Pathogenic Memories

Although the scientific discourse tends to associate memories that create intrusions with criterion A events and the definition of PTSD, non-criterion A events have been shown to create even more intrusions than criterion A events (Gold et al., 2005). Additionally, data from a survey of 832 adult subjects indicated that stressful life events can generate at least as many PTSD symptoms as traumatic events (Kendler et al., 2003). McFarlane (2010) showed that stressful life experiences can lead to intrusions without a fully developed PTSD. McFarlane (2010) also demonstrated that these intrusions relate to many mental disorders and poor health in general. Following these findings intrusions seem to be a common memory-based symptom, which is not necessarily linked with a PTSD diagnosis or criterion A event. Nevertheless, intrusions indicate a memory-based pathology beyond PTSD that can be linked with other mental disorders. This is consistent with a publication of Heinz et al. (2016) discussing basic learning mechanisms as representations of a basic dimension of mental disorders. They advocate for a research focus on such basic dimensions rather than pursuing a narrow focus on single disorders.

Centonze et al. (2005) described the importance of pathogenic memories from a theoretical perspective. There approach is based on the increasing acceptance of theories that relate the origin of many psychiatric symptoms to the formation and consolidation of implicit dysfunctional memory (Centonze et al., 2005). Since their publication other prominent authors have engaged in this discussion. Alberini and LeDoux (2013) summarize research on memory reconsolidation and dwell on the therapeutic perspective. In their opinion further research on memory reconsilidation could help to ameliorate maladaptive memories and potentiate adaptive behaviors in psychopathology (Alberini and LeDoux, 2013). Sillivan et al. (2015) explore the possibilities of latest research on epigenetic modification. They advocate for a recognition of the contribution of epigenetic mechanisms to how pathological memories associated with addiction and PTSD are stored, expressed, and subsequently modified, possibly leading to novel therapeutic targets (Sillivan et al., 2015).

Summarizing current neurobiological research, Centonze et al. (2005) state: “Experimental research examining the neural bases of non-declarative memory (such as habit formation, classical conditioning, and fear conditioning) has offered intriguing insight into how functional and dysfunctional implicit learning affects the brain.” They give evidence on the importance of long-term modification of synaptic transmission in particular as the most plausible mechanisms underlying memory trace encoding compulsions, addiction, anxiety, and phobias. Compulsions and other stereotypies are viewed as pathological habits (nearly automated implicit motor abilities) encoded as aberrant synaptic plasticity in the corticobasal ganglia loop. Centonze et al. (2005) refer to addictive drugs abusing the molecular mechanisms of reward-based associative learning by inducing long-term changes in synaptic effectiveness in those brain areas serving basic biological needs, such as feeding and sexual interaction. Finally, anxiety, panic disorder, and phobias are viewed as uncontrolled and repetitive defensive reactions secondary to abnormal fear conditioning – a form of implicit associative learning, encoded as long-term potentiation (LTP) in the lateral amygdala. In consequence, Centonze et al. (2005) propose that an effective psychotherapy must be directed to erase maladaptive pathogenic memories and research should focus on the development of techniques to remove pathogenic memories. Although they mentioned neither the AIP model, nor EMDR therapy, the concept of pathogenic memories could probably open another view on recent developments in EMDR research.

It seems to be of interest to explore the overlap of the theory of pathogenic memory and the AIP model, regarding practical implications for EMDR therapy in reprocessing maladaptive implicit memories, especially as the cited authors are advocating for the developments of therapeutic tools to modify pathogenic memories. As Centonze et al. (2005) coined the term “pathogenic memory” but did not give a precise definition, one should start here.

What Is Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome?

Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome is a delusional pathology that children develop. When one of their parents becomes Pathogenic and suffers from the mental illness called Pathogenic Parenting Delusional Disorder. The word “Patho” means Pathological, and the word “Genesis” means Creation. So Pathogenic Parenting describes parenting that is so abnormal or pathological, that by way of their aberrant and distorted behaviors and parenting practices, the Pathogenic Parent actually creates mental illness in a child that actually cause the child to terminate or cut off their relationship with the other parent and also other family members. Children who suffer from Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome develop a psychological alliance with a Pathogenic Parent against their other parent as a psychological survival strategy to deal with the severe psychological abuse that is being inflicted upon them by the Pathogenic Parent. In some ways, it is similar to Stockholm Syndrome, where the child appears to have a hyper bonded relationship with the psychologically abusive parent. As a result of pathogenic parenting, the child will develop some form of delusional false belief regarding the other parent, which causes the child to cut-off or terminate their relationship with that parent. The abuse of the children can be so severe that the child will develop severe anxiety or fears of the targeted, normal, and healthy parent. These fears and anxiety have nothing to do with this parent’s behavior and parenting but are the child’s way of coping with the severe abuse that is occurring. The primary symptom in all cases of Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome is when the child will cutoff and terminate their relationship with the targeted parent. This parent, in most cases, is a loving and normal range, and this has nothing to do with that parent and their parenting practices. Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome is a distinctive and widespread form of psychological child and domestic abuse inflicted upon the child and the rejected family members. It often leads to the long-term or even permanent estrangement of the child from the targeted parent and other family members. Continue reading “What Is Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome?”

What Is Pathogenic Parenting Disorder?

The aberrant & distorted behaviors and parenting practices of a Pathogenic Parent are the symptoms of psychopathology called Pathogenic Parenting Disorder. Pathogenic Parenting Disorder is a form of Delusional Disorder, and the delusions that this parent is experiencing are of the Persecutory subtype. People with persecutory delusions believe that they (or someone close to them) are being mistreated, or that someone is planning to harm them. It is not uncommon for people with this type of delusional disorder to make repeated complaints to legal authorities. The Pathogenic Parent will usually have a history of some form of personality disorder that has gone undiagnosed. This parent then experiences trauma or an event in their life that is the trigger of the pathology, which causes them to develop Pathogenic Parenting Disorder. The general definition of a delusion is an unshakable belief in something untrue or not based on reality or a fixed false belief. In the case of Pathogenic Parenting Disorder, a parent is experiencing what is known as Non-Bizarre Persecutory Delusions, which involve situations that could occur in real life. These delusions involve the other parent and that they are malevolently treating the child in some way. These delusions usually involve these parent’s misinterpretation of perceptions or experiences based on mental health issues from these parents past and are not based on reality. When a parent develops pathogenic parenting disorder, they form a fixed false belief, or in other words, a delusion that the other parent is now a danger to the Child. This delusion causes this parent to unconsciously believe that the Childs relationship with the other parent must be terminated. A parent who suffers from Pathogenic Parenting Disorder will believe these things with near certainty, and usually, no amount of therapy will change their mind. Many times up until this personality disordered parent experiences some form of recent trauma in their life, there will be no noticeable signs of mental illness or psychopathology in this parent. The trauma or event that triggers the pathology can be the pain experienced during divorce, a breakup with a boyfriend / girlfriend, a custody dispute of some sort or some other experience, which is an extreme setback for the alienating parent, and which reactivates trauma from their past. This Trauma can trigger the development of Pathogenic Parenting Disorder in the already personality disordered parent. Children who have a parent who develops Pathogenic Parenting Delusional Disorder will develop induced mental illness themselves in the form of Pathogenic Parenting Syndrome. Continue reading “What Is Pathogenic Parenting Disorder?”

Secondary Instruments:

IPV Spousal Abuse (Duluth Model) & Child Custody

This instrument collects information on areas of IPV spousal abuse concern identified by the Duluth model for IPV (Intimate Partner Violence; “domestic violence).

The Parent-Child Relationship Rating Scale

This instrument is an outcome measure collected-reported daily for the child across three primary areas of functioning, 1) Affection (Aff; attachment networks), Cooperation (Co; emotional regulation), and Social Involvement (SI; arousal and mood). The second form is a modification adding Texting as an item.

Assessment Checklist for Pathogenic Parenting

This checklist identifies constructs from attachment, family systems therapy, complex trauma, and personality disorder pathology indicating pathogenic parenting by the allied parent.

Roberts Apperception Test for Children: 2

If clinically relevant information is needed about the child’s emotional status, then I would recommend using the RATC: 2 for that information.

I don’t know why this information would be necessary, and this instrument is therefore not part of my standard assessment protocol recommendation.  However, if information about the emotional functioning of the child is needed, I would recommend use of the Roberts Apperception Test for Children to obtain this information.

