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“I think they’re being motivated not by the science, but being driven by friendships, by political forces,” he said.

Parental alienation surfaced on the pop-culture scene several years ago as a consequence of the bitter divorce and child custody battle involving actors Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. Mr. Baldwin was assailed by some feminist groups for citing parental alienation syndrome as a source of his estrangement from his daughter.

“The truth is that parental alienation really is a dangerous and cleverly marketed legal strategy that has caused much harm to victims of abuse,” said the National Organization for Women amid the controversy.

Dr. Bernet, in his proposal to the mental disorders task force, said he agreed that “in some instances the concept of parental alienation has been misused by abusive parents to hide their behavior.”

“However, we strongly disagree with throwing out the baby with the bath water,” he wrote, arguing that such abuse would be curtailed if diagnostic criteria for parental alienation were established.