Richard A. Gardner

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Richard A. Gardner
Richard Alan Gardner

(1931-04-28)April 28, 1931
DiedMay 25, 2003(2003-05-25) (aged 72)
Known forParental alienation syndrome
Scientific career
FieldsChild psychiatry
InstitutionsColumbia University

Richard Alan Gardner (April 28, 1931 – May 25, 2003) was an American child psychiatrist known for his work in psychotherapy with children, parental alienation and child custody evaluations.[2] Based on his clinical work with children and families, Gardner introduced the term Parental alienation syndrome (PAS), which are now "largely rejected by most credible professionals.[3]" He wrote 41 books and more than 200 journal articles and book chapters, although most of his work was self-published, non-peer-reviewed, and anecdotal.[2] He developed child play therapy and test materials which he published through his company Creative Therapeutics. Gardner was an expert witness in child custody cases.[4] Gardner and his work have been largely denounced as biased efforts by a suspected child sexual abuser himself to justify the abuse of children, beginning with sexual abuse but now encompassing all forms of abuse.[5] Rightfully, PAS has not been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or any other medical or professional association, but its misuse in family courts has led to widespread dismissal of legitimate testimonies regarding abuse[6] and to the deaths of hundreds of children per year ultimately being murdered by the abusive parent.[7]

Work and career[edit]

Gardner graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University in 1952 and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1956. After internship at the Montefiore Hospital, he completed residencies in adult psychiatry and in child psychiatry at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He was certified as a psychoanalyst in 1966 after training at the William Alanson White Institute.[8]

In 1960-1962 he worked as director of child psychiatry in the U.S. Army Hospital, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.[8]

Gardner's professional affiliations included American Psychiatric Association, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Academy of Psychoanalysis, American Medical Association, American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians and American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.[8]

From 1963 until his death Gardner was a clinical professor at Columbia University's medical school, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.[1] He also held academic teaching appointments at the William A. White Psychoanalytic Institute (1966–83), the University of Louvain, Belgium (1980–82) and at the University of St. Petersburg, Russia (1989-1997).[8]

Gardner wrote about false allegations of sexual abuse in his 1990 book Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited.[9][10][11] He assisted the defense team of Margaret Kelly Michaels which successfully appealed her prison conviction in the Wee Care Nursery School abuse trial.[1]

In 1970 when divorce was becoming more common in the United States, Gardner wrote Boys and Girls Book About Divorce to provide children with suggestions on how to cope. In 1973 he created one of the first board games for use in child psychotherapy.[1]


His views stirred considerable controversy and he published rebuttals of his critics' arguments.[12] He has published works expressing sympathy towards 'minor attracted persons' while on the other had harbors considerable disdain towards women.[13] He concocted his original alienation theory not based on any research but on his personal beliefs and biases, with an interest in providing a weapon for lawyers seeking to undermine a mother's credibility in court.[14] For example, he estimated deliberate false reporting among mothers to 90% when research shows that the actual rate is less than 2%.[15]

Gardner's observation of a "parental alienation syndrome" focused on how one parent may misuse the powers of socialization to turn a child against a once loved parent. Gardner's labeling of alienation processes as a "syndrome" remains controversial among psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists.[16] PAS has not been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or any other medical or professional association. It has been extensively criticized by scientists and jurists, who describe it as inadmissible in child custody hearings based on both science and law.[17] Gardner's claims that PAS is scientifically valid and legally admissible have been disputed. Proposals to include PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have been controversial. DSM-5 Task Force Chair David Kupfer and DSM-5 Task Force Public Representative James McNulty have written letters to concerned professionals that PAS will not be included in DSM-5.[18][5]

The ABA published a review of Parental Alienation and concluded that it is without scientific basis in an article entitled "Parental Alienation Syndrome:30 Years On And Still Junk Science ( The ABA has since published a book acknowledging the phenomenon of distorting perception in a child. For example, when a child maintains that the mother never did anything for them, and yet there is "independent information that shows the mother did everything from breastfeeding to teaching the child how to read."[19] ( However, this is different than a child's claims of abuse. Trocme and Bala studied over seven thousand abuse investigations and found that of the allegations which had been ultimately determined as false, none had come from the children themselves.[20]

Carol S. Bruch, Research Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, implied that Dr. Gardner's description of PAS could inflict emotions on his audience. She found lack of careful analysis and rigor among the adopters of Dr. Gardner's observations.[21]

In a 2002 article in the American Journal of Family Therapy, Gardner dismissed most of his critics as either biased or misinformed. "Attorneys frequently select out-of-context material in order to enhance their positions in courts of law... some of these misperceptions and misrepresentations have become so widespread that I considered it judicious to formulate this statement," he wrote.[22][23]

In the same article, Gardner denied that he condoned pedophilia. "I believe that pedophilia is a bad thing for society," he wrote. "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."