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The measurement of pathogenic parental style and its relevance to psychiatric disorder

The proposition that research should be directed more toward assessing qualitative aspects of parent-child relationships is addressed, and the paper summarises aspects of a number of co-ordinated studies (Parker 1983a). The development and properties of the Parental Bonding Instrument are described and its application in studies of patients with designated psychiatric disorders considered. The measure delineates a parental style of ‘affectionless control’ (involving insufficient care and overprotection), which appears to be a risk factor to neurotic disorder in particular, and the possible nature of the risk factor is discussed. Continue reading “The measurement of pathogenic parental style and its relevance to psychiatric disorder”

Childhood sexual abuse and pathogenic parenting

From the Missouri Alcoholism Research Center at Washington University, Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri Alcoholism Research Center at the University of Missouri, Department of Psychology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO and Finch University of Health Sciences}The Chicago Medical School, North Chicago, IL, USA ; and Queensland Institute of Medical Research and Joint Genetics Program, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Background. We examined the relationship between childhood sexual abuse (CSA), and interviewees’ recollections of pathogenic parenting, testing for possible retrospective biases in the recollections of those who have experienced CSA.

Methods. Information about CSA, parental divorce and interviewees’ recollections of parental rejection, parental overprotection and perceived autonomy (as assessed through a shortened version of the Parental Bonding Instrument) was obtained through telephone interviews with 3626 Australian twins who had also returned self-report questionnaires several years earlier. Recollections of parental behaviours were compared for individuals from pairs in which neither twin, at least one twin, or both twins reported CSA.

Results. Significant associations were noted between CSA and paternal alcoholism and between CSA and recollections of parental rejection. For women, individuals from CSA-discordant pairs reported levels of parental rejection that were significantly higher than those obtained from CSAnegative pairs. The levels of parental rejection observed for twins from CSA-discordant pairs did not differ significantly from those obtained from CSA-concordant pairs, regardless of respondent’s abuse status. For men from CSA-discordant pairs, respondents reporting CSA displayed a tendency to report higher levels of parental rejection than did respondents not reporting CSA. Other measures of parenting behaviour (perceived autonomy and parental overprotection) failed to show a clear relationship with CSA.

Conclusions. The relationship between CSA and respondents’ recollections of parental rejection is not due solely to retrospective bias on the part of abused individuals and, consistent with other studies, may reflect a pathological family environment with serious consequences for all siblings Continue reading “Childhood sexual abuse and pathogenic parenting”

Pathogenic Parenting

So Pathogenic Parenting describes parenting that is so abnormal or pathological, that by way of their aberrant and distorted behaviors and parenting practices, the Pathogenic Parent actually creates mental illness in a child that actually cause the child to terminate or cut off their relationship with the other parent … Continue reading “Pathogenic Parenting”

Parental Alienation Processes Pathogenic Parenting – Concern Scale

Recommendation: Protection of the child is of paramount concern.The immediate removal of the child from the pathogenic parenting and placement of the child with the “normal Range” parent, in kinship care with the family of the “normal Range”parent, or in foster care, should be seriously considered relative to the initial phases of the child’s therapy and recovery. Mandated individual therapy for the pathogenic parent as a required component of re integration therapy for the child with the pathogenic parent should receive serious consideration.



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The ten types of abuse

There are many different types of abuse and they all result in behaviour towards a person that deliberately or intentionally cause harm.

It is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights and in the worst cases can result in death.

A short video which highlights the different types of abuse from the Ann Craft Trust is available by clicking HERE. 

Information on the ten types of abuse:

Use the links below to navigate to information on the ten types of abuse:

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How A Parent’s Inappropriate Emotional Behavior Could Be Hurting You

Emotional incest is a dysfunctional emotional intimacy between a parent and their offspring. Another term for it is “surrogate spouse syndrome.”

Unnatural intimacy would include:

  • Confiding in a child about relationship problems they are having with a spouse or partner.
  • Talking about emotional problems, or their sex life, or other adult subjects with a child.
  • Turning a daughter into a surrogate wife and mother when becoming a single parent.
  • Turning a son into a surrogate husband and father or “man of the house” when becoming a single parent.
  • Leaning too heavily on an adult child when they have other options.
  • Avoiding other relationships with other adults who are peers while treating child like a peer.

This is not to say that a child should not take on additional responsibilities when times are difficult. Children can sense when parents are struggling, and it can improve their self esteem and self reliance to help their families when there is a need.

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