From Shaw: “Exposure to parental narcissistic pathology constitutes cumulative relational trauma, which subverts the development of intersubjective relating capacities in the developing child. This trauma is inherited and bequeathed intergenerationally.” (p. 46)
Shaw, D. (2010). Enter Ghosts: The loss of intersubjectivity in clinical work with adult children of pathological narcissists. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 20(1), 46-59.
The pathology in the family courts is parental narcissistic-borderline-dark personality pathology. As professionals, both legal and mental health, we need to know where we are.
When we work in ADHD, there’s a set of factors that become part of the picture for that pathology, impulsivity, school behavior problems, medication trials. When we work autism there’s a set of factors that become part of that picture, ABA, special ed at school, sensory regulation.
When we work in the family courts surrounding high-conflict custody litigation, there’s a set of factors that are part of the picture. Parental narcissistic-borderline-dark personality spectrum pathology is a primary defining factor of the pathology.
In the family courts, we’re into the personality disorder spectrum of pathology – narcissistic-borderline-dark personalities; the Dark Triad, Vulnerable Dark Triad, Dark Tetrad.
The pathology in the family courts is a trauma pathology rippling through the family from prior generations. The trauma is currently contained in the personality pathology of the parent. The trauma pathology is being transferred intergenerationally to the child (Shaw, 2010).
The symptom of the trans-generational trauma is the attachment pathology in a parent-child bond. We know it’s a trauma pathology by the severity of the symptoms – trauma adds the adjective “extreme” to any symptom.
Extreme sadness, suicidality – trauma
Extreme anxiety, panic – trauma
Extreme anger, rage – trauma
Extreme behavior, out of control – trauma
When “extreme” is added to any situation, we’re in a trauma pathology. If you’re working with trauma pathology, you MUST know van der Kolk and complex trauma.
van der Kolk and others offer training for professionals in trauma and child development understanding related to complex trauma. Parents, you can take these courses as well. Knowledge is a wonderful thing to have.
I’m a trauma psychologist out of foster care. I’ve worked child abuse and trauma up-close and personal. I know child abuse. I understand what trauma does.
I’ve also taken the courses offered through NICABM and placed them onto my vitae. I’m a role-model. I’m not an expert, I’m basic competence. If you’re working in the family courts… you should know as much as me.
If you’re working with child abuse and trauma and you don’t know as much as Dr. Childress does about child abuse and trauma, why not? Are you just lazy? Must be. Or don’t you think knowing what you’re doing is necessary to what you do?
Do you think you’re entitled to be ignorant?
You should know more than me. I’m the baseline, I’m the floor not the ceiling. I’m basic competence.
The lives of these children in the family courts hangs in the balance of our professional knowledge and competence. They deserve the highest caliber of professional knowledge and competence.
The decision before the court is hugely momentous for determining the future life-course for a child. The court deserves the highest caliber of professional knowledge and competence to assist in its decisions.
We have obligations. If that’s too hard, if you don’t want to be the best there is, then go work somewhere else, don’t come to the family courts. Here… we have obligations.
Bowlby – attachment. Know it.
Minuchin – family systems. Know it.
Beck – personality disorders. Know it.
van der Kolk – complex trauma.. Know it.
DSM-5 – know it – use it. Diagnose the pathology – V995.51 Child Psychological Abuse; V995.82 Spouse or Partner Abuse, Psychological. Protect the child. Protect the parent.
We have obligations. The pathology in the family courts is a trauma pathology – narcissistic-borderline-dark personality pathology transferring trauma intergenerationally to the child through the pathogenic parenting that unresolved trauma creates.
In all cases of severe attachment pathology surrounding child custody conflict, a proper risk assessment for possible child abuse needs to be conducted to the appropriate differential diagnoses for each parent.
Google negligence: failure to take proper care in doing something
Trauma is pattern. Pattern repeats itself. Until we stop the trauma from repeating itself – we must protect the child.
Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, CA PSY 18857