Call me with Your stories 1p.m.-8p.m.EST M-F (203)491-0065

Readers

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Proof That Only A Sicko Would Write about, Believe Or Use Parental Alienation Syndrome

This is researched information, compiled by attorneys, therapists and victims. If you are truly intent on using Mr. Gardner's Parental Ailenation Syndrome against someone in court, perhaps you might want to think twice about what it is you are truly saying. Unless of course your a pedophile, then the only thig you need is prison and castration. These are the facts. These are statements made by Mr. Gardner. Now that you are informed there is no reason to use this theory. And if you still choose to then obviously, you shouldnt be parenting any child.     


               Overview of Dr. Richard Gardner's Opinions on Pedophilia and Child Sexual Abuse


Richard A. Gardner, M.D., is the creator of the creator and main proponent for Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) theory. Prior to his suicide, Gardner was an unpaid part-time clinical professor of child psychiatry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University . He made his money mainly as a forensic expert.

PAS was developed by Dr Richard Gardner in 1985 based on his personal observations and work as an expert witness, often on behalf of fathers accused of molesting their children. Gardner asserted that PAS is very common and he saw manifestations of this syndrome in over 90% of the custody conflicts he evaluated--even when abuse allegations are not raised (Gardner, 1987, p. 67).1 Gardner (September 6, 1993) claimed that PAS is "a disorder of children, arising almost exclusively in child-custody disputes, in which one parent (usually the mother) programs the child to hate the other parent (usually the father)."2

Gardner 's theory of PAS has had a profound effect on how the court systems in our country handle allegations of child sexual abuse, especially during divorce. Gardner has authored more than 250 books and articles with advice directed towards mental health professionals, the legal community, divorcing adults and their children. Gardner 's private publishing company, Creative Therapeutics, published his many books, cassettes, and videotapes.3 Information available on Gardner 's website indicates that he has been certified to testify as an expert in approximately 400 cases, both criminal and civil, in more than 25 states.4 Gardner 's work continues to serve as a basis for decisions affecting the welfare of children in courtrooms across the nation. He is considered a leading authority in family courts and has even been described as the "guru" of child custody evaluations.4

Because Gardner 's PAS theory is based on his clinical observations--not scientific data--it must be understood in the context of his extreme views concerning women, pedophilia and child sexual abuse.


                                                  Gardner on pedophilia

The vast majority ("probably over 95%") of all sex abuse allegations are valid.

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 7, 140).

"There is a bit of pedophilia in every one of us."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 118)

"Pedophilia has been considered the norm by the vast majority of individuals in the history of the world."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 592-3)

Similarly, "intrafamilial pedophilia (that is, incest) is widespread and ... is probably an ancient tradition"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

"It is because our society overreacts to it [pedophilia] that children suffer."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 594-5)

Pedophilia may enhance the survival of the human species by serving "procreative purposes."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 24-5)

Pedophilia "is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people."

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, (p. 93)

In addition, Gardner proposes that many different types of human sexual behavior, including pedophilia, sexual sadism, necrophilia (sex with corpses), zoophilia (sex with animals), coprophilia (sex involving defecation), can be seen as having species survival value and thus do "not warrant being excluded from the list of the `so-called natural forms of human sexual behavior.'"

See, Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 18-32)

                                     Gardner on the sexual aggressiveness of children

Gardner suggests that children want to have sex with adults and may seduce them.

Some children experience " high sexual urges in early infancy. " "There is good reason to believe that most, if not all, children have the capacity to reach orgasm at the time they are born."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 15)



Children are naturally sexual and may initiate sexual encounters by "seducing" the adult .

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).

If the sexual relationship is discovered, " the child is likely to fabricate so that the adult will be blamed for the initiation ."

Gardner, R.A. (1986). Child Custody Litigation: A Guide for Parents and Mental Health Professionals. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p. 93).

"The normal child exhibits a wide variety of sexual fantasies and behaviors, many of which would be labeled as 'sick' or 'perverted' if exhibited by adults"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 12)

Sex abuse is not necessarily traumatic; the determinant as to whether sexual molestation will be traumatic to the child, is the social attitude toward these encounters.