Gardner also advocated against mandatory reporting laws for child abuse, against immunity from prosecution of individuals reporting child abuse and for the creation of programs with federal funding designed to assist individuals claimed to be falsely accused of child abuse.[4]

Personal life and death[edit]

Gardner was born in The Bronx on April 28, 1931. He had three children with Lee Gardner before their divorce.[1]

He committed suicide by stabbing himself at his home in Tenafly, New Jersey on May 25, 2003, at age 72. His son said that Gardner was suffering from type I complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological syndrome formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a syndrome known for severe, intractable pain.[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Lavietes, Stuart (2003-06-09). "Richard Gardner, 72, Dies; Cast Doubt on Abuse Claims". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-11-27.
  2. ^ a b Warshak, Richard. "The Gardner Library". Dr. Richard A. Warshak. Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  3. ^ Meier, Joan S. (2020-01-02). "U.S. child custody outcomes in cases involving parental alienation and abuse allegations: what do the data show?". Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. 42 (1): 92–105. doi:10.1080/09649069.2020.1701941. ISSN 0964-9069.
  4. ^ a b Hoult, JA (2006). "The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and Policy". Children's Legal Rights Journal. 26 (1). SSRN 910267.
  5. ^ a b "Talan - Richard A. Gardner's PAS theory". Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  6. ^ Silberg, Joyanna (2013). [crisis-fam-court-lessons-turned-around-cases.pdf "Crisis in Family Court: Lessons From Turned Around Cases. Final Report submitted to the Office of Violence Against Women, Department of Justice (online)"] (PDF). protective parents. Retrieved 2021-09-29. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "U.S. Divorce Child Murder Data". Center for Judicial Excellence. Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  8. ^ a b c d Gardner, Richard A. "Summary of Curriculum Vitae".
  9. ^ a b "IPT Journal - "Sex Abuse Hysteria - The Physicians"".
  10. ^[bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ "IPT Journal - Book Review - "Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited"".
  12. ^ Gardner, Richard (2004). "Commentary on Kelly and Johnston's The Alienated Child: A Reformulation of Parental Alienation Syndrome" (PDF). Family Court Review. 42 (4): 611–21. doi:10.1177/1531244504268711.
  13. ^ "Gardner: A Review of His Theories". Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  14. ^ Lavietes, Stuart (2003-06-09). "Richard Gardner, 72, Dies; Cast Doubt on Abuse Claims". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  15. ^ "Why are judges unaware of custody court crisis?". Stop Abuse Campaign. 2019-05-06. Retrieved 2021-01-21.
  16. ^ Waldron, KH; Joanis DE (1996). "Understanding and Collaboratively Treating Parental Alienation Syndrome". American Journal of Family Law. 10: 121–133.
  17. ^ Wood, CL (1994). "The parental alienation syndrome: a dangerous aura of reliability". Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. 29: 1367–1415.
  18. ^ Jamison, Peter (June 10, 2011). "'Parental Alienation Syndrome' Unlikely to Be Included in DSM-5". SF Weekly. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
  19. ^ Shepherd, Diana; CDFA® (2013-11-22). "Children Held Hostage: Crafting Solutions in Parental Alienation Cases". Family Lawyer Magazine. Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  20. ^ "APA PsycNet". Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  21. ^ Bruch, Carol (Fall 2001). "Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child Custody Cases" (PDF). Family Law Quarterly. 35 (3). Archived from the original on 2001-12-28.
  22. ^ Gardner, Richard (2002). "Misinformation Versus Facts About the Contributions of Richard A. Gardner, M.D.". American Journal of Family Therapy. 30 (5): 395–416. doi:10.1080/01926180260296305. S2CID 143694690.
  23. ^ Gardner, Richard (1999-06-09). "Misperceptions versus facts about Richard A. Gardner, M.D." Cresskill, New Jersey.