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Richard A. Warshak (born December 18, 1949) is an American clinical and research psychologist and author. He is best known for his expertise on divorce, child custody, and parental alienation. Warshak has written three books, The Custody Revolution, Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond From a Vindictive Ex, and the revised edition, Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing. He appears in the PBS documentary Kids and Divorce.
Warshak graduated from Brooklyn's Midwood High School in 1966 and received his B.S. degree from Cornell University in 1971. Warshak received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (formerly the UT Health Science Center) in 1978. He is currently a Clinical Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern.
Warshak's doctoral dissertation, The Effects of Father Custody and Mother Custody on Children's Personality Development, was the first study to directly compare children growing up in father-custody homes to children growing up in mother-custody homes. Warshak collaborated with John Santrock on the Texas Custody Research Project, a series of studies on the effects of different custody dispositions and stepfamilies, partially funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Since 1977, Warshak has analyzed the social science evidence for family law assumptions and practices. His studies on father and mother custody, remarriage, relocation, parenting plans for young children, the American Law Institute's approximation rule, children's preferences in custody disputes and parental alienation appear in 13 books, more than 75 articles, and more than 100 presentations. Warshak's studies are cited often in the professional literature and in case law and legislatures throughout the world.
In 2014 the American Psychological Association published Warshak’s paper, Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report, in the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. The paper was endorsed by 110 researchers and practitioners who added their names to the paper, “a rare occurrence in social science.” The endorsers, from fifteen countries, include the world’s leading authorities in early child development, parent-child relationships, and divorce. The paper has been translated into more than eighteen languages and has informed parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the U.K., Canada, Israel, Finland, and Sweden.
Warshak was a founding member and past president of the Dallas Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology and was the founding editor of the DSPP Bulletin.
He was one of the four contributors selected to inaugurate the Child and Family Blog co-sponsored by Princeton University, Brookings Institution, University of Cambridge, and the Jacobs Foundation.
Warshak's 2010 set of three articles on Family Bridges: A Workshop for Troubled and Alienated Parent-Child Relationships triggered a resurgence of interest among professionals in parental alienation and prompted the Family Court Review to devote a whole issue to the problem.
Warshak analyses the controversy about whether a child's unreasonable alienation from a parent constitutes a syndrome and presents arguments both for and against the use of the term, parental alienation syndrome, in court.
Warshak stresses the importance of understanding the multiple roots of parental alienation and the various factors, including the behavior of the rejected parent, that contribute to the origin and maintenance of a child’s unreasonable alienation or estrangement from a parent.
Because of the emotional and financial costs of severe irrational alienation, and the obstacles to its alleviation, Warshak emphasizes the importance of directing educational resources and judicial efforts to the goals of prevention and early identification of children at risk. The DVD he co-authored and co-produced, Welcome Back, Pluto: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation, is the first such program for children, teens, and young adults who are alienated or at risk for becoming alienated. In addition to education, Warshak stresses the importance of courts' rapid and effective enforcement of orders related to children's contact with both parents.
- The Custody Revolution. (1992). NY: Simon & Schuster.
- Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex. (2002). NY: HarperCollins. Hardcover, paperback, Kindle and other e-book editions.
- Divorce Poison: How to Protect the Parent-Child Bond from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing. (2010). NY: HarperCollins. Paperback, Kindle and other e-book editions. Foreign editions: Czech Republic, Croatia, Korea, Finland, Japan.
- Book chapters
- Warshak, R. A. & Santrock, J. W. (1983). Children of divorce: Impact of custody disposition on social development. In E.J. Callahan & K.A. McCluskey (Eds.), Lifespan Developmental Psychology: Non-normative Life Events. New York: Academic Press.
- Warshak, R. A. & Santrock, J. W. (1983). The impact of divorce in father-custody and mother-custody homes: The child’s perspective. In L. Kurdek (Ed.), Children and Divorce. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Santrock, J. W. & Warshak, R. A. (1986). Development, relationships, and legal/clinical considerations in father-custody families. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), The Father’s Role: Applied Perspectives. New York: Wiley.
- Warshak, R. A. (1987). Father-custody families: Therapeutic goals and strategies. In M. Lindblad-Goldberg (Ed.), Clinical Issues in Single Parent Households. Rockville, MD.: Aspen Publishers.
- Warshak, R. A. (1996). The Primary Parent Presumption. In G. Herman (Ed.), 101+Practical Solutions for the Family Lawyer. Chicago: American Bar Association.
- Warshak, R. A. (1999). Psychological Syndromes: Parental Alienation Syndrome. In R. Orsinger (Ed.), Expert Witness Manual. Austin: State Bar of Texas Family Law Section.
