Misperceptions versus Facts
about the contributions of Richard A. Gardner M.D.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF
RICHARD A. GARDNER, M.D.
MAY 2002 REVISION
All truth passes through three stages:
First, it is ridiculed.
Secondly, it is violently opposed.
Thirdly, it is accepted as self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
This document has been prepared to provide corrections for certain
misrepresentations and misperceptions of some of my contributions. There
have been unfortunate misinterpretations of some of my positions on a variety
of issues. Some of these originated from conflicts in the legal arena, where
attorneys frequently select out-of-context material in order to enhance
their positions in courts of law. This is the nature of the adversary system,
and it is one of the causes of the controversy that sometimes surround my
contributions. Some of these misperceptions and misrepresentations have
become so widespread that I considered it judicious to formulate this statement.
For many years I have seen myself misrepresented, my work distorted, and
various fabrications and even delusions about me have been promulgated.
I have even seen slanderous and libelous statements made about me, which
I was certain were consciously and deliberately promulgated. My position has
usually been that my best response to these distortions and misrepresentations
of my work would be to move on, continue to contribute, and to continue to
create. However, it became increasingly apparent that some responses
were required, especially in courts of law. In addition, the Internet has
been used to perpetrate many of these distortions, with the result that they
became even more widespread. More recently, I have referred to this
materials as “recycled garbage,” garbage that not only appears on the Internet,
but occasionally even in professional journals. My own staff, friends,
and colleagues have urged me to publicly respond to these misperceptions
and fabrications: thus this document.
THE PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME
Dr. Gardner’s work on the PAS is “controversial”
The implication here is that because controversy exists there
is something specious about my contributions. Many newly developed scientific
principles become “controversial” when they are dealt with in the courtroom.
It behooves the attorneys to take an opposite stand and create controversy
where it does not exist. This is inevitable in the context of adversarial
proceedings. A good example of this phenomenon is the way in which DNA testing
was dealt with in the OJ Simpson trial. DNA testing is one of the most scientifically
valid procedures. Yet the jury saw fit to question the validity of such evidence,
and DNA became, for that trial, controversial. I strongly suspect that those
jury members who concluded that DNA evidence was not scientifically valid
for OJ Simpson would have vehemently fought for its admissibility if they
were being tried for a crime which they did not indeed commit. Those who
discount my contributions because some are allegedly “controversial” sidestep
the real issue, namely, what specifically has engendered the controversy,
and, more importantly, is what I have said reasonable and valid? The fact
that something is controversial does not invalidate it.
But why this controversy in the first place? With regard
to whether PAS exists, we generally do not see such controversy regarding
most other clinical entities in psychiatry. Examiners may have different
opinions regarding the etiology and treatment of a particular psychiatric
disorder, but there is usually some consensus about its existence. And this
should especially be the case for a relatively “pure” disorder such as the
PAS, a disorder that is easily diagnosable because of the similarity of the
children’s symptoms when one compares one family with another. Over the years,
I have received many letters from people who have essentially said: “Your
PAS book is uncanny. You don’t know me, and yet I felt that I was reading
my own family’s biography. You wrote your book before all this trouble started
in my family. It’s almost like you predicted what would happen.” Why, then,
should there be such controversy over whether or not PAS exists?
One explanation lies in the situation in which the
PAS emerges and in which the diagnosis is made: vicious child-custody litigation.
Once an issue is brought a court of law—in the context of adversarial proceedings—it
behooves one side to take just the opposite position from the other if one
is to prevail in that forum. A parent accused of inducing a PAS in a child
is likely to engage the services of a lawyer who may invoke the argument
that there is no such thing as a PAS. And if this lawyer can demonstrate that
the PAS is not listed in DSM-IV, then the position is considered “proven.”
The only thing this proves is that DSM-IV has not yet listed the PAS. The
lawyers hope, however, that the judge will be simple-minded enough to be
taken in by this specious argument and will then conclude that if there is
no PAS, there is no programming, and so the client is thereby exonerated.
Another factor operative in the controversy relates
to the false sex-abuse accusation that is commonly a spin-off of the PAS.
It is such a common problem that there are many who equate PAS with false
sex-abuse accusations. Those who deny the existence of false sex-abuse accusations
at the same time frequently deny the existence of the PAS. Therefore, people
who claim that the PAS exists may find themselves criticized as individuals
who do not believe in the existence of true sex abuse. Elsewhere, I
have discussed the controversy in greater detail (Gardner, 2002a).
The PAS is not a syndrome
There are some who claim that the PAS is not really a syndrome.
This criticism is especially seen in courts of law in the context of child-custody
disputes. It is an argument sometimes promulgated by those who claim that
PAS does not even exist. The PAS is a very specific disorder. A syndrome,
by medical definition, is a cluster of symptoms, occurring together, that
characterize a specific disease. The symptoms, although seemingly disparate,
warrant being grouped together because of a common etiology or basic underlying
cause. Furthermore, there is a consistency with regard to such a cluster
in that most (if not all) of the symptoms appear together.
Accordingly, there is a kind of purity that a syndrome
has that may not be seen in other diseases. For example, a person suffering
with pneumococcal pneumonia may have chest pain, cough, purulent sputum,
and fever. However, the individual may still have the disease without all
these symptoms manifesting themselves. The syndrome is more often “pure” because
most (if not all) of the symptoms in the cluster predictably manifest themselves.
