Parental Alienation Syndrome: An Inter-Rater Reliability Study. Alienating Behaviors - Related Justice System Issues

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Thomas Payne

Advisor Department

Criminal Justice


The following is a quantitative study on Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and is divided into three elements. (1) It is the replication of a previously conducted inter-rater reliability study. (2) It is a study on the observed frequency of behaviors associated with PAS by Guardians Ad Litem representing children at the center of high-conflict divorces. (3) It is an examination of the relationship between the justice system and PAS. The first element replicated a previously conducted inter-rater reliability study on PAS. Respondents were presented five vignettes and asked to determine the presence of PAS based on defined symptoms. Respondents indicated the greatest agreement for the presence of PAS in Case 1. Agreement on the presence of PAS in Case 3, Case 4, and Case 5 was not as significant. In Case 2 respondents had a lack of consensus for the presence of PAS. The Intraclass Correlation Coefficient for all cases was .77 and greater, suggesting the PAS testing instrument was valid for determining if PAS was present. In the second element, Guardians Ad Litem (GAL) responded to surveys asking each to indicate to what degree the eight symptoms of PAS and other PAS related behaviors had been observed while serving as GAL in high-conflict divorce custody litigation. Behaviors were divided into adult, children and other behaviors identified by Richard Gardner as a part of the symptoms and cause of PAS. Cumulative frequency values were high and indicated significant observations of the behaviors during high-conflict divorce. The third element looked at the relationship between PAS and the justice system, due to the fact that resolution for divorcing spouses occurred in the adversarial family court system. Collaborative Law was found as an improved resolution process now utilized by some states. The study revealed that some states now assign parenting coordinators to reduce divorce conflict issues, but that PAS can flourish before the court knows a high-conflict case exists. The study revealed that issues still exist with the legal process and no PAS educational requirements exist for the legal system or mental health practitioners.