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 670-71)



                Gardner on therapy with children who are sexually abused by their father

 Keep the child connected to the abuser

Special care should be taken not alienate the child from the molesting parent. The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 537)

The child should be told that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. "The sexual exploitation has to be put on the negative list, but positives as well must be appreciated"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 572)

 Tell the child that sexual abuse by a father is normal

Older children may be helped to appreciate that sexual encounters between an adult and a child are not universally considered to be reprehensible acts. The child might be told about other societies in which such behavior was and is considered normal. The child might be helped to appreciate the wisdom of Shakespeare's Hamlet, who said, "Nothing's either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 549)

"In such discussions the child has to be helped to appreciate that we have in our society an exaggeratedly punitive and moralistic attitude about adult-child sexual encounters"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.(p. 572).

         Gardner on mothers who discover that their husband is sexually abusing their child

Gardner blames the father's abuse on the mother, who he faults for not fulfilling her husband sexually. He suggests that therapists should help mother's of incest victims achieve sexual gratification.

• Discourage litigation.

• Encourage her to stay with her husband (the abuser)

• Blame her and the daughter for the sexual abuse by the father

"It may be that one of the reasons the daughter turned toward the father is the impairment of the child's relationship with the mother" (pp. 579-80)
Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585)

• Help her get over her anger at her husband for sexually abusing their child.

"If the mother has reacted to the abuse in a hysterical fashion, or used it as an excuse for a campaign of denigration of the father, then the therapist does well to try and "sober her up".... Her hysterics ... will contribute to the child's feeling that a heinous crime has been committed and will thereby lessen the likelihood of any kind of rapproachment with the father. One has to do everything possible to help her put the "crime" in proper perspective. She has to be helped to appreciate that in most societies in the history of the world, such behavior was ubiquitous [i.e., everywhere], and this is still the case."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 576-7)

"Perhaps she can be helped to appreciate that in the history of the world his behavior has probably been more common than the restrained behavior of those who do not sexually abuse their children."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585)

• Encourage her to become more sexually responsive to her husband.

"Her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification."

"Verbal statements about the pleasures of orgastic response are not likely to prove very useful. One has to encourage experiences, under proper situations of relaxation, which will enable her to achieve the goal of orgastic response."

"One must try to overcome any inhibition she may have with regard to [the use of vibrators]."

"Her own diminished guilt over masturbation will make it easier for her to encourage the practice in her daughter, if this is warranted. And her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 585

                                 Gardner on fathers who sexually abuse their children

• Tell him what he did his normal

"He has to be helped to appreciate that, even today, it [pedophilia] is a widespread and accepted practice among literally billions of people. He has to appreciate that in our Western society especially, we take a very punitive and moralistic attitude toward such inclinations. He has had a certain amount of back (sic) luck with regard to the place and time he was born with regard to social attitudes toward pedophilia."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 593)

He has had bad luck with regard to the place and time he was born with regard to social attitudes toward pedophilia. However, these are not reasons to condemn himself.

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

• Keep him in the home

The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapprochement with the family have proven futile"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

• Help him protect himself

"He must learn to control himself if he is to protect himself from the Draconian punishments meted out to those in our society who act out their pedophilic impulses."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill , NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)

• Help him forget about it

Therapy with the father should not be spent focusing on the primary problem (I.e., sexual molestation). Instead, therapy should be spent "talking about other things" as the goal of therapy is "to help people forget about their problems"

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 585-592)



            Gardner on how society should respond to the widespread victimization of children

•Take a more sympathetic view toward pedophilia

"One of the steps that society must take to deal with the present hysteria is to 'come off it' and take a more realistic attitude toward pedophilic behavior." (p. 120)

"The Draconian punishments meted out to pedophiles .go far beyond what I consider to be the gravity of the crime." (p. 118)

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited. Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

•Abolish mandated reporting of child sexual abuse.

•Do away with immunity for reporters of child abuse.

•Create federally-funded programs to assist those claiming to have been falsely accused of child sexual abuse.

Gardner, R.A. (1995). Written testimony on HR3588 - Proposed revision of the child abuse prevention and treatment act (CAPTA) (Public Law 93-247).