An example would be Down’s Syndrome, which includes a host of seemingly disparate
symptoms that do not appear to have a common link. These include mental retardation,
Mongoloid-type facial expression, drooping lips, slanting eyes, short fifth
finger, and atypical creases in the palms of the hands. There is a consistency
here in that the people who suffer with Down’s Syndrome often look very much
alike and most typically exhibit all these symptoms. The common etiology
of these disparate symptoms relates to a specific chromosomal abnormality.
It is this genetic factor that is responsible for linking together these
seemingly disparate symptoms. There is then a primary, basic cause of Down’s
Syndrome: a genetic abnormality.
Similarly, the PAS is characterized by a cluster of
symptoms that usually appear together in the child, especially in the moderate
and severe types (Gardner, 1998). These include:
1. A campaign of denigration
2. Weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalizations for the deprecation
3. Lack of ambivalence
4. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon
5. Reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict
6. Absence of guilt over cruelty to and/or exploitation of the alienated
7. The presence of borrowed scenarios
8. Spread of the animosity to the friends and/or extended family of the
Typically, children who suffer with PAS will exhibit
most (if not all) of these symptoms. This is almost uniformly the case for
the moderate and severe types. However, in the mild cases one might not
see all eight symptoms. When mild cases progress to moderate or severe,
it is highly likely that most (if not all) of the symptoms will be present.
This consistency results in PAS children resembling one another. It is because
of these considerations that the PAS is a relatively “pure” diagnosis that
can easily be made. Because of this purity the PAS lends itself well to
research studies because the population to be studied can easily be identified.
Furthermore, I believe that this purity will be verified by interrater reliability
studies. As is true of other syndromes, there is an underlying cause: programming
by an alienating parent in conjunction with additional contributions by the
programmed child. It is for these reasons that PAS is indeed a syndrome,
and it is a syndrome by the best medical definition of the term.
PAS does not exist because it’s not in DSM-IV
There are some, especially adversaries in child-custody disputes,
who claim that there is no such entity as the PAS, that it is only a theory,
or that it is “Gardner’s theory.” Some claim that I invented the PAS, with
the implication that it is merely a figment of my imagination. The main argument
given to justify this position is that it does not appear in DSM-IV. The
DSM committees justifiably are quite conservative with regard to the inclusion
of newly described clinical phenomena and require many years of research
and publications before considering inclusion of a disorder. This is as it
should be. The PAS exists! Any lawyer involved in child-custody disputes
will attest to that fact. Mental health and legal professionals involved
in such disputes are observing it. They may not wish to recognize it. They
may refer to it by another name (like “parental alienation”). But that does
not preclude its existence. A tree exists as a tree regardless of the reactions
of those looking at it. A tree still exists even though some might give it
another name. If a dictionary selectively decides to omit the word tree from
its compilation of words, that does not mean that the tree does not exist.
It only means that the people who wrote that book decided not to include
that particular word. Similarly, for someone to look at a tree and say that
the tree does not exist does not cause the tree to evaporate. It only indicates
that the viewer, for whatever reason, does not wish to see what is right
in front of him (her).
To refer to the PAS as “a theory” or “Gardner’s theory”
implies the nonexistence of the disorder. It implies that I have dreamed
it up and that it has no basis in reality. To say that PAS does not exist
because it is not listed in DSM-IV is like saying in 1980 that Lyme Disease
did not exist because it was not then listed in standard diagnostic medical
textbooks. The PAS is not a theory, it is a fact. Those who consider the PAS
to be a figment of my imagination must be capable of completely ignoring the
ever-growing number of articles in peer-review journals on the PAS as well
as rulings by judges in courts of law in which the PAS has been recognized.
These are being continually updated and can be found elsewhere on my website
(richardagardner.com/refs). Accordingly, if PAS is my fantasy then these critics
must also believe that a group-fantasy phenomenon is operative here with an
ever-growing number of legal and mental health professionals embracing the
DSM-IV was published in 1994. From 1991 to 1993, when
DSM committees were meeting to consider the inclusion of additional disorders,
there were too few articles in the literature to warrant submission of the
PAS for consideration. That is no longer the case. It is my understanding
that committees will begin to meet for DSM-V in 2006. Considering the fact
that there are now more than 145 articles in peer-review journals on the
PAS, it is highly likely that by that time there will be even more articles.
A listing of these, which is continually updated, is to be found at http://richardagardner.com/pas_peerreviewarticles.
Furthermore, considering the fact that there are more than 68 rulings in
which courts have recognized the PAS, it is probable that there will be even
more such rulings by the time the committees meet. This list is also being
continually updated and can be found at: http://richardagardner.com/pas_legalcites
It is important to note that DSM-IV does not frivolously
accept every new proposal. Their requirements are quite stringent, and justifiably
so. Gille de la Tourette first described his syndrome in 1885. It was not
until 1980, 95 years later, that the disorder found its way into the DSM.
It is important to note that at that point, “Tourette’s Syndrome” became
Tourette’s Disorder. Asperger first described his syndrome in 1957. It was
not until 1994 (37 years later) that it was accepted into DSM-IV and “Asperger’s
Syndrome” became Asperger’s Disorder.
DSM-IV states specifically that all disorders contained
in the volume are syndromes, and they would not be there if they were not
syndromes. Once accepted the name syndrome becomes changed to disorder. However,
this is not automatically the pattern for nonpsychiatric disorders. Often
the term syndrome becomes locked into the name and becomes so well known
that changing the word syndrome to disorder may seems awkward. For example,
Downs’ syndrome, although well recognized, has never become Downs’ disorder.
Similarly, AIDS (Autoimmune Deficiency Syndrome) is a well-recognized disease
but still retains the syndrome term.