- Warshak, R. A. (1999). Relocation Litigation: A Social Science Critique of Burgess v. Burgess. In R. Orsinger (Ed.), Expert Witness Manual. Austin: State Bar of Texas Family Law Section.
- Warshak, R. A. (2003). Current Controversies Regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome. In W. von Boch-Gallhau, U. Kodjoe, W Andritsky, and P. Koeppel (Eds.), The Parental Alienation Syndrome: An Interdisciplinary Challenge for Professionals Involved in Divorce. Berlin, Germany: VWB-Verlag für Wissenshaft and Bildung.
- Warshak, R. A. (2006). Social Science and Parental Alienation: Examining the Disputes and the Evidence. In R. A. Gardner, R. Sauber, and D. Lorandos (Eds.), The International Handbook of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Conceptual, Clinical and Legal Considerations. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, LTD.
- Warshak, R. A. (2013). Severe Cases of Parental Alienation. In D. Lorandos, R. Sauber, and W. Bernet (Eds.), Parental Alienation: Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas Publisher, LTD.
- Scientific articles
- Santrock, J. W. & Warshak, R. A. (1979). Father custody and social development in boys and girls. Journal of Social Issues, 35 (4), 112-125.
- Santrock, J. W., Warshak, R. A. et al. (1982). Children’s and parents’ observed social behavior in stepfather families. Child Development, 53 (2), 472-480.
- Warshak, R. A. (1986). Father-custody and child development: A review and analysis of psychological research. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 4, 185-202.
- Warshak, R. A. (1996). Gender Bias in Child Custody Decisions. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 34 (3), 396-409.
- Warshak, R. A. (1999). Observers of Childhood Sexual Behavior. Pediatrics, 103 (4), 853.
- Warshak, R. A. (2000). Remarriage as a Trigger of Parental Alienation Syndrome. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 28, 229-241.
- Warshak, R. A. (2000). Social Science and Children’s Best Interests in Relocation Cases: Burgess Revisited. Family Law Quarterly, 34 (1), 83-113.
- Warshak, R. A. (2000). Blanket Restrictions: Overnight Contact Between Parents and Young Children. Family and Conciliation Courts Review, 38 (4), 422-445. Reprinted in M. K. Pruett (Ed.), Overnights and Young Children: Essays from the Family Court Review, 45- 65.
- Warshak, R. A. (2001). Current Controversies Regarding Parental Alienation Syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 19, 29-59.
- Warshak, R. A. (2002). Misdiagnosis of Parental Alienation Syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology, 20, 31-52.
- Warshak, R. A. (2003). Bringing Sense to Parental Alienation: a Look at the Disputes and the Evidence. Family Law Quarterly, 37, 273-301.
- Warshak, R. A. (2003). Payoffs and Pitfalls of Listening to Children. Family Relations, 52 (4), 373-384.
- Warshak, R. A. (2007). Punching the Parenting Time Clock: The Approximation Rule, Social Science, and the Baseball Bat Kids. Family Court Review, 45 (4), 600-619.
- Warshak, R. A. (2007). The Approximation Rule, Child Development Research, and Children’s Best Interests After Divorce. Child Development Perspectives, 1, 119-125.
- Warshak, R. A. (2010). Family Bridges: Using Insights From Social Science to Reconnect Parents and Alienated Children. Family Court Review, 48 (1), 48-80.
- Warshak, R. A. (2011). The Approximation Rule Survey: The American Law Institute’s Proposed Reform Misses the Target. State Bar of Texas Section Report: Family Law , Volume 2011-5 Fall, 22-32.
- Hands, A. J. & Warshak, R. A. (2011). Parental Alienation Among College Students. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 39, 431-443.
- Warshak, R. A. (2011). Parenting by the Clock: The Best Interests of the Child Standard, Judicial Discretion, and The American Law Institute’s “Approximation Rule.” "University of Baltimore Law Review, 41 (1), 83-163.
- Warshak, R. A. (2013). In a Land Far, Far Away: Assessing Children’s Best Interests in International Relocation Cases. Journal of Child Custody, 10, 295-324.
- Warshak, R. A., with the endorsement of 110 researchers and practitioners listed in the Appendix. (2014). Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 20, 46-67.
- Warshak, R. A. (2015). Poisoning Parent-Child Relationships Through the Manipulation of Names. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 43, 4-15.
- Warshak, R. A. (2015). Securing Children’s Best Interests While Resisting the Lure of Simple Solutions. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 56, 57-79.
- Warshak, R. A. (2015). Parental Alienation: Overview, Intervention, and Practice Tips. Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 27, in press.
- Warshak, R. A. (2015). Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies that Compromise Decisions in Court and in Therapy. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 46 (4), online first publication June 22, 2015.
