1.1 It has come to our attention that the U.S. Violence Against Women’s Act recently signed into law by President Biden in March of 2022 contains a law titled “Kayden’s” law. This law states that:
“scientifically unsound theories that treat abuse allegations of mothers as likely attempts to under fathers are frequently applied in family court to minimize or deny reports of abuse of parents and children. Many experts who testify against abuse allegations lack expertise in the relevant type of alleged abuse, relying instead on unsound and unproven theories.”
1.2 Kayden’s law is based on the premise that mother’s claims of abuse in family court are “discredited” when fathers claim they are being alienated by the mother. As we will describe below, there has not been credible scientific support for this claim. Without specifically naming a theory, the law also indirectly references what is termed “parental alienation,” and we are very concerned that the misuse and misrepresentation of the scientific research on this topic has led to the creation of a law that will seriously harm millions of children. This law needs to be amended immediately.
1.3 This briefing paper, produced by a large network of organizations representing international experts in many professional and scientific fields, sets out that Kayden’s Law represents a gender biased position on the topic of family violence. The law relies on misinformation about parental alienation, and on the work of advocates and poorly conducted research.
1.4 In this brief, we will also describe what parental alienation is and why it is a form of both domestic abuse and child psychological abuse., We will also explain that it is not an unsound or unproven “theory” as implied by the law.
1.5 We hope that this information is useful to you correcting assumptions about this problem and in revoking or amending the law to protect children and families, regardless of their gender, from all forms of family violence (including parental alienation).
2. Executive Summary
2.1 Parental alienation refers to an outcome “when a child’s resistance or hostility towards one
parent is not justified and is the result of psychological manipulation [through a range of abusive
behaviors] by the other parent.” The behaviors that lead to parental alienation are called
“parental alienating behaviors.”
2.2 Parental alienating behaviors are both child psychological abuse and domestic abuse, with
the latter clearly being coercive and controlling behavior. Fathers and mothers are just as likely
to be perpetrators and victims of parental alienation, as well as other family members; the child
is always the victim. As with other forms of abuse, parental alienation does not discriminate.
2.3 There is a wide range of alienating behaviors, which may occur at the same time as other forms of domestic abuse against a background of parental disputes and disorders, and the inability of one or both of the parents to work to restructure the family in a healthy manner after
2.4 Some writings on parental alienation are flawed and biased, and work against recognizing
and supporting those mothers, fathers, grandparents and children who are victims of parental
alienation. These writings apply a gender bias to the topic of family violence that has not been
supported by the majority of research on this problem.