Dr Gardner’s publications on the PAS have never
At this time, 15 of my PAS publications have been published
in peer-review journals and 3 more are in press. The latter are scheduled
for publication in 2002 and 2003. These references can be found in
the aforementioned list of PAS references, which includes approximately 125
peer-review publications by at least 150 other authors. As mentioned, this
list is periodically updated and can be found at: http://richardagardner.com/pas_legalcites
Parental alienation (PA) does exist, but parental
alienation syndrome (PAS) does not
Both exist. There are many causes of parental alienation, e.g.,
physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
But there is another reason why children can become alienated from a parent,
namely, being programmed into a campaign of denigration by an alienating
parent. The disorder so produced, which I call parental alienation syndrome,
is also a form of parental alienation. In short, the PAS is one subtyped of
parental alienation. To call PAS PA cannot but produce confusion. One of
the reasons why medicine advances is that we become ever more discriminating
about the various subtypes that exist for any particular disorder. One of
the reasons why Hippocrates is known as the father of medicine is that he
started to make such differentiations. Prior to his time people suffered with
“fits.” It was he who recognized that there were different kinds of fits,
each requiring a different form of treatment. One form of fits he referred
to as epilepsy. Another he referred to as hysteria. His group was astute enough
to recognize the differences between these different kinds of fits and provided
different kinds of treatment. Three hundred years ago people suffered with
heart disease. Now, we know that there are many different kinds of heart
disease, each requiring its own form of treatment. One would not want to
go to a doctor today who makes the diagnosis of fits and heart disease and
not go any further. We want specifics. Similarly, saying that a child has
parental alienation gives very little information. Anyone can observe that—the
clients, the mother, the father, both lawyers, the guardian ad litem, and
the judge. We want to define specifically the type of the alienation, and
PAS is just one possible type. We are then in a far better position to provide
specific treatment. Those who eschew the term PAS, for whatever reason, but
embrace the term PA, are equivalent to those who would diagnose fits and
heart disease. This does not represent progression, it represents regression.
There are many evaluators who fully recognize that PAS exists but will
still use PA in a court of law. They recognize that they have an easier time
with the PA than the PAS. No one is going to deny PA. Many people will deny
PAS. Accordingly, they may have an easier time getting their reports admitted
into court and there will be less argument against such admission. Such evaluators
are being short-sighted. Using the term PAS indicates a specific programmer.
In contrast, using PA clearly indicates that the children are alienated
and that either parent could have exhibited behavior that could have resulted
in the alienation. The term, then, removes the court’s focus away from the
alienator and redirects attention to what might be only minor parental deficiencies
exhibited by the alienated parent. Substituting PA for PAS is, therefore,
a disservice to the targeted parent. Furthermore, such evaluators are losing
sight of the fact that they are impeding the general acceptance of the term
in the courtroom, and possibly inclusion in some future edition of DSM.
There is, however, a compromise. I use PAS in all those reports in which
I consider the diagnosis justified. I also use the PAS term throughout my
testimony. However, I may also make comments along these lines, both in my
reports and in my testimony:
“Although I have used the term PAS, the important questions for the court
are: Are these children alienated? What is the cause of the alienation? and
What can we then do about it?” So if one wants to just use the term PA one
has learned something. The question is what is the cause of the children’s
alienation? In this case the alienation is caused by the mother (father)
and something must be done about protecting the children from the programming.”
That is the central issue for the court and is less
important than whether one is going to call the disorder PA or PAS, even
though I strongly prefer the PAS term for the reasons given. Elsewhere,
I have discussed in greater detail the PA vs. PAS controversy (Gardner, 2002a).
The PAS has not been recognized in courts of law
Again, no mention is made regarding which courts of law.
Although there are certainly judges who have not yet recognized the PAS
(I have no hesitation using the word "yet") there is no question that courts
with increasing rapidity are recognizing the disorder. The aforementioned
website list of PAS legal citations (http://richardagardner.com/pas_legalcites)
currently lists 68 courts of law that have recognized the PAS. Furthermore,
I am certain that there are other such cases which have not been brought
to my attention.
It is important to note that on November 22, 2000, after a two-day hearing
devoted to whether the PAS satisfied Frye Test criteria for admissibility
in a court of law, a Tampa, Florida court ruled that the PAS had gained enough
acceptance in the scientific community to be admissible in a court of law.
I personally testified over the course of those two days and brought to
the court’s attention the aforementioned peer-reviewed articles and court
rulings in which the PAS had been recognized. I am certain that these documents
played an important role in the judge’s decision. Subsequently, the Florida
Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision. This case will clearly
serve as a precedent and should make it easier for the PAS to be admitted
in other cases—not only in Florida, but elsewhere.
Furthermore, on January 17, 2002, after a two-day hearing devoted to whether
the PAS satisfied Frye criteria for admissibility, a court in Wheaton, Illinois,
also ruled that the PAS has gained acceptance in the relevant scientific
community and is therefore admissible in courts of law.
It is important to note, also, that the list of legal citations not only
includes cases in the United States, but in Canada, Australia, Germany, and
the United Kingdom.
Dr. Gardner’s PAS has given abusing parents
a weapon to use against their accusers. Specifically, they deny their abuse
and claim that the children’s animosity is the result of the accuser’s PAS
I do not deny that some bona fide abusers are doing this.