• Keep pedophiles in the community

The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home "should only be seriously considered after all attempts at treatment of the pedophilia and rapproachment with the family have proven futile"

Pedophiles who abuse children outside of the home should first be given the opportunity for community treatment. "If that fails then and only then should some kind of forced incarceration be considered"

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 119)

Gardner on Child abuse hysteria

Child abuse allegations are the "third-greatest wave of hysteria" the nation has seen, following the Salem witch trials and the McCarthyite persecution of leftists.

Gardner, R.A. (1993, February 22). Modern witch hunt--child abuse charges. The Wall Street Journal, p. A10.

"We are currently living in dangerous times, similar to Nazi Germany. Sexual abuse hysteria is omnipresent."

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. xxv)

Who is to Blame for "Child Abuse Hysteria"?

• People who voice negative feelings against pedophiles

"During their harangues against the 'perverts' who are the objects of their scorn, they often rise to a level of excitation that can readily be seen as sexual. . . . Psychological, such individuals are ever fighting to repress their own unacceptable pedophilic impulses, which are continually pressing for release."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 30-31).

• The legal system - including judges

"There is no question that abuse cases are "turn ons" for the wide variety of individuals involved in them, the accuser(s), the prosecutors, the lawyers, the judges , the evaluators, the psychologists, the reporters, the readers of the newspapers, and everyone else involved - except for the falsely accused and the innocent victim .. Everyone is getting their 'jollies, ."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 31).

"Judges . too may have repressed pedophilic impulses over which there is suppression, repression, and guilt. Inquiry into the details of the case provides voyeuristic and vicarious gratifications .. Incarcerating the alleged perpetrator may serve psychologically to obliterate the judge's own projected pedophilic impulses."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (p. 107)

• Sexually inhibited mothers

"The mother . is . psychologically gratifying [her own sexually inhibited needs] with the visual imagery that the sex abuse allegation provides."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (pp. 36-37).

• Greedy parents

"Many are victims of their greed, which is so enormous that they blind themselves to the psychological traumas they are subjecting their children to in the service of winning lawsuits that promise them enormous wealth."

Gardner, R.A. (1991). Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics (p 43).

• Judeo-Christian principles

"It is of interest that of all the ancient peoples it may very well be that the Jews were the only ones who were punitive toward pedophiles.. Our present overreaction to pedophilia represents an exaggeration of Judeo-Christian principles and is a significant factor operative in Western society's atypicality with regard to such activities

Gardner, R.A. (1992). True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse . Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics. (pp. 46-7).


                                               For more information see:

Dallam, S. J. (1998). Dr. Richard Gardner: A review of his theories and opinions on atypical sexuality, pedophilia, and treatment issues. Treating Abuse Today , 8(1), 15-23.

1.Gardner, R. A. (1987).The parental alienation syndrome and the differentiation between fabricated and genuine child sex abuse . Creskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

2.Gardner, R.A. (1993, September 6) Dr. Gardner defends work on sex abuse. National Law Journal, p. 16.

3.Sherman, Rorie. (1993, August 16) Gardner 's Law: "A Controversial Psychiatrist and Influential Witness Leads the Backlash against Child Sex Abuse 'Hysteria.'" The National Law Journal , pp. 1, 45-46.

4. See Gardner 's CV on his website (available at http://www.rgardner.com/pages/cvqual.html). See also: People v. Fortin, 706 N.Y.S.2d 611, 612 (Crim. Ct. 2000). Fortin was a criminal sex abuse case in which Dr. Gardner offered to testify on behalf of the accused molester concerning PAS and the credibility of the complaining witness. The court refused to permit his testimony because of a failure to establish general acceptance of PAS within the professional community.)

5. Quinn, K.M. (1991). Family evaluation in child custody mediation, arbitration, and litigation (Book Review). Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 19(1), 101-02.



            Return to Page: Abuse and Custody Disputes: Scientific and Legal Issues

Richard Gardner and Parental Alienation Syndrome

The debate rages on...

In Death, Can He Survive?

Psychiatrist Richard A. Gardner’s theory - used by parents in child custody battles - gained prominence. And critics.
                           


                                 By Jamie Talan, Newsday.com, July 1, 2003

In life, Richard A. Gardner was known for single-handedly devising a psychiatric syndrome that became widely used in courtrooms by parents battling over child custody.

