Robert Gougaloff ‘s Parent Alienation Blog

A blog about Parent Alienation

Why do PAS/HAP parents act like they do?

Just to put my disclaimer upfront, the following post is just an opinion, based on multiple books and publications I read and seminars I attended.

I firmly believe that PAS/HAP parents have never left the “Egocentric Stage” , which is the very first stage in child development, where survival skills are learned.  This stage usually lasts about three to five years in children, after which they move on to the “People Pleasing Stage” and the “Fairness Stage”.  Many adults however never move out of these primitive stages of child development.  To the parents still stuck in the first stage, having complete control over their child or children is a life and death matter.  Since they don’t know how to please people, every attempt to do so comes with strings attached.  They usually feel very uncomfortable giving, but will readily take.  They usually don’t obey the rules and may not obey any court order.

My observations have lead me to the conclusion that such parents are usually unable to “individuate” (see children as separate humans from themselves) and usually become overly enmeshed with their children.

Many psychologists diagnose such people as narcissists, a condition of self-centerdness, where they believe that they are entitled to whatever they want.  These people are also often called “sociopaths”, which is a person who has no moral conscience.  These people are unable to have empathy or compassion for others and are usually unable to see a situation from another person’s point of view.

The severe PAS/HAP parent usually has a very poor prognosis.  It is unlikely that they are ever able to “get it”, and it is even more unlikely that they will ever be able to stop the alienation process, because after all it is a survival issue to them.

The victimized children however, are being heavily abused by such behavior.  They end up in a double bind.  Their instincts and genetics tell them to love the target parent, but they also figure out “which side the bread is buttered on” and their survival needs push them into an unnatural and uncomfortable, not to mention confusing direction.  That is why Parent Alienation is considered a severe form of child abuse by many psychologists.

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October 13, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Wow! This is a fantastic description and so understandable. Unfortunately I can think of several people whom I know, that fit this profile. Thank you for writing about this topic, I really appreciate it!

    Comment by Stacy | October 15, 2008 | Reply

  2. My sister ,niece and nephews are going through a divorce and their father is displaying PA behavior. They sought counseling at first but it was pointless. Their pyschologist diagnosed him as a “egomaniac” close to a “narcissist” as you pointed out. However, after reading “Living with the passive aggressive man” by Scott Wetzler, PhD, we both believe that this more fits his personality and problems. As you say, he just never grew up He displays Fear of Dependency, intimacy, and competition. In his marriage he always carried out Obstructionism, and fostered Choas. He feels victimized, makes excuses and lies, and is a procrastinator. He is a master of ambiguity and sulking and the silent treatment are his major mode of communication. He is the text book passive aggressive man. That is why his marriage failed and that is why he is a natural at manipulating other people, especially his children now that he fears abandonment, as he did when he was a child of a divorce family. And as you said, he is a professor of biology and very intelligent and yet he can’t see or doesn’t care that he is making his children suffer by alienating them form thier loving mother.
    He has made it clear that he resents my sister for asking for the divorce and has not taken any responsibility for their failed marriage. He has also made this clear to his children that it was not his choice to “break up the family” and has been caught on tape telling his children that their mother will take them away from him if he makes any mistakes, (i.e. like letting them stay home from school in thsi particular circumstance). He is very manipulative and makes repeat atttempts to make his children feel sorry for him becuase he is being so badly treated by their mother. The result is that they begin to resent their mother for their Father’s pain. Their father is quite aware that he is trying to alienate his children and he uses the defense and rationale that he is just trying to protect his children since he thinks that my sister is trying to take their children away (or has caused this separation) and this is the way he thinks he can fight back. But in actuality, my sister has given him close to 40-50% custody. She understands that it is important that her children have a father. However, after seeing his behaviour towards his children, she now believes that their father is detrimental to their psyche if he continues to behave in this manner. She doesn’t know how to proceed and I don’t know how to help. She jsut wants him to stop and put their children before his own needs. As I said, her husband comes from a divorce family and has unresolved abandonment issues. As you state so perfectly in your blog:
    I firmly believe that PAS/HAP parents have never left the “Egocentric Stage” , which is the very first stage in child development, where survival skills are learned. To the parents still stuck in the first stage, having complete control over their child or children is a life and death matter.”
    I personally just don’t know if their is any way for him to see himself as he truly is. He needs to deal with his emotional issues but he doesn’t seem to understand that. My sister has tried to protect her children by reassuring them that they are not responsible for her or their fathers happiness and that adults can take care of themselves (she ahs even given him a similar list aas your “post on your Fridge” home page (from “the turth about Divorce and Children”. But loyalty and love will make anyone, especially a child, feel that they need to help the love ones that suffers. My sister hides her suffering from her chidlren and therefore the children seem to migrate towrds their Dad’s neediness thinking that their Mom doesn’t care, like their dad, about the Family separation. She does not know what she can do and is still contemplating how to settle the custody in the divorce. Unfortunately she still engages in negative interactions with her spouse (as you say “Takes the Bait” and can not emotionally step away from his controlling behavior. He somehow can still can push her buttons and when he involves her children in the PA behavior, she allows her anger to take over and fights with him, forgetting that her chidlren may be hearing the conversation or will be the brunt of his anger from the conversation. He is driving her crazy and making her nervous to the point that she feels that she is losing control over her children and her life. In other words, he is accomplishing what he wants. I am at a loss at what to do to help. I love her children like they are my own but I hesitate to talk with them about it because I don’t want screw up or make them not trust me by taking my sister’s side or by explaining to them what their dad is doing. I think they need to be exposed to what their Dad is doing to them but I don’t think they are old enough or mature enough to understand it or handle it. Indirectly or directly. They are 10, 8, and 5. What good advice personally and in relation to the divorce itself can i give her? She regrets ever asking for the divorce but now that she sees her hsuband for who he truly is, she understands why she needed it to emotionally survive but now fears her own children’s survival since they can’t divorce their Father!
    A very loving Aunt who wants nothing more than a mentally healthy niece and nephews.

    Comment by Rachel from NC | December 17, 2008 | Reply

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