I do not deny that some bona fide abusers are claiming that the children’s
animosity has nothing to do with their reprehensible behavior, but is the
result of the other parent’s programming a PAS into them. Furthermore,
there is no question that such abusers gain support in this diversionary maneuver
from their attorneys. It is also the case that some judges, especially those
who are not properly knowledgeable about the PAS, have “bought into” this
argument, failing thereby to recognize the bona fide abuse that was actually
taking place in the case.
The implication of this criticism, however, is that I somehow am responsible
for such misrepresentation of the PAS by these abusers. PAS exists,
as does child abuse. There will always be those who will twist a contribution
for their own purposes. Chapter nine in the second edition of my book The
Parental Alienation Syndrome (Gardner, 1998) provides evaluators with detailed
criteria for differentiating between true abusers and PAS indoctrinators.
Criticism has been directed at me because some mental
health professionals and courts of law are misusing the PAS and exonerating
bona fide abusers by claiming that the children’s animosity toward them is
the result of PAS indoctrinations by the other parent. Again, I am somehow
being blamed for this. It is unfortunate that there are many evaluators who
claim to be knowledgeable about the PAS and who clearly are not. Whenever
something becomes an in-vogue diagnosis, there will always be those who misinterpret
it and misuse it. Blaming the person who originally described this disorder
is the equivalent of blaming Henry Ford for automobile accidents or the
Wright Brothers for airplane fatalities. Nor do we prohibit the production
of automobiles and airplanes because of such misuse.
Dr. Gardner’s PAS work has been misinterpreted
and misapplied by some mental health and legal professionals with the result
that some parents have been inappropriately deprived of primary custodial
I do not deny that some legal and mental health professionals
are indeed misinterpreting and misapplying my work, much to the detriment
of the client so affected. Again, the implication of this criticism is that
somehow I am responsible for such misinterpretation of my contributions.
There will always be those who will oversimplify a complex phenomenon and
who will misrepresent a contribution for their own purposes. There will always
be those who will not properly understand what they are reading and, hence,
misapply it. When writing, whether it be on the PAS or on any other subject,
I painstakingly attempt to be clear and try to correct in advance possible
The PAS blames one parent for the children’s
alienation and exonerates the other
This is true. The implication of that statement
is that I am irrationally and unjustifiably blaming the programming parent.
As mentioned, when bona fide/neglect is present, then the children’s alienation
is justified and the PAS diagnosis is not warranted. When the PAS diagnosis
is warranted, then the programming parent should be blamed because that
parent is abusing the child. I am sure that the same criticizers would
have no problem blaming an abusive or neglectful parent for the primary source
of the children’s alienation.
Those who promulgate this criticism are often women who claim that the
PAS is basically a manifestation of my bias against women. They claim
that PAS victim fathers most often bring about the children’s alienation
by their own reprehensible behavior. In short, they claim, “He brought
it upon himself and he deserves what he got.” Often they will use as
justification the claim that he doesn’t “respect the children’s boundaries,”
“He harasses them to visit with him,” and “He doesn’t respect their needs.”
The father’s attempts to see his children are converted into psychopathological
manifestations that justify their animosity.
My experience has been that when the PAS diagnosis is operative, the target
parent is usually an innocent victim. Even though he (she) may have
certain qualities that may have at times irritated or even temporarily alienated
the children, the target parent does not deserve the campaign of denigration,
the ongoing scorn, the complete rejection, and the decision never to see
him (her) again. The animosity, then, goes far above and beyond what
might be expected from these minor parental weaknesses (if present at all).
The one quality that I do see target parents to have that might be contributing
to the alienation is their passivity and fear of asserting themselves, lest
the children be even more angry at them. Elsewhere, I have elaborated
on this phenomenon in detail (Gardner, 2001).
The PAS conforms to the medical model
Those who criticize me for using the medical model claim that
I ignore the family systems model. First, there is hardly a page in
any my books on the PAS that does not involve the family systems model.
I am constantly referring to the interactions and interrelationship between
the alienating parent, the alienated parent, and the PAS child. Accordingly,
this aspect of the criticism has absolutely no justification.
With regard to the criticism that PAS conforms to the medical model, the
implication here is that the medical model is somehow improper and that PAS
has nothing to do with the medical model. Each diagnosis in DSM-IV
follows the medical model. In order to make a diagnosis, a physician
must compare the patient’s symptoms with those listed in the book. The DSM-IV
committees have repeatedly rejected family systems diagnoses because they
are often nebulous and speculative. They are almost impossible to subject
to controlled studies, especially studies in which statistical verification
is warranted. I am certain that those who promulgate this criticism
would want their doctor to follow the medical model when diagnosing any illness
they may have.
Gardner reflexively applies the PAS diagnosis
to all alienated children and does not concern himself with other sources
of the children’s alienation.
This statement is ludicrous. To believe this, one must
ignore all of my books and articles published before I wrote my first article
on the PAS in 1985. It indicates complete ignorance of my many publications,
books, and articles that were written long before I wrote my first article
on the PAS in 1s985. I describe in these publications many other reasons
why children are antagonistic toward one of the parents, reasons that have
nothing to do with PAS. These include the wide variety of forms of
child abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual), child neglect, child abandonment,
and compromises in parenting skill). In addition, I describe adolescent
rebellion, adolescent alienation, and cult indoctrinations. Even in
my books on the PAS, I advise examiners to be vigilant and explore alternative
explanations for the children’s alienation. Last, I have repeatedly stated
that when bona fide abuse/neglect exists, the PAS diagnosis is not applicable.
