Saturday, August 25, 2012

You'd Think They Would Get To Know The Rest Of The Story

The philosopher John Stuart Mill said that to understand an issue it is necessary to learn the arguments on both sides equally well. His statement gets to the heart of the issue that there are two sides to every story and to truly make an informed judgment requires knowledge of all points of view. I start this extremely short post with John Stuart Mill's quote to ask a critical thinking question and that question will be it for this post. Isn't it amazing how so much gossip is started with folks only knowing one side of a story? Rumors are spread; stories are told; and conversations are held with the parties knowing only one side of the story.  Something to critically think about. I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog and feel free to follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

When you think of child abuse, what immediately comes to your mind? For each one reading this post I am sure a different scenario or act popped into your mind. This is because there are so many different forms of child abuse that very few outside of the obvious acts of child abuse are discussed or thought about. The purpose of this Critical Thinker post is to make us aware of one form of child abuse that is rarely heard of yet is extremely common. In fact, it is so common that it flies under the radar for most of us and is in many cases unrecognized by the courts in separation or divorce cases. To the frustration of many, the fact that the court may not recognize this form of abuse does not mean that it does not exist. Psychologists and therapists term this form of abuse as Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is what Dr. Richard A. Warshak describes as a systematic process of psychological manipulation in his book Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex., one of two books that I found fascinating and informative about PAS with the other being Brainwashing Children: Exposing and Combating the Most Common Form of Child Abuse by John T. Steinbeck.

Both Warshak and Steinbeck unpack for the reader the definition of PAS along with the ugly and dangerous impacts of being a child or children subjected to PAS. Both also describe in great detail the roles of each person who engages and who is affected by this very common form of child abuse. According to Wikipedia the free encyclopedia Parental Alienation Syndrome is term coined by Richard A. Gardner in the early 1980s to refer to what he describes as a disorder in which a child, on an ongoing basis, belittles and insults one parent without justification, due to a combination of factors, including indoctrination by the other parent and the child's own attempts to denigrate the target parent. Gardner introduced the term in a 1985 paper, describing a cluster of symptoms he had observed during the early 1980s. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, each State provides its own definitions of child abuse and neglect based on minimum standards set by Federal law. While PAS is still being debated as to whether it is a syndrome or psychological disorder, one cannot dismiss the facts after reading the major types of abuse and neglect below (see below) that the tenets of PAS intersect many of the major types defined.

According to Mr. Steinbeck in his book Brainwashing Children, children that are kept away from a parent without just cause or reason are more likely to:
  • Use and abuse alcohol or drugs
  • Drop out of school prior to graduation
  • Get bad grades
  • Be incarcerated at some time in their life
  • Run away from home
  • Attempt suicide
  • Be diagnosed with depression
  • Have anxiety disorders
  • Have difficulties in their own relationships when they mature
  • Struggle with friendships and interpersonal interactions
  • Not trust people
  • Not have a good relationship with either parent
  • Not have healthy romantic relationships
  • Have issues of self-doubt
  • Become pregnant as teenager
  • Have anger issues
  • Lack of self-esteem
  • Difficulties in trusting his or her own perceptions
  • Lying behaviors
  • Physical aggression
  • Other social problems

He goes on to say that each child will react differently, but they will be affected in ways that are harmful to their emotional and behavioral development.

Sadly for the children, the parent who is initiating or engaging in PAS behavior is usually in denial that he/she has any part in the creation of an alienating environment by partaking in any of the following activities that include but are not limited to:
  • Bad-Mouthing
  • Bashing
  • Brainwashing
  • Isolating
  • Instilling fear
  • Encroachment
  • Selective Memory

Dr. Warshak states in his book Divorce Poison that parents are not the only targets of bad-mouthing, bashing, and brainwashing. According to Dr. Warshak, grandparents, and sometimes an entire extended family, receive the same treatment. He further states that this problem cuts across gender lines. Women and men in their roles as parents, stepparents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are all vulnerable. And, in ALL cases, the children suffer, hence the reason for this blog post – children are suffering and being abused as a result of the behavior of the adults they are supposed to trust most in their lives.