Gardner died in May, and only time can determine his legacy - whether the label he created, parental alienation syndrome, can withstand critics now that he can no longer defend it.

Most mental health professionals have an opinion about Gardner's creation - and it's not generally flattering.

"This is junk science," said Dr. Paul Fink, a professor of psychiatry at Temple University School of Medicine and a past president of the American Psychiatric Association in Arlington, Va. "He invented a concept and talked as if it were proven science. It's not."

Gardner developed the syndrome, known as PAS, almost 20 years ago, contending that

a child has been alienated from one parent - usually the father - when the other parent makes charges of sexual, physical or emotional abuse.

PAS appears to be used only in custody battles during divorces.
Gardner's online biography says he testified in about 400 cases in 25 states. Psychologists and psychiatrists who trained under him or embraced his theory also have offered testimony in such cases.

Most often, it is a father who hired Gardner or another psychiatrist in response to the mother's allegations that their child or children had been abused, Fink said. The psychiatrist then would label the mother a "parental alienator" and urge the court to prevent her from being with the children - the ones diagnosed with PAS.

But most mental health professionals say the label doesn't meet the definition of a psychiatric illness.

It's not found in psychiatric textbooks on diagnoses. In the late 1980s, when psychiatrists were revising the profession's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Dr. Robert Spitzer, who was leading the effort and is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in Manhattan, said Gardner, also affiliated with Columbia, asked whether PAS could be included.

"It would never be taken seriously in DSM," Spitzer said in an interview. "It isn't a mental disorder."

Dr. David Shaffer, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia, said the controversy triggered several in-house reviews of Gardner's ideas. (Gardner had a nonpaid clinical appointment on Columbia's voluntary faculty.) Reviews found he "didn't do formal research."

Nevertheless, he defended Gardner's right to create a syndrome.

"Most of medicine is not based on formal research but clinical observation," he said. He saw Gardner as a "contrarian. [...] He liked getting a rise out of people."

Fink said the practical effect of introducing Gardner's theory in custody cases is that the issues of abuse are pushed aside.

Harvard's Dr. Eli Newberger, an assistant professor of pediatrics and an expert on child abuse, said he's been called on by state child protection agencies to evaluate ambiguous disclosures of abuse in divorce cases and believes that PAS deflects any real investigation into such allegations.

At the center of the storm, Newberger said, is Gardner and his theory.

"This is an atrocious theory with no science to back it up," he said. "This so-called diagnosis has been used to steer clear of the children's needs."

"There are lots of people who alienate their partners during a divorce," Fink said. "But it is not a syndrome, a disease or a disorder."

Joyanna Silberg, a Baltimore psychologist and strong opponent of the theory, said that Gardner used a questionnaire to determine whether a parent fit the profile of a sex offender - then used the results to show that allegations of child abuse are lies. But the questionnaire is "far from valid," said child sex abuse expert Robert Prentky of the nonprofit Justice Resource Institute in Bridgewater, Mass. Scales that Prentky has developed to diagnose sex offenders have been tested and accepted by the profession. "There is no science to back up Gardner's tests," he said.

Gardner, who was 72 at his death, trained in the heyday of psychoanalysis in New York, the late 1950s and early '60s. He then served a two-year stint in the Army as director of child psychiatry for a U.S. Army hospital in Germany, and subsequently settled in Cresskill, N.J., where he began testifying in child custody cases, according to an entry on his Web site: "Qualifications for providing court testimony."

That he wrote a popular children's book on divorce in 1969, followed by a book for parents, helped bolster his role in custody cases.

According to Donna LaTourett, Gardner's editor at his own publishing company, Creative Therapeutics, by the 1980s he noticed that more children were having "strong objections over one parent for no good reasons." He coined the term PAS in 1985 and listed eight primary signs and symptoms.

In 1992, he self-published a book about the syndrome. Fathers' groups heralded his work. Women's organizations bashed it. After a period of observation, professional mental health organizations tried to discredit it.

Gardner had a growing group of followers and clients, mostly men. He promoted his theory around the world and built a practice as a court-appointed psychiatric evaluator and paid expert witness. Detractors say he also used his affiliation with Columbia to bolster his status.