Dr. Gardner’s PAS work has resulted in people committing
suicide and homicide
There is no question that I have been involved in a few cases
in which such tragedies have occurred. I do not differ, thereby, from the
vast majority of other psychiatrists who have been in full-time practice
for over 40 years. The implication here is that I somehow have been personally
responsible for these deaths. Unfortunately, considerations of confidentiality
prevent me from making any public statements regarding these particular cases.
The old adage is applicable here: “There are two sides to every story.” And
my side, without revealing any specific information about any specific case
is this: I have never been involved in a case in which I have been directly
responsible for anyone’s suicide or anyone’s homicide. And in every such
case I could, if I had the opportunity, provide compelling evidence that
these terrible consequences had absolutely nothing to do with me.
The PAS is a discredited theory
Those who promulgate this myth do not state who has discredited
the PAS and by what authority. The facts are just the opposite. An ever-increasing
number of legal and mental health professionals are writing articles on the
PAS and citing it in courts of law. The aforementioned lists of PAS peer-reviewed
articles and legal citations are testament to the fact that PAS is not a
theory, nor has it been discredited.
Dr. Gardner’s sex-abuse evaluations do not
follow the guidelines delineated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Again, those who promulgate this myth do not state exactly
which aspects or elements in my protocol do not follow these guidelines.
The facts are that they do. In 1997 the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry published “Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of
Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused.”
I was a consultant to the committee that prepared this document, and my two
books that describe my protocols are cited in this document: True and False
Accusations of Child Sex Abuse (1992) and Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation
Furthermore, my protocols for differentiating between true and false sex-abuse
accusations utilize the same differentiating criteria that the vast majority
of examiners use when making this differentiation. They, like myself, have
derived these criteria from the scientific literature in which sexually abused
children as well as those who have abused them (male and female pedophiles)
have been studied and their characteristics delineated. The primary difference
between my protocol and that used by others is that it is probably the most
comprehensive, e.g., I have 66 criteria for differentiating between children
who have been genuinely abused and those who have not. At this point, no
competent critic has ever claimed that any single differentiating criterion
has absolutely no validity for making this differentiation.
Dr. Gardner’s sex-abuse protocol has no scientific
My books describe the protocols I utilize in sex-abuse evaluations
and provide scientific references to the vast majority of the criteria that
I use for differentiating between true and false sex-abuse accusations (Gardner,
1987, 1992b, and 1995. Actually, the criteria that I use are derived
from the same literature that others use when differentiating between true
and false accusations. However, my list of differentiating criteria is generally
longer and more exhaustive than any of the lists I have seen.
Dr. Gardner supports and is fully sympathetic to
the practice of pedophilia
There is absolutely nothing that I have ever said in any
of my lectures, or anything that I have written in any of my publications
to support this allegation. This is my position on pedophilia: I consider
pedophilia to be a form of psychiatric disturbance. Furthermore, I consider
those who perpetrate such acts to be exploiting innocent victims with little,
if any, sensitivity to the potential effects of their behavior on their
child victims. Many are psychopathic, as evidenced by their inability to
project themselves into the position of the children they have seduced,
and ignore the potential future consequences on the child of their abominable
Accordingly, we all need protection from pedophiles.
Jail is certainly a reasonable place to provide us with such protection.
This is especially the case because the vast majority of pedophiles are not
going to be cured, or even helped significantly with their problems, by psychotherapy—the
assertions of some psychotherapists notwithstanding. By adulthood the pedophilic
orientation has been deeply embedded in the brain circuitry and is not likely
to be changed by such a superficial approach as “talk therapy.” Nor is it
likely to be changed to a significant degree by conditioning techniques,
i.e., “behavior modification.” It is as reasonable to believe that one could
accomplish this goal as it is to believe that one could change an adult homosexual
into a heterosexual and vice versa.
I am also in favor of Megan’s Law, which requires that
communities learn about the presence in their midst of pedophiles who have
just been released from prison. I do believe, however, that the same laws
should be applied to those who have been convicted of certain other crimes
such as rape (which in a sense is similar to pedophilia), murder, arson,
and other felonies that present formidable risks to the community. In short,
I have absolutely no sympathy for pedophiles, and the fact that I have testified
in courts of law in defense of innocent parties—who have been wrongly accused
of pedophilia—does not mean that I am in any way sympathetic to those who
actually perpetrate such a heinous crime.
Dr. Gardner believes that pedophilia is a good
thing for society
I believe that pedophilia is a bad thing for society. I do
believe, however, that pedophilia, like all other forms of atypical sexuality,
is part of the human repertoire and that all humans are born with the potential
to develop any of the forms of atypical sexuality (which are referred to
as paraphilias by DSM-IV). My acknowledgment that a form of behavior is part
of the human potential is not an endorsement of that behavior. Rape, murder,
sexual sadism, and sexual harassment are all part of the human potential.
This does not mean I sanction these abominations.
I have noted the historical fact that pedophilia has
been and still continues to be a widespread phenomenon. Unfortunately, this
has been interpreted by some to indicate that I condone the practice. This
is the equivalent that saying that those who note the ubiquity of rape and
murder are thereby condoning these atrocities.
Dr. Gardner believes that pedophiles should be
granted primary custody of their children
I consider pedophilia to be a psychiatric disorder, an abominable
exploitation of children. I have never supported a pedophile in his (or her)
quest for primary child custody. Because I have testified on behalf of falsely
accused defendants, there are some who claim that I am reflexively protective
of pedophiles and sympathetic to what they do. There is absolutely nothing
in anything I have ever said or written to support this absurd allegation.