Until reading this post, you may not have been made aware of PAS (hence another reason for this blog post), however, as a result of reading this post, I encourage you to look out for the signs of PAS in children whose parents have separated or divorced. I encourage you to read Dr. Warshak’s and John T. Steinbeck’s books referenced in this post to make yourself even more aware of what too many of our children and adults for that matter are dealing with in their daily lives. I found both books to be extremely helpful to me and thought I would share them with you in this post. PAS is something to definitely critically think about. I look forward to reading your thoughts in the commentary section of the blog. You can follow the critical thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

How Is Child Abuse and Neglect Defined in Federal Law?Federal legislation lays the groundwork for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:
  • Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or
  • An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Most Federal and State child protection laws primarily refer to cases of harm to a child caused by parents or other caregivers; they generally do not include harm caused by other people, such as acquaintances or strangers.What Are the Major Types of Child Abuse and Neglect?Within the minimum standards set by CAPTA, each State is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect.1 Most States recognize four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they often occur in combination. In many States, abandonment and parental substance abuse are also defined as forms of child abuse or neglect.The examples provided below are for general informational purposes only. Not all States' definitions will include all of the examples listed below, and individual States' definitions may cover additional situations not mentioned here.Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child.2 Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:
  • Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
  • Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)3
  • Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
  • Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child's health or safety is at risk, then child welfare intervention may be required. In addition, many States provide an exception to the definition of neglect for parents who choose not to seek medical care for their children due to religious beliefs that may prohibit medical intervention.4Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
Sexual abuse is defined by CAPTA as "the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children."
Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm or mental injury to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.
Abandonment is now defined in many States as a form of neglect. In general, a child is considered to be abandoned when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown, the child has been left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm, or the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time.
Substance abuse is an element of the definition of child abuse or neglect in many States.5 Circumstances that are considered abuse or neglect in some States include:
  • Prenatal exposure of a child to harm due to the mother's use of an illegal drug or other substance
  • Manufacture of methamphetamine in the presence of a child
  • Selling, distributing, or giving illegal drugs or alcohol to a child
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child

ResourcesChild Maltreatment This report summarizes child abuse statistics submitted by States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) during 2006. It includes information about child maltreatment reports, victims, fatalities, perpetrators, services, and additional research.

Resources on the Child Welfare Information Gateway WebsiteChild Abuse and Neglect 
Defining Child Abuse and Neglect

Laws and Policies 
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect 

Monday, August 6, 2012

"My Name WAS Mark. I WAS Four Years Old. Can You Please Tell My Mom and Dad That I'm Dead"

Many of the posts for the Critical Thinker are sparked by observations I make as I am going about my day-to-day business as is the case for the post I am writing right now. I was driving on Saturday when I noticed a group of teenagers making yet another shrine with the letters R.I.P. written in spray paint or Sharpie Ink on the sheet with a space at the bottom reserved for the placement of candles. Unfortunately this is becoming or some may even say has become symbolic of the ghetto or hood. It’s just life and in these cases “death” in the hood. No big deal, just another one gone. Upon my return home I posted on Twitter that maybe if the person now being memorialized had L.I.P. (Lived in Peace) that we would not have the need to now be writing on a sheet R.I.P.  In a prior post titled “Bang! Bang! You’re Dead (see August 1, 2012 post) I addressed where the gun violence issue begins (another observation while out shopping at Walmart) and in this instance we see where it all ends; a young person in the grave with the rest of his/her peers hanging up a sheet or wearing a t-shirt with R.I.P. inscribed on it. I encourage you to read the Bang! Bang! You’re Dead post to put this one in perspective; I guess this could be considered a continuation, sequel or part II.

Ironically, while driving today on my way home from Barnes and Noble I heard a radio ad that was created by the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association, Inc. (COBA) to address the very same gun control issue that I am writing about (Click the Hyperlink within the picture to the left or the script that follows to hear the ad). The attention captivating ad begins with the singing of the very familiar Negro spiritual "This Little Light of Mine" that is interrupted by the sound of gunfire, and then a high-pitched voice says,
"My name was Mark. I was four years old. Can you please tell my mom and dad that I'm dead? Can you ask them who killed me? My friends are up here too. Can you tell the police or a correction officer and help them catch the bad guy? Please, don't let this happen to any more of my friends. We've got to stop gun violence in this city." 
After the child’svoice, we hear Norman Seabrook, president of the corrections officers union,remind us that "They're killing kids, our kids in the street and they're assaulting corrections officers every day in the jails. It's time for you to do the right thing and give these thugs up."
Since this is a radio ad, there are no visuals like in a television ad, however, if I were to use my imagination for a T.V. ad, I could see where a R.I.P sheet and candle shrine would be in the ad for four year old Mark.  The questions I have for us in this post are........ Are we ever going to get tired of seeing these sheets with R.I.P inscribed with candles burning underneath? And if we are, what are we going to do? Are we ever going to realize that it is not cute nor honorable to find oneself on either end may it be the grave or the ones hanging the sheet? Are we ever going to do anything beyond talk and write? Are our parents going to step up and be parents and teach their children about the deadly dangers of guns and keep their children away from them? Are our parents ever going to teach their children the value of life and that people do not get up again after being shot like in a video game or movie? It’s great to be able to catch the bad guy but even greater to stop the bad guy from becoming a bad guy to begin with. My head continues to shake as the kids can say SMH (Shaking My Head) as I listen to ads such as COBA’s and literally watch sheets being hung alongside fences and walls with little candles being placed under them. I agree with four year old Mark in the ad “We've got to stop gun violence in this city." As always I welcome your commentary in the comment section and you can also follow The Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bang! Bang! You're Dead