There are no statistics on how many children have been characterized as having PAS.

"I do believe that there is a phenomenon of children who turn against the parent for no good reason," said Richard Warshak, a clinical professor of psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "Children are influenced by their parents."

He is a proponent of Gardner's theory and says that his death won't stop the controversial diagnosis. He agreed that use of "syndrome" may "strengthen confidence in the expert's testimony and the validity of it" and said mental health professionals are trying to shorten the term to "parental alienation."

"Yes, he said things that were very provocative," said Warshak, author of "Divorce Poison: Protecting the Parent-Child Bond from a Vindictive Ex" (Regan Books). "Some of the stuff is outrageous, speculative and outright contrary to the evidence."

But the court's acceptance of the diagnosis without the psychiatric profession's endorsement is "dangerous," Newberger stressed.

During a hearing in Nassau County in 2000, Gardner was called to testify about PAS. According to the transcript of the hearing - called to evaluate scientific evidence supporting the theory - Gardner offered this definition of PAS:

"The programming of the child by one parent into a campaign of denigration directed against the other."

"Courts cannot wait the 25 years or more that it would take to conduct such studies [to validate a syndrome]," Gardner told the court. " ... Neither can people who have been accused of sex abuse wait for these results."

The court ruled that there was not convincing scientific evidence that PAS was a psychiatric syndrome.

But it has endured - perhaps, said Silberg, the psychologist in Baltimore, because it is rare in family courts for lawyers or judges

"to question the expert testimony of a psychiatrist with a long list of seemingly impressive credentials and dozens of professional-looking books and journal articles."

PAS "is a defense lawyer's dream," said Richard Ducote, a New Orleans, La., lawyer who has spent a decade fighting Gardner and his supporters in court.

Last year, Norma Perez of Elgin, Ill., was suing for divorce and testified that she worried that her husband's history of alcoholism might endanger the welfare of her daughter during visits. Her husband's attorneys began to talk about parental alienation syndrome and hired Gardner, who eventually testified that Perez was a parental alienator.

"He never interviewed me or my daughter," said Perez, 44, who lost custody of her daughter and was not permitted to see her for eight weeks after the judge's ruling. She now gets to see her daughter every other weekend. Her lawyers have appealed the decision.

But fathers' rights activists see Gardner's theory as a boon.

"Richard Gardner gave science to the anecdotes of alienation," said Warren Farrell, author of "Father and Child Reunion" and a board member of the National Congress for Fathers and Children. He says that PAS "is an attempt to distinguish between false accusations and real abuse."

Farrell added that parental alienation itself is "probably the most insidious form of child abuse" and charged that many women allege abuse during a custody battle to curtail visitation with the father.

But others say that in many of these cases there are confirmed reports to back up the allegations of abuse. However, so many women have lost custody battles when PAS is used that lawyers are beginning to advise them not to make allegations of abuse, Silberg said.

Gardner's son, Andrew, said that his father's death came when he was at the height of his career, when he "had to turn down case after case."

His father had undergone three foot surgeries, the last of which triggered a disorder called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which caused sharp pain in his legs. He was taking pain medications, Andrew Gardner said.

On the last weekend in May, his pain out of control, Gardner took an overdose to end his life. He sent an e-mail to his office about the suicide.

But he awoke from the drug stupor and killed himself with a knife, said his son, who added that the suicide had no connection to his father's work.

But that work - and that syndrome - has left hundreds of women questioning its value.

"We are exhausted," said Lauren Smith, 52, who lost custody of her daughter in 1993. She told the court that her husband, Marshall Krause, a criminal attorney in Marin County in California, had a violent temper. He used PAS to gain custody of their daughter, Alanna, and Smith was denied visitation.

In 1995, according to court records, a teacher reported to police that Krause physically abused Alanna at school. A court reversed custody upon evidence that Alanna's father had been physically violent.

Alanna, now a student at Northwestern University, has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit alleging that she suffered years of abuse at the hands of her father.

Idelle Clarke knows firsthand how damaging an untested theory can be. "Our children are his legacy," said Clarke, a Californian whose ex-husband was twice identified and charged as a child abuser by Children and Family Services. But Clarke was characterized as an alienator and lost custody to the father.