When I conclude in a custody dispute that an accused father has pedophilic
tendencies, I will advise the court to provide protection for the children.
I never have recommended primary custody for such a parent, nor can I imagine
myself ever doing so.
Dr. Gardner believes that the vast majority of
incestuous sex-abuse accusations are false
I believe that the vast majority of incestuous sex-abuse
accusations are true. There are other categories of sex-abuse accusations,
e.g., accusations against babysitters, clergy, scout masters, teachers,
strangers, and accusations in the context of child-custody disputes. Each
category has its own likelihood of being true or false. It is in the category
of child-custody disputes that I believe that the vast majority of accusations
are false, and there is support for this belief in the scientific literature.
This category represents only one of many, and although false accusations
in child-custody disputes is common practice, this category represents only
a small fraction of all groups combined. When one combines all groups, I
hold that the vast majority of sex-abuse accusations are true.
Dr. Gardner believes that everybody has pedophilic
I believe that all people are born with the potential to
engage in every kind of atypical sexual behavior known to humanity. It behooves
parents and other caretakers to suppress socially unacceptable behavior and
to channel the child’s sexual urges into socially accepted forms. This should
happen in early childhood. In our society the pedophilic potential has been
suppressed successfully for the vast majority of individuals. Those who have
not experienced such suppression become pedophiles. There have been other
societies in the history of the world that have not suppressed pedophilic
tendencies. The fact that such suppression has not taken place is a fact of
history. This does not mean that I suggest that we emulate such societies
or that I approve of pedophilia. Human sacrifice has been widespread in many
societies in the history of the world. This also is a fact of history. To
state this fact does not mean that I approve of the practice. The suppression
of primitive impulses is necessary for the existence of a civilized society.
Abba Eban, a former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, put it well:
“Man becomes civilized when his animal impulses are tamed, subdued, and transcended
by his social nature.”
Gardner believes that judges, lawyers, juries,
and evaluators who involve themselves in sex-abuse lawsuits become sexually
“turned on” in the course of the litigation
As the media well knows, sex and violence attract attention.
People are more likely to read about these issues than less “interesting”
topics. To deny prurient interests is to deny reality. This does not mean
that I believe that people are sitting in the courtroom in a state of high
sexual excitation while the trial is going on. What I am saying is that those
in the courtroom are as likely to be extra-attentive to sex and violence
as those outside the courtroom.
Dr. Gardner is in strong support of the North American
Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)
I have never been a member of this organization, and I am
opposed to its primary principles. Adult men who have sex with boys are exploiting
them, corrupting them, and contributing to the development of sexual psychopathology
in them. NAMBLA’s position is that if the child consents, then the pedophilic
act is acceptable and even desirable. This is a rationalization for depravity.
Children can be seduced into consenting to anything, including murder. Society
needs to protect itself from those who would exploit our children. Jail
is one reasonable place to provide such protection.
Dr. Gardner believes that society, especially
our penal system, treats adults who have sex with children too harshly
This is true. However, the implication here is that I would
never jail pedophiles or punish them in any way. This is not true.
I believe that most pedophiles are incurable and that we must protect ourselves
and our children from them. Accordingly, jail is an excellent place
to put them. I believe, however, that pedophiles are treated differently
and much more harshly, than other criminals. I have no hesitation referring
to a pedophile as a criminal, even though there is a DSM-IV diagnosis for
pedophilic behavior. Most states now have Megan’s Laws, laws that require
local police to notify people in the community that a recently jailed pedophile
is living in their midst. Notices are placed in police stations, post
offices, and other places. There are no Megan’s Laws for murderers.
There are no Megan’s Laws for rapists. There are no Megan’s Laws for
arsonists or for any other crime. There are only Megan’s Laws for sex
abusers. This is what I am referring to when I say that society treats
sex abusers more harshly than people who have perpetrated other crimes.
Furthermore, when people who have committed all the other crimes, other
than sex abuse, have served their sentences, the law requires that the person
must be released from jail by prison authorities. This is not the case
for child sex abusers. They can be kept in jail beyond their sentences and
I have seen cases in which this has happened. Usually they are required
to go into treatment until they are “cured.” If the alleged abuser
insists that he (she) never perpetrated any sex crimes at all, and has been
falsely incarcerated, then the person may remain in jail indefinitely.
This is what I am referring to when I say that society treats sex abusers
much more harshly than people who have committed other crimes.
Dr. Gardner’s interest in the field of child sex
abuse is probably related to the fact that he himself is tainted somehow
in this realm, e.g., he was sexually abused himself as a child, or he himself
is a sex abuser
I was never sexually abused as a child. I have never sexually
abused a child.
Dr. Gardner’s work has contributed to sex-abuse
hysteria in this country
This criticism credits me with the power to create a national
hysteria that did not exist before my publications. Describing a phenomenon
does not mean that I created it. My book Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch
Trials Revisited was published in 1991 (Gardner, 1991a), at least six or seven
years after the hysteria began. (The reader may recall that the McMartin accusations
surfaced in 1983 and the Kelly Michaels accusations in 1988.) Obviously,
the sex-abuse hysteria phenomenon was well under way before the publication
of that book. In a sense, this criticism flatters me because it gives
me a power way beyond what I actually have.
