Introducing Ms Jo-anne Fothergill

November 8, 2016

The 2016 STOP Domestic Violence Conference will be held over 5-7 December at the Mercure Brisbane, QLD. Ms Jo-anne Fothergill joins us this December at the conference and will discuss ‘Parental alienation as a form of domestic violence’.

The nature of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is described and conventional understandings and practices related to child custody matters are explored. PAS refers to the behaviours of a child who is rejecting their non-custodial parent. The exploration shows a bias towards privatised and psychologised understandings and responses which may do an injustice to women who are experiencing alienation as a parent. In comparison to PAS, Parental Alienation (PA) focuses on the custodial parent’s degradation of the alienated parent, not the child’s degradation of the alienated parent. Typically, PA is defined as any behaviours which have the effect of rupturing and breaking the relationship between a non-custodial parent and their child/ren. It is argued that even this view of PA does not go far enough and leaves many questions unanswered that if addressed would need to consider PA as a public issue not a private matter because of the extent and impact of it may be having on alienated mothers.

The research literature and public discourses are silent on the experiences of mothers who are alienated by their child/ren. Rather, there has been a tendency for some research to suggest, that it is the mothers who alienate child/ren from their fathers. In the context of a patriarchal society and court system based on gender bias against women, it is concerning that so little is known about women’s experiences as alienated parents. The argument is presented that a sociological understanding of PA is needed to grasp the power relationships involved. The issue of PA is not one of psychology exclusively and while located in immediate familial relationships, has socio-cultural dynamics as well.

A refined sociological definition of PA is offered which opens avenues for discussion and research based on the key argument that PA is an unrecognised form of domestic violence.

Jo Fothergill (B. Soc Sci, Hons, Grad Dip Counselling & Human Services) is undertaking PhD research at the University of the Sunshine Coast studying the lived experience of Australian mothers living with parental alienation.  Jo has worked in Melbourne as a community development officer with at-risk young people and volunteered as a counsellor at Doncare, a community agency and Sacred Heart homeless women’s shelter before returning home to the Sunshine Coast to study.  Currently Jo is a director of PAANZ Parental Alienation, Australia and New Zealand, an organisation set up to further the cause of alienated parents in Australia and New Zealand.

Dr Dyann Ross is a senior lecturer in social work at the University of the Sunshine Coast. She is interested in the links between violence, mental illness, impact of abuse of power on inter/personal, organisational and corporatised relationships and cultures. Social justice, sustainability,  and well-being require all forms of violence to be addressed. These ideas form the basis of Dyann’s research and writing and work with doctoral research students.

For more information on the 2016 STOP Domestic Violence Conference and to secure your registration, please visit the conference website.



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