"What's a child to think?" she asked. "I will not give up."

The PAS label "has lived a lot longer than the data that supports it," added Alan Scheflin, a professor at Santa Clara University Law School. "I expect people to come up with crackpot theories. "But then I expect scientists to do their jobs."

           Parental Alienation Syndrome - What Professionals Need To Know Part 1

                                                                               by Erika Rivera Ragland1 & Hope Fields


Update - Volume 16, Number 6, 2003
Part 1 of 2

Introduction

The late Dr. Richard Gardner, a clinical professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University, coined Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) in 1985, after noticing a “disorder” among patients within his private practice. The “disorder” involves one parent alienating the child against the other parent typically in the context of a child-custody dispute. Dr. Gardner defined PAS as follows:

[t]he parental alienation syndrome is a childhood disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the target parent. When true parental abuse and/or neglect is present, the child’s animosity may be justified and so the parental alienation syndrome explanation for the child’s hostility is not applicable.3

Absent from this definition is specific reference to sexual abuse allegations, but these are often the “denigration” to which Dr. Gardner referred in his definition. In this context, PAS becomes a litigation tool for the accused parent to discredit the validity of the child’s sex abuse allegations by mounting an attack against the “inducing parent.”

Although PAS may be hailed as a “syndrome” (a group of symptoms that occur together and constitute a recognizable abnormality), in fact it is the product of anecdotal evidence gathered from Dr. Gardner’s own practice.4 The purpose of this article is to briefly discuss the major premises upon which PAS is based, and to identify key weaknesses. Part 2 of this Update considers case law and strategies for meeting PAS defenses.

PAS is based primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical research.

1. PAS Presupposes a High Rate of False Accusations in Custody Cases

The theory of PAS is based in part on the notion that, within custody disputes, there is a high incidence of false abuse allegations. Dr. Gardner theorized that allegations arising within the context of a custody dispute have a “high likelihood of being false,”5 and went so far as to state that he believed “the vast majority of allegations in this category [divorce cases with custody disputes] are false.” 6 To the contrary, the available research suggests that false allegation rates are not significantly high. For example, a 1990 study by Thoennes and Tjaden evaluated 9,000 divorces in 12 states7 and found that sexual abuse allegations were made in less than 2 percent of the contested divorces involving child custody. Within this group, it appears false allegations occurred in approximately 5% to 8% of cases.8 This study is one of the most comprehensive and least subject to bias and sampling problems, since its sample is so large and representative of the population of those divorcing with custody and visitation disputes.9

2. PAS Presumes a Disadvantage to Women in Child Custody Determinations

Another underlying principle of PAS is that women more often than men resort to making false allegations of abuse in disputed custody proceedings. The theory is that mothers encourage false accusations in order to obtain financial or strategic advantage during custody determinations. 10 The reasoning behind this theory seems to be that, in most jurisdictions, custody determination standards have changed from the “tender years” presumption—a standard which favored women obtaining custody of young children—to the “best interests of the child.”11

This hypothesis ignores the fact that most sex offenders are indeed men.12 It also fails to account for the possibility that the divorce process might liberate an abused child from the heavy burden associated with keeping a secret like sexual abuse,13 or that post-divorce living conditions or circumstances might render a child vulnerable to sexual abuse.14

Although the tender year’s presumption which favored women is largely gone, women are not disadvantaged under the new standard. The “best interests” standard removes gender presumptions altogether from custody determinations.15 It should be noted that some legal scholars suspect a gender bias within PAS theory itself.16

Other Weaknesses: Lack of Peer Review and Recognition by DSM-IV

Dr. Gardner mostly self-published and thus did not generally subject his theory to the peer review process.17 Moreover, PAS is not recognized by any professional associations,18 including the American Psychiatric Association. PAS is also not included within the DSM-IV.

