiosity;
    – absence of empathy;
    – entitlement;
    – haughty and arrogant attitude;
    – splitting;
    and in some cases our children display the following phobia characteristics:
    – persistent unwarranted fear (DSM-5 Phobia criterion A);
    – severe anxiety response (DSM-5 Phobia criterion B);
    – avoidance of us (DSM-5 Phobia criterion C).
  3. intransigently held, fixed-and-false beliefs (delusions) regarding our supposedly "abusive" parental inadequacy.

A therapist with the proper expertise, when they see all three of these clinical symptoms in our children, will be able to come to the conclusion that the symptoms could not possibly have spontaneously developed in our children. They had to have been induced by someone close to them. It will become evident to the therapist that the allied parent is inducing these symptoms in our children. The therapist, seeing that the allied parent is inducing 1) Developmental Pathology, 2) Personality Disorder Pathology, and 3) Psychiatric Pathology, will conclude that this is psychologically abusive, make an official diagnosis of V995.51 "Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed", and take the appropriate measures to protect our children.

The appropriate DSM-5 diagnosis for each of our situations is:

  • 309.4 – Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct
  • V61.20 – Parent-Child Relational Problem
  • V61.29 – Child Affected by Parental Relationship Distress
  • V995.51 – Child Psychological Abuse, Confirmed

An accurate assessment of us and our parenting will find that:

  1. we love our children dearly, and they openly and freely loved us prior to succumbing to the influence of the allied parent;
  2. we are not dangerous and have done nothing to deserve being treated or punished by our children in such a harsh manner;
  3. we have not been "bad" nor "abusive" parents; our parenting will be found to have been entirely normal-range.

You will find that all of us, as so-called "targeted" parents, act consistently with the findings of Dr. Jennifer J. Harman PhD and Dr. Zeynep Biringen PhD, who conducted research on a large group of targeted parents and found that:

  • we are well versed in all the research findings;
  • we are active in mental health and/or legal reform movements;
  • regardless of the fact that we exhibit signs of severe trauma as a result of ongoing intimate partner abuse, complex grief from the unresolved loss of our children and being continually re-victimized by family court, we remain steadfast and persistent in trying to protect the health and well-being of our children;
  • in the face of torturous adversity:
    – we stay true to our family values;
    – we do not engage in retaliation;
    – we do not discourage our children from having a relationship with the other parent, as long as it is safe.

We, the "targeted" parents, and all of our families are all the empirical evidence that the APA needs to move forward toward a solution. A solution that does not involve years and years of court battles costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. A solution that mirrors what any abusive situation warrants: protection of the victim from the source of the abuse.

We demand that the APA publish a position statement that acknowledges our four demands outlined above. Before any professionals can seriously help us, or even decide to look into helping us, it needs to be universally understood that this situation is real, it is abusive, it requires specialized expertise to diagnose and treat, and it is severe enough to warrant protection. A position statement with those four items will act as a springboard for mental health professionals to start digging into what is going on, without fear of being marginalized or ostracized.

For more information on The American Psychological Association visit the APA website.


Support now
Signatures: 21,062Next Goal: 25,000
Support now
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Decision Makers

  • Dr. Antonio E. PuenteAPA President
  • Dr. Arthur C. Evans Jr.APA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice President
  • Dr. Jared L. SkillingsChair, APA Board of Professional Affairs
  • Dr. Earl A. TurnerChair, APA BAPPI
  • Dr. Ashley M. ButlerChair, APA Committee on Children, Youth and Families