A recent article in The Observer further illustrates how it's easier to dismiss parental alienation rather than to confront the crushing reality millions of children and their parents face.
When I saw that The Observer had chosen to look into Parental Alienation, I thought great, some exposure to what millions of children and parents are subjected to worldwide. Even though the headline was specific to 'psychological experts in parental alienation cases' I was still expecting something more far reaching and of course objective because of their almost non existent coverage on the subject until now. I was wrong.
Firstly, I found the article very misleading as it suggests "unregulated" psychological experts are "making life-changing decisions about families and young children" based on what ACP-UK (the Association of Clinical Psychologists UK) describe as "inappropriate diagnoses'".
The problem I have with this and why I find it misleading is that it appears to be an opinion by one psychologist, or even one group of psychologists about other psychologists, yet there is no clinical data that backs up their statement, no supporting data provided by The Observer to back up these claims. They also don't go into anywhere near as much detail as you'd expect for a supposed investigative piece. There were no comments from judges involved in these cases, no real effort at objectivity.
What further confused and frustrated me was that the article seemed framed around the supporting message of "Mothers are having their children taken away..." with such conviction. Why? Of all the topics around PA they could have looked at, they went with this?
There seems to be some acknowledgement that parental alienation is something that affects both mothers and fathers however that objectivity does not last long. A lot of the article appears to question both the legitimacy of PA claims as well as the legitimacy of PA in general.
This is despite a growing number of countries acknowledging PA and a growing number of psychologists researching PA and the affects it has on both parents and children. Notably both Psychology Today and The Psychiatric Times write extensively on PA.
The biggest frustration for me was that The Observer decided not to investigate the large number of parents claiming PA and instead decided to look at the comparably small number of "mothers" experiencing counter claims of PA after claiming domestic violence against the father of their child(ren). The Observer claims that PA allegations are used as a tactic to defend allegations of DV. Again, no statistics or any credible data to back up this claim.
The most recent statistics from the UK's Ministry of Justice (MoJ) suggest that in family court mothers are awarded sole custody in 71% of cases, fathers sole custody in 7% of cases and joint custody is awarded in the remaining 22% of cases. So that suggests to me that there is a far greater issue of fathers "having their children taken away" that's not being considered. This figure also doesn't account for the many fathers that are either too intimidated by the court process or simply cannot afford to take it to court.
I know full well that mothers can be and do get alienated however I'm struggling to understand why The Observer decided to take a bias approach to parental alienation and came out investigating the least affected. To me this is damaging to the cause, it's reinforcing an age old stereotype that fathers are less important when we are all starting to agree that both parents are generally equally important and have an equally important role to play in a child's life.
A further look at the most recent statistics available from the MoJ shows that there were 54,596 private cases throughout 2021, which means that 3,821 fathers (7%) were awarded sole custody and 38,763 mothers (71%) were awarded sole custody. That's over 10 times as many fathers having their children "taken away" through the family courts.
There is no credible data to reflect the number of false allegations of domestic violence or the false allegations of parental alienation because these false allegations tend to go unpunished. Of all the DV cases in family court that I've helped with over the years only a very small percentage have been substantiated, with the majority being false, who's to say it's not the same with these false PA allegations that The Observer speak of? I've certainly never heard of it being used as a DV defence until now. There's also no way to know exactly how many of the 3,821 mothers were domestic violence victims and falsely accused of PA but for the sake of argument; even if every single one of them were, why would The Observer pool their resources to focus on this relatively small number of mothers when there were 10 times as many fathers affected in that same year?
I believe it's because they're trying to form a skewed narrative, the same narrative they wanted to create with their pro Amber Heard articles and "opinion pieces" when it was clear to almost everyone who the real perpetrator was.
This is why they chose not to reach out to PAPA, F4J or Families Need Fathers, we are the three largest anti-PA campaign groups in the UK in terms of membership and following. Together we have more members and followers than the total number of mothers "losing their children" over the past 15 years. Instead they reached out to two far smaller organisations (who's work I respect). I believe this was an intentional ploy to suggest that PA is a far lesser problem than it really is. They're not interested in objectivity because it goes completely against their "investigation".
Anyone who is wrongfully alienated from their children/parents have my complete sympathy (and support) because it's truly awful for all involved and I know mothers who have been wrongfully accused and callously alienated. I just take issue with The Observer's decision to only focus on one side of alienation, which also happens to be the 'lesser' side and then disregard PA altogether. They had the opportunity to do something a lot farther reaching and less divisive. I know many fathers who've read it and feel completely deflated by the article.
It's long been said that in order for the world to overcome PA we need to be less divisive and more inclusive. Both parents are equally important and generally it is the child that loses i cases of parental alienation.
Unfortunately the latest article from The Observer only serves to undermine the work done by PA organisations and advocates, both for mothers and fathers. However the one thing it does illustrate is that there is a severe need for more research into both family court outcomes and false allegations of DV (and PA).
It's important that we also see more research into parental alienation and the psychological damage it causes. Only when PA is taken more seriously in and out of the courtroom will we see true change for the millions of children and parents affected worldwide.