Richard Alan Gardner [1931-2003], was the author of more than 40 books and hundreds of academic papers on child psychology.
A clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, Gardner became known for advocating for fathers accused of sexually abusing their children in custody battles.
In 1987, Gardner published his book, “The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricated and Genuine Child Sex Abuse,” which introduced the term “parental alienation syndrome.”
Gardner says his PAS was based on his experience representing fathers, not clinical research.
PAS has been a boon to psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, family therapists, guardians ad litem, visitation supervisors, reunification therapists, reunification camp counselors, custody evaluators, and attorneys for fighting or soon-to-be-fighting spouses.
By Richard Gardner
The mother-child psychological bond is generally stronger than the father-child…. Parental alienation syndrome — in both mothers and children — have been related to the attempts to preserve this stronger bond….
Many of these mothers’ tactics may be considered vicious, manipulative, and deceitful… They… resorted to primitive techniques… And children… threatened by the disruption of the mother-child bond [employ] techniques even more primitive…
Only the court has the power to order these mothers to stop their manipulations and maneuvering….
Severe Cases of PAS
The mothers of these children are often fanatic. They will use every maneuver at their disposal (legal and illegal)…. They are obsessed with hatred of their husbands. In many cases, they are paranoid…. These mothers see in their husbands many objectionable characteristics that actually exist within themselves…
When a sex-abuse accusation becomes incorporated into the package, such mothers may be projecting their own sexual inclinations onto the father…. They exaggerate and distort any comment the child makes….
Children normally will entertain sexual fantasies, often of the most bizarre form…. Children are “polymorphous perverse,” and… provide these mothers with an ample supply of material to serve as nuclei for their projections and accusations.
Such mothers do not respond to logic, confrontations with reality, or appeals to reason. They will readily believe the most preposterous scenarios provided by or elicited from their children.
Experienced and skilled mental health examiners — who claim that there is no evidence for the accusation are dismissed as being against them or as being bribed by the husband….
Even a court decision that there is absolutely no evidence that the father is guilty of sex abuse does not alter her beliefs nor reduce
her commitment to deprecation of the father. Energizing the rage is the “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” phenomenon.
The children of these mothers are similarly fanatic. They often share her paranoid fantasies about the father. They may become panic-stricken over the prospect of visiting their father.
Their blood-curdling shrieks, panicked states, and hostility may be so severe that visitation may seem impossible…. children… whose state of agitated rage against the father will become reduced if required (especially by court order) to remain in their father’s home over an ongoing period….
Traditional therapy for the mother is most often not possible. Usually, she has absolutely no insight into her deep-seated psychiatric problems….
It is important for judges to appreciate that treatment for the children is most often not possible while the children are still living in the mother’s home….
There is a pathological psychological bond here between the mother and children that is not going to be changed by therapy as long as the children live with the mother…. The children must be removed from the mother’s home and placed in the home of the father…. The court might have to… jail… the mother [who] does not comply.
Following this transfer [of custody] there must be a period… in which the mother has no contact at all with the children.
Only in this way will the children be given the opportunity to reestablish their relationship with the alienated father without significant contamination from the mother. Even telephone calls must be strictly prohibited…
Then, according to the therapist’s or guardian ad litem’s judgment, slowly increasing contacts with the mother may be initiated, starting with monitored telephone calls.
The danger here, however, is that these will be opportunities for reprogramming the children against the father….. One may have to sever the children entirely from the mother for many months or even years.
In such cases the children will at least be living with the healthier parent…. In such cases, the animosity toward the father gradually becomes reduced [once the mother is out of the children’s lives.].
I recognize that some readers will consider this approach very stringent, even punitive. From the point of view of the mother it certainly is; with regard to the welfare of the children, it is the most humane approach….
Again, it is crucial that the therapist be court ordered and have direct input to the judge…. The judge must be willing to impose sanctions, such as fines or jail [on] mothers…
The court should order the mother to see the court’s therapist even though her cooperation is not likely to be significant…
The court’s therapist must have a thick skin and be able to tolerate the children’s shrieks and claims of maltreatment….
Therapists of the persuasion that they must “respect” their child patients and accede to their wishes will be doing these children a terrible disservice….
The therapist should view the children’s professed hatred as superficial… To take the [children’s] allegations of maltreatment seriously may help entrench the parental alienation syndrome and may result in years of, if not lifelong alienation [from the father]….
[Therapists] must also be comfortable with taking a somewhat dictatorial position. This is especially important in their relationship with the mothers…. The therapist must appreciate that more of the therapy relates to manipulating and structuring situations [to flip custody to the father] than to providing people with insight….
When a parental alienation syndrome is present, the therapeutic approach must first involve a significant degree of people manipulation (usually by court order) and structure before one can sit down and talk meaningfully with the parties involved.
Moreover, therapists who accept as valid the patient’s wishes (whether child or adult)…. are also not good candidates…. Doing what the patient wants and doing what the patient needs may be two entirely different things….
Without the therapist’s having the court’s power to bring about the various manipulations and structural changes [flip custody to the father despite the cries of children] the therapy is not likely to be possible….
Mothers are often so disturbed that transfer of custody is the only viable option….
I have generally found collaboration with guardians ad litem to be very useful when conducting custody evaluations….
The guardian ad litem can be a powerful ally for therapists…. A guardian ad litem who is not familiar with…. parental alienation syndrome may prove a definite impediment during treatment. … Unfortunately, many [GALs] reflexively support the children’s positions. They may not appreciate that they are promulgating the pathology. Some have great difficulty supporting coercive maneuvers [of removing the mother from the children’s lives]..