Public appearances and media
As an international media guest commentator Warshak has contributed to segments on more than 75 topics including celebrity divorces, custody disputes, parental alienation, child abuse, stepfamilies, child psychology and parenting, and helping children cope with fears and trauma. He has been interviewed by the major television networks in the U.S., and in Canada, England, and Germany, including ABC 20/20, NBC Today, Dateline NBC, CBS, CNN, BBC, CTV, Fox, Geraldo, and CourtTV. His work has been featured in international print media in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Columbia, England, Germany, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, and Scotland, including The New York Times (Sunday front page story), The Washington Post (cover story), USA Today (cover story), London Sunday Telegraph, Il Giornale (Italy), Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail (editorial, front page, & Life section), Maclean's (Canada), The Age (Australia), and Time magazine (1980), 2004, and 2011.
- Warshak, R. A. (1992.) The Custody Revolution. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- Warshak, R. A. (2002). Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex. New York: ReganBooks.
- Warshak, R. A. (2010). Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing. New York: Harper Collins.
- PBS(2006). Kids and Divorce: For Better or Worse.
- Midwood High School Brooklyn, NY Alumni List
- UT Southwestern Clinical Psychology Faculty
- Warshak, R. A. (1978). The Effects of Father Custody and Mother Custody on Children’s Personality Development. Doctoral dissertation, University of Texas Health Science Center, Dallas, TX.
- Behavior: Woe Is One. (1980, September 8).Time, 116 (10).
- Dr. Richard Warshak's Speaking Engagements. www.warshak.com.
- Hague Conference on Private International Law, Permanent Bureau, Child Abduction/Protection of Children (2012). Preliminary Note On International Family Relocation, referring to Warshak, R. A. (2000). Social Science and Children's Best Interests in Relocation Cases: Burgess Revisited. Family Law Quarterly, 34 (1), 83-113 as one of “three of the most cited articles” on relocation.
- Parental Alienation Case Law
- German civil code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch –BGB), Palandt, C. H. Beck-Verlag, München 2006, 65th edition, Vol. 7, § 1684, Rd-Nr. 7, p. 1970 and 2007, 66th edition, Vol. 7, § 1684, Rd.-Nr. 7, p. 1975.
- Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament). Lapsen vieraannuttaminen etävanhemmastaan avioerotilanteessa.[dead link]
- Ohio legislators should support shared parenting and parental equality, by Professor Donald Hubin: “[T]he American Psychological Association published a report by prominent psychologist Richard Warshak, titled "Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report," that concluded shared parenting should be the norm. What's more, the conclusions were endorsed by 110 researchers and practitioners who added their names to the paper -- a rare occurrence in social science."
- Brix, D. J.(1994). Dallas Society for Psychoanalytic Psychology: A brief history. In R. C. Lane and M. Meisels (Eds.), A History of the Division of Psychoanalysis of the American Psychological Association. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Making kids chose not wise in custody battles
- The Huffington Post: Richard Warshak.
- Warshak, R. A. (2014, July 19). After Parents Split, Overnight Stays With Dad Are Best For Most Young Children. Child and Family Blog.
- Fidler, B. J. & Bala, N. (2010). Guest Editors’ Introduction To Special Issue On Alienated Children In Divorce And Separation: Emerging Approaches For Families And Courts. Family Court Review, 48 (1), 6-9. “The impetus for this special issue arises from the preparation of a paper by Richard Warshak that was submitted for publication in FCR. His article 'Family Bridges: Using Insights from Social Science to Reconnect Parents and Alienated Children' is the first to appear in a refereed journal on the workshop. It went through a rigorous peer-review process before being accepted for publication” (page 7).
- Warshak, R. A. (2003). Bringing Sense to Parental Alienation: a Look at the Disputes and the Evidence. Family Law Quarterly, 37, 273-301.
- In Focus: Divorce Poison (2010-02-19). PBS KNME-TV.
- Warshak, supra note 3 at 61-62: "Relief from alienation requires an understanding of all the contributing factors.The child may have her own motives, the rejected parent may be responding in a rigid manner that reinforces the negative attitudes, and the favored parent may be actively or passively supporting the rupture of the parent-child relationship. In additron to the actions of the parents and child, sometimes the circumstances of the marriage and divorce play a key role." Warshak, supra note 3 at 63: "The search for the roots of alienation is not a quest to place blame but to find effective solutions to this tragic problem."
- Levy, D. L., & Sauber, S. R. (2011). Review of the DVD Welcome Back, Pluto: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 39, 77-85.
- Pigg, S. (2010, February 9). Tough Love From Texas. Toronto Star.
- Arndt, B. (2014, April 28). Empty days, lonely nights. The Age.
- Paul, P. (2004, August 30). Joint Custody Blues. Time.
- Rochman, B. (2011, May 19). The Schwarzenegger Kids: Coping with Parental Betrayal in the Public Eye. Time.