Disciplining Divorcing Parents: The Social Construction of Parental Alienation Syndrome
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Using a social constructionist perspective, this thesis explores the development of the concepts of “parental alienation syndrome” and “false allegations” in the context of custody and access, as ‘social problems’. Following Joel Best’s framework for critically analysing social problems, it examines the life course of these concepts through an historical account of Canada’s divorce arena and recent changes to custody and access law. It analyzes the reasoning and motives of the major claimsmakers: the Fathers’ Right Movement, medical experts, the legal arena and the counter-claims of Feminist activists. It examines the role of the supervised access facilitator in the construction of the concepts as ‘social problems’. The theories of psychiatrist Richard Gardner are examined in particular, due to their pivotal role in the advancement of the claimsmakers’ goals. Finally, empirical studies are reviewed and analyzed, demonstrating how the concepts of “parental alienation syndrome” and “false allegations” have mutated and permeated the domain of divorce and access in Western society.