Un articolo che mostra la pochezza degli argomenti negazionisti

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Sul blog americano www.psychologytoday.com è stato pubblicato l’articolo di una psicologa americana (Paula J. Caplan) che lancia l’allarme sui gravi rischi per le donne nel caso in cui venisse accolta nel manuale diagnostico DSMV l’alienazione genitoriale.

L’autrice dell’articolo non è una professionista che si occupa di minori, ma un’esperta di studi di genere che in passato ha attaccato duramente la psichiatria ufficiale perchè alcune delle diagnosi utilizzate sarebbero usate a danno delle donne.

Assai interessanti sono i commenti postati in calce all’articolo. E’ vero che alcuni ripropongono le solite argomentazioni (quelle secondo cui la PAS sarebbe soltanto uno strumento legale con cui padri abusanti cercano di farsi assolvere accusando di manipolazione madri protettive nei confronti dei figli). Ma la maggior parte dei commenti sono dure repliche di persone che portano la propria esperienza di vittime dell’alienazione. In buona parte si tratta di madri, e non di attivisti delle associazioni dei padri separati (come si attendeva probabilmente l’autrice). Viene così mostrato che l’alienazione genitoriale non è affatto un problema di genere come l’articolo vuole far credere.

Non è mancata neppure una replica formale da parte di Les Veskrna, un medico membro dell’associazione Fathers and Families. L’articolo di replica espone tutte le inesattezze pubblicate dalla Caplan e fa il punto sulla questione dell’accettazione nel DSMV dell’alienazione genitoriale.

Per quanto riguarda la presunta sconfessione da parte dell’American Psychological Association il dottor Veskrna precisa:

To begin, Dr. Caplan has misrepresented the American Psychological Association’s stance on the validity of PAS. In its most recent position statement regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome, the APA said flatly: “… we have no official position on the purported syndrome¹.” Dr. Caplan contradicts this by saying: “Major professional bodies, including the American Psycholone gical Association, have discredited PAS on the grounds that it is misused in domestic violence cases and that there is no scientific evidence of such a ‘syndrome.’”

Inoltre per quanto riguarda le fonti consultate dalla Caplan viene evidenziato come siano molto datate:

There are several other problems with Dr. Caplan’s article.  First, I note that one of Dr. Caplan’s references is a non-profit advocacy organization (The Leadership Council), which contains an annotated review of research regarding allegations of sexual abuse of a child in the context of custody disputes².  There are 23 journal articles in this list with an average publication date of 1994.  The knowledge base regarding PAS at the time that a majority of these studies were conducted was small and immature in relation to today.  In addition, Dr Gardner’s initial conceptualization of PAS differs in significant ways from its current conceptualization.  If one is going to discredit the validity of a contemporary psychological disorder, you really should use more contemporary research and its current conceptualization.

Infine un altro commentatore dell’articolo mette a nudo la poca serietà delle argomentazioni presentate contro l’alienazione genitoriale evidenziando come l’autrice dimostri di sapere ben poco sull’argomento in quanto rivela di essere convinta che l’alienazione genitoriale sia un disturbo che viene messo in carico alle madri quando formulano accuse di abuso sui minori contro i padri. Il che dimostra chiaramente come l’autrice ha letto o ha compreso ben poco della questione. Infatti l’alienazione genitoriale è considerata da tutti gli autori (compresi quelli che cercano di negarla) come un disturbo del bambino, non della madre. L’equivoco in cui è caduta la Caplan è veramente grave e non è tollerabile in una ricercatrice che dichiara di essere Associata del Harvard University’s DuBois Institute.

Ecco l’intero commento del lettore:

Inaccurate account – Anonymous on July 21, 2011 – 10:52pm. – The author of this article does not appear to have understood the very basics of parental alienation disorder. Amazingly, she believes that PAS applies to the parent, and not to the child! When tested in this forum, she has asked readers to go back and read what she wrote, so I shall oblige in advance. In her blistering attack on PAS (as she understands it) she writes that “virtually everything that is sometimes a sign that a child is being molested – such as fearfulness when it is time for a visit with the abuser or vaginal bleeding or infection in a 2-year-old – is instead interpreted as further “proof” that the mother has PAS“. Did I misread or misquote the end of that sentence: “the mother has PAS“? Nay.
The author’s obvious misuderstanding of PAS is rampant in her replies to readers’ comments. She states that she has “seen PAS used over and over (…) to take children from their mothers (much more rarely, from their fathers) on the basis of the claim that the mothers have PAS“. And to a reader who described how her children were alienated from her, she writes again: “I am so sorry to hear that your child was turned against you. The only encouraging thing about your letter is that it seems that you were not diagnosed with PAS”.
I find it quite extraodinary that a psychologist who claims to have “been an expert witness in many of these kinds of cases” believes that parental alienation syndrome or disorder applies to the… parent.
So let’s put the facts straight, Dr Caplan. Parental alienation disorder does not apply to parents, but to children. It is children who are liable to suffer from this disorder. For anyone concerned with the plight of children in high conflict divorces, it can only appear irresponsible to insinuate that a particular kind of child maltreatment – which involves the manipulation of children to reject the other parent without legitimate justification and with all the distress this causes – hardly happens or amounts to no more than a counter-attack argument used by incestuous child molesters (as indicated in the subtitle of the article).
The author does however acknowledge that children can be “turned against” the other parent, but she refuses to consider that this “turning against” causes distress that can be symptomized. However much children can be “turned against” the other parent, she would prefer not to have any kind of diagnostic criteria that decribes the accruing disorder, what it is and what it isn’t. In her view we should be content calling it vaguely “turning against” and never use the term “parental alienation” lest a lurking horde of sexually abusive fathers could misuse the concept in court.
Pray explain in some detail, Dr Caplan, how abusive parents can legally claim that they have been wrongly alienated from their children if the criteria for the disorder are defined precisely as proposed by Dr Bernet.
Let me cite here a review of his book – Parental alienation syndrome, DSM-5, and ICD-11) – in the Journal of Forensic Sciences (July 2011, Vol. 56, No. 4, p. 1080). Bernet proposes six criteria. “Criterion A is ‘‘The child – usually one whose parents are engaged in a high-conflict divorce – allies himself or herself strongly with one parent and rejects a relationship with the other, alienated parent without legitimate justification. The child resists or refuses contact or parenting time with the alienated parent’’ (p. 151). Criterion B is ‘‘The child manifests the following behaviors: (i) A persistent rejection or denigration of a parent that reaches the level of a campaign, (ii) Weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the child’s persistent criticism of the rejected parent’’ (p. 151). Criterion C is ‘‘The child manifests two or more of the following six attitudes and behaviors: (i) Lack of ambivalence, (ii) Independent-thinker phenomenon, (iii) Reflexive support of one parent against the other, (iv) Absence of guilt over exploitation of the rejected parent, (v) Presence of borrowed scenarios, (vi) Spread of the animosity to the extended family of the rejected parent’’ (p. 151). Criterion D is ‘‘The duration of the disturbance is at least
2 months’’ (p. 151). Criterion E is ‘‘The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic (occupational) or other important areas of functioning’’ (p. 151). Criterion F is ‘‘The child’s refusal to have contact with the rejected parent is without legitimate justification. That is, parental alienation disorder is not diagnosed if the rejected parent maltreated the child’’ (p. 151)”.

L’autrice ha cercato di giustificarsi con una replica che tradisce un certo imbarazzo:

Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D. on July 21, 2011 – 11:04pm. – The fact is that diagnostic categories, no matter who creates them, are used in various ways. That is precisely one of the reasons to be concerned, i.e., that NO external body (not the FDA, not licensing bodies for therapists, for instance) regulates the creation or use of diagnostic categories. As a result, they often are used in various ways, and the fact is that behavior that appears in a child or is said to appear in a child has indeed been used to claim that an adult has an alleged mental illness. Happens a lot. If you have only been exposed to clinical and court situations in which there are no misinterpretations and no loose or irresponsible uses of psychiatric labels, you have led a charmed life. It is interesting that you will not identify yourself.

In conclusione, le reazioni seguite all’articolo hanno evidenziato con un effetto boomerang la scarsa consistenza delle argomentazioni contro l’alienazione genitoriale.