James Holmes
While traveling on vacation, I was awakened on Friday morning, July 20th by television news reports detailing a horrific shooting that had occurred during the wee hours of that same morning in a theatre in Colorado. In fact, that story would galvanize the various news channels for the entire day and for the rest of the weekend. It was the top story on Meet the Press that Sunday morning and even for the next few days all that I could hear about was the massacre resulting from an alleged shooter who would come to be identified as James Holmes, a student in the neurosciences program at the University of Colorado.

After learning more of the details, my first reaction was that Mr. Holmes needs to be locked in a theatre while someone throws some type of gas or explosive device, and start shooting at him, but that’s not our way in the United States; like Sophia Petrillo of the Golden Girls, I digress. My purpose for writing this post is not to determine what should happen to Mr. Holmes, but it was sparked by my visit to Walmart on yesterday where I shared the aisle with a father whose toddler son was sitting in his shopping cart holding a toy gun. The toddler boy was playing with the gun that was still in the cardboard packaging and saying the words “daddy,”  “gun,” and “shoot.”  As I listened to this toddler say these words so clearly, the thought came to me that this is where it all starts. Now some of you reading this may be asking yourselves the question, “This is where what starts?” Well let’s take a look at the following headlines appearing over the last couple of days at

• 2 killed, 7 others wounded in shootings overnight•     Man shot, killed by bicyclist in Austin•           Gang member pulls loaded gun at North Side soccer game• At least 15 wounded in shootings this weekend• Former CPS basketball star fatally shot defending friend• Gas station clerk killed in robbery attempt• Young teen shot in Englewood•  Two men found shot in the head in South Deering• Five wounded, sought shelter on CTA bus during shooting at 79th and Jeffery
  After witnessing the toddler holding the toy gun in Walmart and hearing his words, it came to me that we are just not getting it. This father was buying the toy gun for the toddler who could not have been any more than two or three years of age. The toy manufacturers are still making toy guns. The stores are still selling toy guns. The gun manufacturers are still producing guns and we are still buying guns. The National Rifle Association (NRA) who says on its website that they are widely recognized today as a major political force and as America's foremost defender of Second Amendment rights is stronger than ever and the homicide rates across the country continue to skyrocket.  The ridiculous adage of “Guns don’t kill people. People do” still rears its ugly head every time a massacre like the one in Colorado occurs or any of the headlines above. Texas Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert went even as far as to say “The shooting could have been limited if someone else in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater had been carrying a gun,” Will the madness ever end? Probably not. We have some of the craziest mindsets from the allegedly educated all the way down to the least educated where guns are concerned. Had someone else in that theater had a gun, the massacre would have been even worse. Clearly no critical thinking was going on with the Representative’s statement.  

Toy Gun
The bottom line is the manufacturing and selling of toy guns need to be banned(We must stop buying toy guns).  The violent video games that give the unrealistic illusion of killing someone need to be banned (We must stop buying violent video games). The political strongholds of the NRA need to be broken and all of us need to get real when it comes to guns. Lives are being lost by people who are using guns.  I am sure the time that I spent writing this post could have been better spent (I may need this last bit of energy one day) for all of the good that it will do, however, if those of us who blog, speak, and write do not share our concerns, who will? Certainly the victims can no longer do it.  Something to critically think and act upon. As always I welcome your commentary in the comment section of the blog and I invite you to follow the Critical Thinker on Twitter @thinkcritical01.