Gardner is responsible for judges all over the
United States and Canada disbelieving mothers claiming that their children
were sexually abused by their husbands. As a result children are not being
protected from their pedophilic fathers
Again, this implies that I, a single person, could have such
an enormous influence over the judiciary over a whole continent. The alternative
explanation, namely, that my contributions have brought to light the abomination
of false sex-abuse accusations is not acknowledged by those who promulgate
Gardner reflexively considers a sex-abuse
accusation false and does not given proper attention to true sex-abuse accusations
This criticism is ludicrous and cannot be supported by any of
my publications on sex abuse. In each of my books on differentiating between
true and false sex-abuse accusations (the reader will please note the title),
I describe in details the clinical manifestations when the accusation is
true and the clinical manifestations when the accusation is false (Gardner,
1987, 1992a, 1995). Although I have written that the vast majority of
sex-abuse accusations that arise as a spin-off of the PAS are false, I have
also written that the vast majority of sex-abuse accusations that arise in
the context of the intact families are more likely to be true. I have
also written that the vast majority of accusations in the context of babysitting
accusations, coach accusations, clergy accusations, and scout accusations
are more likely to be true.
Dr. Gardner’s custody evaluations do not follow
the guidelines delineated by the American Psychological Association
My child-custody evaluative procedures follow every one of these
guidelines. Those who promulgate this myth do not say specifically what in
these guidelines is not subscribed to by my child-custody evaluative procedures.
In fact, my publications describing my procedures have been cited in the
1994 American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluation
in Divorce Proceedings. The Guidelines cite my book, Family Evaluation
in Child Custody Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation (1989), the first
edition of my book on the parental alienation syndrome (1992a), as well
as my volume True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse (1992b). There
is no other author on that list who has three citations.
Dr. Gardner has been barred from testimony in many
courts of law throughout the United States
This is pure myth. To date I have testified directly in approximately
30 states and in others via telephone. I have been testifying since 1960.
Not once has a court of law ruled that I was not qualified to testify as
Dr. Gardner is a hired gun
When I agree to involve myself in a custody litigation there
is a three-step process that each prospective client must take. First, every
attempt must be made to involve me as the court’s independent examiner. If
this fails I may be willing, after some exploration of the case, to be recognized
as the inviting party’s expert, but I make no promises beforehand that I
will support that party’s position. I require the inviting party to sign
a document in which he (she) agrees to pay my fees, and even for my testimony,
if I ultimately decide that the opposing party warrants my support. There
have been cases when in the course of my evaluation I have concluded that
the opposing party’s position is the more compelling one, and I have ultimately
testified on that party’s behalf. A copy of this document is to be
found in the addendum of my book, The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second
Edition (Gardner, 1998).
Dr. Gardner testifies predominantly in support
There is absolutely no basis for this myth. I have testified
on behalf of women who have been victimized by PAS-inducing husbands, and
I have testified on behalf of men whose wives are PAS inducers. In fact,
in the last few years, the number of PAS-inducing men against whom I have
testified has increased formidably, to the point where I see the ratio now
to be about 50/50.
PERSONAL (AD HOMINEM) ATTACKS
Dr. Richard Gardner is biased against women
This cannot be reasonably substantiated by anything I have
ever written, lectured on, or testified to in a court of law. With regard
to the alleged gender bias associated with the parental alienation syndrome,
the facts are that I will generally recommend that PAS-inducing mothers
in both the mild and moderate categories retain primary custody. When PAS
is severe, or rapidly approaching the severe level, and the mother is the
primary promulgator, then I recommend a change of custody. But this represents
only a small percentage of cases. And these are exactly the recommendations
I make in my book Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation
Syndrome (Gardner, 2001).
Furthermore, as fathers are now increasingly indoctrinating PAS in their
children I find myself testifying even more frequently in support of women
who have been victimized by their husbands’ inducing PAS in their children.
Dr. Gardner is an advocate for Men’s Rights’ Groups
I have never been a member of any Men’s Rights’ Groups. In fact,
I have never been a member of any advocacy group whatsoever. Many men in
men’s rights groups are very pleased with me because I played an important
role in bringing to public attention the false sex-abuse accusation in the
context of child-custody disputes and have testified in support of innocent
men in this category. However, in the same groups are many men who are critical
of me because they claim I do not frequently enough recommend custodial change
for mothers who have induced mild and moderate levels of PAS in their children.
As mentioned, I generally reserve such a recommendation for the relatively
small percentage of mothers who have produced very formidable levels of moderate
PAS and/or severe levels of PAS.
Dr. Gardner claims that he is a Clinical Professor
of Child Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons,
yet he does very little teaching there
The implication of this statement is that I am somehow misrepresenting
myself. I have been on the faculty of the Columbia Medical School since 1963.
In earlier years I did more teaching than I have in recent years, but such
reduction in teaching obligations is common for senior medical school faculty
members. More importantly, people who do significant research and writing
generally do far less teaching. This has been my position.
When I was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1983, I was the first
person in the history of Columbia’s Child Psychiatry department to achieve
that rank who was primarily in private practice (rather than full-time faculty).
I had to satisfy all the same requirements necessary for the promotion of
full-time academicians And this was also true when I was promoted to
the associate professorial rank some years previously.
Dr. Gardner’s publications are not peer reviewed
I have published approximately 150 articles of which approximately
85 have been in peer-review journals.