It is also worth noting that Dr. Gardner often expressed disdain for child abuse professionals, labeling them “validators,” theorizing that greed and desire for increased business prompted some sexual abuse allegations, and speculating that parents and professionals alike made some false allegations because “all of us have some pedophilia within us.”19

Conclusion

At best, PAS is a nondiagnostic “syndrome” that only explains the behavior of the child and the mother when there is a known false allegation.20 It is a courtroom diagnosis befitting adversaries involved in legal sparring. It is not capable of lending itself to hard data or inclusion in the forthcoming DSM-V.

In short, PAS is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.

Prosecutors and other child abuse professionals should educate themselves, their colleagues and clients when
confronting PAS in the legal realm. Part 2 of this newsletter will address the case law on this subject. For more in-depth and comprehensive treatment of these issues, contact the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1 Staff Attorney, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

2 Staff Attorney, American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse.

3 Richard A. Gardner, M.D., “Does the DSM-IV Have Equivalents for the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Diagnosis?” American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(1):1-21; also available, http://www.rgardner.com/refs/ar12.html.

4 Richard A. Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, at 59 (1992) (noting in the introduction of this book that he termed the disorder PAS after seeing children in his practice whom he believed were “brainwashed by one parent against the other”).

5 Gardner, 1991, p. 4.

6 See Kathleen Coulborn Faller, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: What is it and What Data Support it? Child Maltreatment, Vol. 3, No. 2, May 1998.

7 Thoennes & Tjaden, The Extent, Nature and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegation in Custody/Visitation Disputes, Child Abuse and Neglect 1990, 14:151-163.

8 Id.

9 Kathleen Coulborn Faller, David L. Corwin & Erna Olafson, Literature Review: Research on False Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Divorce, APSAC Advisor 1993, 6(3), page 9.

10 Richard Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 62, 1992.

11 Richard Gardner, M.D., The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 61-62, 1992.

12 Faller, Corwin & Olafson, supra note 9, at 10.

13 See Meredith Sherman Fahn, Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in Custody Disputes: Getting to the Truth of the Matter, Family Law Quarterly, Vol. XXV, No. 2, Summer 1991, page 203 (quoting Sink, Studies of True and False Allegations: A Critical Review, Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody and Visitation Cases 37, 38 (American Bar Association) (E. Nicholson ed. 1988)). For more information regarding the dynamics of sexual abuse, contact the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse for materials regarding Dr. Roland Summit’s “Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome.”

14 Id. See also Robin Fretwell Wilson, Children at Risk: The Sexual Exploitation of Female Children After Divorce, 86 Cornell L. Rev. 251, 262-263 (2001).

15 See Ex Parte Devine, 398 So.2d 686 (Ala. 1981) (discussing the origin of the tender years presumption and its constitutional infirmities; ultimately abandoning it in favor of the best interests of the child standard).

16 See, e.g., Cheri L. Wood, The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability, 27 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 1367, 1372-73 (1994); Kathleen Niggemyer, Comment, Conceiving the Lawyer as Creative Problem Solver: Parental Alienation Syndrome is Open Heart Surgery: It Needs More than a Band-Aid to Fix It, 34 Cal. W. L. Rev. 567, 576 (1998); Priscilla Read Chenoweth, Don’t Blame the Messenger in Child Sex Abuse Cases, N.J. L.J., April 19, 1993, at 17 (finding that “Gardner’s extravagant and conclusory language, and his obvious bias against women, should be enough to give any judge or lawyer pause before accepting his invitation to disbelieve and even punish the messenger [i.e., the parent reporting abuse by the other parent].” See also Marie Laing, For the Sake of the Children: Preventing Reckless New Laws, 16 Can. J. Fam. L. 229, 274 (1999) (concluding, “much of Gardner’s writing is strongly anti-woman. He states that the claims of women who refuse joint mediation due to violence are somewhere ‘between fabrication and delusion’”). For direct quotes from Dr. Gardner, refer to his 1992 book, The Parental Alienation Syndrome, p. 122.

17 See Cheri L. Wood, supra, note 16.

18 Id.

19 Gardner (1991), page 26. He wrote, “Each time the accusers make an accusation, they are likely to be forming an internal visual image of the sexual encounter. With each mental replay, the accusers gratify the desire to be engaging in the activities that the perpetrators are involved in in the visual imagery.” See also Faller, supra note 6, at 104-105.

20 See Faller, supra note 6, at 111.

No comments: