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(p. 374) Empirical Studies of Alienation 

(p. 374) Empirical Studies of Alienation
(p. 374) Empirical Studies of Alienation

Michael Saini

, Janet R. Johnston

, Barbara Jo Fidler

, and Nicholas Bala

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date: 03 April 2020

This chapter reviews the current empirical evidence regarding alienation. Based on 58 studies (including 19 new studies since the last edition) included in this review, there is mounting evidence to support a cluster of parent alienating behaviors that can have a negative impact on some children during the separation process and in later adult years. There remains, however, a lack of evidence to support a diagnostic “syndrome” of alienation (PAS). While the evidence of alienation continues to accumulate, there remains great debate whether the current research is sufficiently robust to accurately make assertions about the etiology, prevalence, consequences, and appropriate interventions of alienation for children and families. In assessing the credibility and precision of the current scientific evidence, it is important to recognize not all research designs are equal in minimizing biases and controlling for risk of error in the results. Although there remains a lack of tools to measure the severity, nature, and frequency of alienating behaviors and its impact on family members, it is important for evaluators to consider the level of severity of alienating behaviors and the potential consequences for children and families. It is also important to appreciate that there are cases where claims are made of alienation but the child’s rejection of a parent or resistance to contact is “justified estrangement,” though there are not validated and reliable instruments to distinguish the cases.

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