First, with our theatre critic spectacles on, let’s go through the usual Gardner features of classic PA. They hardly need any alteration to see the stagey-ness of the melodrama:
There is a compelling story delivered in a powerful way – “Everything is wonderful but …”
There’s a dramatic rejection of a once loved, caring, safe (partner and) parent that is way over the top – “… If only he or she would disappear, everything would be perfect”.
The melodrama doesn’t match the plot – weak or frivolous reasons are given: “She forgot my teddy! He made me eat my toast!” Or maybe no reasons at all: “I just don’t want to go. Don’t my feelings matter?!”
Assessment shows no serious risk or criminal abuse, not at all the kind of parent that social work or probation would have as a client.
An untrained actor, the child takes on a new inauthentic role, with reflex totally split loyalty to one parent and ruthless rejection of the other parent.
And, as amateurs, they lack the normal ambivalence that, in reality, children show who have been abused or face actual abuse by their parent, No child can so simply dispose of an Attachment figure.
For a script, the child is taught or borrows adult words:“You’re just a stranger to us, Dave” In case of any doubt, the child may add: “And no one made me say that! It’s what I think.”
The lack of a realistically developed plot and script means that the child extends the unfounded rejection to the whole of the rejected parent’s extended family, including even pets and once favourite foods or activities.
If the melodrama isn’t powerful enough, false allegations may be added, fabricated or passionately believed. False allegations that are formally reported and those merely hinted and gossiped about can deliver devastating unjust damning verdicts on the caring relationship a child could have with a caring parent.