Parental Alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome Info at THE LIZ LIBRARY: LIZNOTES

Parental Alienation - Parental Alienation Syndrome:
Research and Information Index

Therapeutic Jurisprudence.
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  • Disciplining Divorcing Parents: Social Construction of Parental Alienation by F. Besset PDF SCHOLAR
  • Domestic Violence by Proxy by J. Silberg, Ph.D. (Leadership Council) off-site SCHOLAR
  • Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome by J. Hoult PDF SCHOLAR
  • Fairness and Accuracy in Evaluations of DV and Abuse by Smith and Coukos PDF SCHOLAR
  • Friendly Parent Concept: A Flawed Factor by M. Dore PDF SCHOLAR
  • NCJFCJ Judges' Guide to Custody Evaluations in Cases of Abuse (it's not PAS) PDF SCHOLAR
  • PAS and Alienated Children -- getting it wrong in child custody cases by C. Bruch PDF SCHOLAR
  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Dangerous Aura of Reliability by C. Wood TXT SCHOLAR
  • Parental Alienation Syndrome by A. Escudero RTF SPANISH SCHOLAR
  • Parental Alienation Syndrome: Proponents Bear the Burden of Proof R. Emery, PDF SCHOLAR
  • PAS and Parental Alienation: Research Reviews by J. Meier PDF SCHOLAR
  • Retaliation Against Professionals Who Report Child Abuse by K. Hine SCHOLAR
  • Richard A. Gardner pedophilia quotes orig. compiled by S. Dallam
  • What is "Parental Alienation Syndrome" 
    and Why Is It So Often Used Against Mothers?

    by John E. B. Myers, Professor of Law
    University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law
    Sacramento, California.

    The following is an excerpt from a book titled
    A Mother's Nightmare: A Practical Legal Guide For Parents And Professionals.

    Psychological and medical syndromes play an important role in understanding behavior and providing treatment to victims of abuse.  Unfortunately, there is one so-called syndrome that, in my opinion, does tremendous harm to many children and their parents, particularly mothers seeking custody in family court. I speak of psychiatrist Richard Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome (1987.)  Gardner writes:

    "One outgrowth of this warfare (over custody) was the development in children of what I refer to as the Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Typically, the child viciously vilifies one of the parents and idealizes the other.  This is not caused simply by parental brainwashing of the child.  Rather the children themselves contribute their own scenarios in support of the favored parent.  My experience has been that in about 80 to 90 percent of cases the mother is the favored parent and the father the vilified one." (1989, p. 2)

    Gardner is an outspoken critic of certain aspects of the child protection system.  Apparently, Gardner believes America is in the throes of mass hysteria over child sexual abuse.

    He writes that "sex-abuse hysteria is omnipresent" (1992, p. xxv).  In his 1991 book titled Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited, Gardner is harshly critical of an unspecified portion of the mental health professionals, investigators, and prosecutors trying to protect children.  For example, Gardner accuses some prosecutors of gratifying their own sexual urges and sadistic tendencies through involvement in sexual abuse cases.  Gardner goes so far as to say that "there is a bit of pedophilia in every one of us" (p. 118).  It seem clear that Richard Gardner cannot claim to be balanced or objective when it comes to allegations of child sexual abuse.

    Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome has not, to my knowledge, been subjected to empirical study, research, or testing.  Nor to my knowledge, has the syndrome been published in peer reviewed medical or scientific journals.

    Rather, the syndrome is simply Richard Gardner's opinion, based on his clinical experience.  Of course, the fact that Parental Alienation Syndrome is based on one man's experience does not imply there is something wrong with the syndrome.  Nevertheless, it is clear that the syndrome is not accepted as a scientifically reliable way of telling whether an allegation of sexual abuse is true or false.  Moreover, in my opinion, much of Gardner's writing, including his Parental Alienation Syndrome, is biased against women.  This gender bias infects the syndrome, and makes it a powerful tool to undermine the credibility of women who allege child sexual abuse. Because parental alienation perpetuates and exacerbates gender bias against women, I believe the syndrome sheds much more darkness than light on this difficult issue.

    Another term coined by Richard Gardner is "Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale."  Of this scale, Lucy Berliner and Jon Conte write:

    "A specific and disturbing example of using (behavioral) indicators as determinative of true versus false cases is that of the Sexual Abuse Legitimacy (SAL) Scale.  This "scale" claims to be able to discriminate between 'bona fide' and 'fabricated' cases by indicating the presence or absence of a series of characteristics of cases.  There are 26 dealing with the alleged victim, 11 dealing with the accuser (usually the mother), and 13 dealing with the accused (usually the father).

