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 is now "largely rejected by most credible professionals".[3] He wrote 41 books and more than 200 journal articles and book chapters.[2] He developed child play therapy and test materials that he published through his company Creative Therapeutics. Gardner was an expert witness in child custody cases.[4]

Gardner and his work have been criticized as a biased effort to justify the abuse of children, beginning with sexual abuse but now encompassing all forms of abuse.[5] PAS has not been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or any other medical or professional association, but its use in family courts has led to widespread dismissal of legitimate testimonies regarding abuse.[6]

Work and career[edit]

Gardner graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University in 1952 and SUNY Downstate Medical Center in 1956. After internship at 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.[7]

From 1960 to 1962 he worked as director of child psychiatry in the U.S. Army Hospital, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.[7]

Gardner's professional affiliations included memberships in the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, the American Medical Association, the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.[7]

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 Alanson White Institute (1966–83), the University of Louvain, Belgium (1980–82) and at the University of St. Petersburg, Russia (1989-1997).[7]

Gardner wrote about false allegations of sexual abuse in his 1990 book Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited.[8][9][10] 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]


Gardner's positions have caused considerable controversy among academics and those involved in the detection and treatment of child abuse. He has published rebuttals to these criticisms.[11] He has been accused by the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence of expressing sympathy towards people with an attraction to minors. At the same time, he is said to harbor a disdain towards women.[12] Further, he has been accused of devising his 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."[1] He is said to have estimated deliberate false reporting among mothers at 90%, which experts have disputed, citing research commissioned by the United States Department of Justice that found an actual rate less than 2%.[13]

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 psychotherapists.[14] 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.[15] Gardner asserted that PAS is scientifically valid and legally admissible. Proposals to include PAS in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have been controversial. PAS was not included in DSM-5.[16][5]

The American Bar Association (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".[17] 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 that had been ultimately determined to be false, none had come from the children themselves.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20][21]

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 had developed type I complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological syndrome formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a syndrome known for severe, intractable pain.[1]


  • Richard A. Gardner (1983). Dr. Gardner's Modern Fairy Tales. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 978-0-933812-09-3.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1985). The Boys and Girls Book About Divorce. Bantam. ISBN 978-0-553-27619-0.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1986). Therapeutic Communication With Children: The Mutual Storytelling Technique. Jason Aronson. ISBN 978-0-876-68856-4.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1987). The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sex Abuse. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 9780933812178.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1987). Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale (Sal Scale). Creative therapeutics. ISBN 9780933812192.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 9780933812222.[8]
  • Richard A. Gardner (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1995). Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 978-0-933812-38-3.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1996). Psychotherapy with Sex-Abuse Victims: True, False, and Hysterical. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 978-0-933812-41-3.
  • Richard A. Gardner (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 978-0-933812-42-0.
  • Richard A. Gardner (2001). Sex-Abuse Trauma?: Or Trauma from Other Sources?. Creative Therapeutics. ISBN 978-0-933812-47-5.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Lavietes, Stuart (June 9, 2003). "Richard Gardner, 72, Dies; Cast Doubt on Abuse Claims". The New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Warshak, Richard. "The Gardner Library". Dr. Richard A. Warshak. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  3. ^ Meier, Joan S. (January 2, 2020). "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. S2CID 213753390.
  4. ^ a b Hoult, J. A. (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 January 21, 2021.
  6. ^ Silberg, Joyanna (September 30, 2013). "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 September 29, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d Gardner, Richard A. "Summary of Curriculum Vitae".
  8. ^ a b "IPT Journal - "Sex Abuse Hysteria - The Physicians"".
  9. ^[bare URL PDF]
  10. ^ "IPT Journal - Book Review - "Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited"".
  11. ^ 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.
  12. ^ "Gardner: A Review of His Theories". Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  13. ^ "Why are judges unaware of custody court crisis?". Stop Abuse Campaign. May 6, 2019. Retrieved January 21, 2021.
  14. ^ Waldron, K. H.; Joanis D. E. (1996). "Understanding and Collaboratively Treating Parental Alienation Syndrome". American Journal of Family Law. 10: 121–133.
  15. ^ Wood, C. L. (1994). "The parental alienation syndrome: a dangerous aura of reliability". Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review. 29: 1367–1415.
  16. ^ Jamison, Peter (June 10, 2011). "'Parental Alienation Syndrome' Unlikely to Be Included in DSM-5". SF Weekly. Retrieved July 30, 2012.
  17. ^ Shepherd, Diana; CDFA® (November 22, 2013). "Children Held Hostage: Crafting Solutions in Parental Alienation Cases". Family Lawyer Magazine. Retrieved September 29, 2021.
  18. ^ "APA PsycNet". Retrieved 2021-09-29.
  19. ^ Bruch, Carol (Fall 2001). "Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child Custody Cases". Family Law Quarterly. 35 (3). Archived from the original on November 17, 2015. Retrieved October 29, 2011.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Gardner, Richard (June 9, 1999). "Misperceptions versus facts about Richard A. Gardner, M.D."