Dr. Gardner has his own publishing company, Creative
Therapeutics, Inc., and publishes all his books through his own company
I do own Creative Therapeutics, Inc., and since 1978 I have
published most (but not all) of my books through Creative Therapeutics. The
implication is that Creative Therapeutics is some kind of a vanity press
and that if not for it, I could not find publishers for my books. The facts
are that between 1960 and 1983 I published books with the following other
publishers: 4 - Bantam Books (Gardner, 1971b, 1979, 1981, 1983); 6 - Jason
Aronson, Inc. (Gardner, 1970, 1971a, 1973a, 1973b, 1975, 1976); 1 - Avon Books
(Gardner, 1974); 1 - Doubleday (Gardner, 1977); 2 - Prentice-Hall (Gardner,
1972, 1974; 1 - G. P. Putnam’s (Gardner, 1978); and 1 - George Stickley
Co., (Gardner, 1977b) In 1991 Bantam published the second edition of
my book The Parents Book About Divorce (Gardner, 1991b) . Moreover, I periodically
receive invitations from other publishers to write books. The main reason
why, in recent years, I have published through Creative Therapeutics is that
I have much more autonomy regarding book size and content, and the returns
are more favorable.
In addition, many of my books and therapeutic instruments were published
in foreign languages by publishers in various countries: Japanese,
Spanish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Hebrew, Czech, and Russian.
Dr. Gardner has a publicist
There was a period of approximately nine months (fall 1992
to summer 1993) when I did engage the services of a publicist. The purpose
was to bring public attention to one very important case in which I was
involved. That was the only time that I have used the services of a publicist.
Dr. Gardner utilizes coercive interview techniques
in which he bludgeons children into saying whatever he wants them to
I make every attempt to videotape my interviews of children
alleging sexual abuse. I have done hundreds of hours of such interviews.
Not once has anybody been able to demonstrate coercive interview techniques
in the course of these. In fact, my interviews are often viewed in another
room—via a monitor—by parents, lawyers, mental health professionals, and sometimes
the child’s own therapist. Not once has anybody ever come forth with the
complaint that my interviews were coercive, even under circumstances in which
the parties were able to interrupt my interview while it was in progress.
The interview tapes are available to both sides and yet not once has an opposing
attorney ever taken such a tape and even tried to demonstrate to the court
that my interview was coercive.
Dr. Gardner is extremely expensive and only represents
My fees are higher than average, but commensurate with that
of people at my level of experience and expertise. I have also done a significant
amount of pro bono work. At any given point I usually have one or two pro
bono patients for whom I dedicate myself as assiduously as I would had they
been paying me. I do not differ here from many other physicians whose fees
from those who can pay enables them to provide services at low cost—or even
at no cost—to others.
Dr. Gardner’s interest in child-custody disputes
probably stems from the fact that he himself was involved in such a dispute
I have never been involved in a child-custody dispute involving
As mentioned, it was with great reluctance that I have written this article.
However, I recognize its importance and am pleased now that I have written
it. I believe that earlier versions have played some role, perhaps small,
in dispelling some of the misinformation that have been promulgated about
me and my work.
American Academy of Child & Psychiatry (1997).
Practice parameters for the forensic evaluation of children
and adolescents who may have been physically or sexually
abused. The Journal of the American Academy of Child &
Adolescent Psychiatry, 36:423-442.
American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic Criteria from
American Psychological Association (1994). Guidelines for Child
Custody Evaluation in Divorce Proceedings. Washington, D.C.:
American Psychological Association.
Gardner, R.A. (1970). The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce (Hard
Cover). NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1971a). Therapeutic Communication With Children:
The Mutual Storytelling Technique. NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1971b). The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce (Paperback
edition). NY: Bantam Books, Inc.
__________ (1972). Dr. Gardner’s Stories About the Real World, Volume
I. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
__________ (1973a). MBD: The Family Book About Minimal Brain Dysfunction.
NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1973b). Understanding Children—A Parent’s Guide to Child Rearing.
NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1974a). Dr. Gardner’s Fairy Tales for Today’s Children.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
__________ (1974b). Dr. Gardner’s Stories About the Real World (Paperback
edition). NY: Avon Books, Inc.
__________ (1975). Psychotherapeutic Approaches to the Resistant
Child. NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1976). Psychotherapy With Children of Divorce.
NY: Jason Aronson, Inc.
__________ (1977a). The Parents Book About Divorce. NY: Doubleday
& Company, Inc.
__________ (1977b). Dr. Gardner’s Modern Fairy Tales. Philadelphia,
PA: George Stickley Co.
__________ (1978). The Boys and Girls Book About One-Parent Families.
NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
__________ (1979). The Parents Book About Divorce (Paperback edition).
NY: Bantam Books, Inc.
__________ (1981). The Boys and Girls Book About Stepfamilies (Paperback
Edition) . NY: Bantam Books.
__________ (1983). The Boys and Girls Book About One- Parent Families
(Paperback Edition) . NY: Bantam Books.
__________ (1987). The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the
Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sex
Abuse. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (1989). Family Evaluation in Child Custody
Mediation, Arbitration, and Litigation. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics,
__________ (1991a). Sex-Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials
Revisited. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (1991b). The Parents Book About Divorce, Second Edition.
NY: Bantam Books.
__________ (1992a). The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A
Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Cresskill,
NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (1992b). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse.
Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (1995). Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation.
Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second
Edition. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
__________ (2001). Therapeutic Interventions for Children With
Parental Alienation Syndrome. Cresskill, NJ: Creative
__________ (2002a). Parental alienation syndrome vs. parental alienation:
Which diagnosis should evaluators use in child-custody litigation?
The American Journal of Family Therapy, 30(2):101-123.
__________ (2002b), Articles in Peer-Review Journals and Published Books
on the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) (1985-2002.) http://richardagardner.com/pas_peerreviewarticles
__________ (2002c), Testimony Concerning the Parental Alienation Syndrome
Has Been Admitted in Courts of Law in Many States and Countries (1987-2002).