    The criteria are divided into those which are very valuable (worth 3 points if present), moderately valuable (2 points), and low but potentially valuable (1 point).  Separate scores are generated for the child, the accused, and accuser.  Scores in the range of 50 percent of the maximum or more are highly suggestive of bonafide sexual abuse and those quite low (below 10 percent) are fabricated.  Sample criteria are: for the child, very hesitant to divulge the abuse or if no quality of a litany; for the accuser, appreciates importance of relationship between child and father or initially denies abuse; for the accused, allegation not in the context of divorce or career choice involving children.  The SAL Scale suffers many of the problems that all indicator approaches suffer and a number which are unique.  It is based entirely on the author's personal observation of an unknown number of cases seen in a specialized forensic practice.  Although reference is made to studies carried out "between 1982 and 1987" they are unpublished, not described, and are of unknown value.  There are no studies which have determined if the scale can be coded reliably. Many of the criteria are poorly defined.  There have been no scientific tests of the ability of the SAL Scale to discriminate among cases.  There is no evidence that the numerical scores have any real meaning. Indeed, to our knowledge, the entire scale and Parent Alienation Syndrome upon which it is based have never been subjected to any kind of peer review or empirical test.  In sum, there is no demonstrated ability of this scale to make valid predictions based on the identified criteria (1993, p. 114)."

    In 1988, researcher and author Jon Conte wrote that Gardner's Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale is "probably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time. To base social policy on something as flimsy as this is exceedingly dangerous" (Moss, 1988, p. 26).

    If you are a woman and you allege child sexual abuse, expect to be attacked with Richard Gardner's Parental Alienation Syndrome.  Gardner's writing is popular among attorneys who represent men accused of abuse, and among some mental health professionals.  Your attorney must be prepared to counteract the misleading and destructive effects of Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale.


    Berliner, L & Conte J. R. (1993). "Sex Abuse Evaluations: Conceptual and Empirical Obstacles," Child Abuse & Neglect, 17m. 111-125.

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

    Gardner, R. A. (1989) "Differentiating Between Bona Fide and Fabricated Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Children." Journal of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. 5. 1-25.

    Gardner, R. A. (1987). "The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the Differentiation Between Fabricates and Genuine Child Sex Abuse." Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics.

    Moss, D. C. (1988). "Abuse Scale: Point System for Abuse Claims. Journal of the American Bar Association". 74, 26.

    [F]amily-law judges have denied some divorced mothers custody of their children, based on a "diagnosis" of "parental alienation syndrome," says Robert Geffner, PhD, a San Diego psychologist and expert on family-violence issues. New Jersey psychiatrist Richard Gardner, MD, coined that term back in 1987 to describe a parent who tries to turn his or her children against the other parent. While psychologists agree that some parents resort to such behavior, parental alienation syndrome is not a valid diagnosis and shouldn't be admitted into child custody cases, Geffner says. See the APA Taskforce Report on Domestic Violence

    and "Parental Alienation Syndrome"

    by Trish Wilson
    copyright 1998 Trish Wilson

    In the Winter, 1989, issue of "American Fatherhood, The Voice of Responsible and Dedicated Fatherhood" (F.A.I.R. The National Fathers' Organization, Camden, Delaware), Richard Gardner, in his article "Parental Alienation Syndrome," asks "why do some mothers do everything in their power to alienate the children from the father?  What can be done?"

    Mothers are most often labeled with PAS, not fathers.  Gardner's description of the mothers behavior under his three PAS categories of severe, moderate, and mild is not only his personal opinion, but it also exposes his sexism and bias against women.  PAS is designed to be used during a contested child custody hearing, particularly when allegations of child sexual abuse are made.  The ultimate goal is removal of the child from the home and custody of the mother, and award full custody to the allegedly abusive father.  

    QUOTE FROM APA WEBSITE ARTICLEThe cards are stacked against the mother from the moment PAS is introduced in the courtroom.  PAS is set up in such a manner that the mother is guaranteed to be labeled with this dubious syndrome, and that removal of the child from her care is the only possible outcome.  She is guaranteed to lose custody of her children unless her counsel demonstrates the gaping flaws within PAS.  The court personnel must not only be made aware that PAS is not recognized as a valid medical syndrome by the AMA and the APA, but that use of this dubious syndrome as a means of removing custody from fit mothers alleging abuse will not be kept quiet.

    PAS is designed to work in a court setting, otherwise "treatment of such families" (i.e.; removal of the child permanently from the mother's care) won't be successful.  Gardner emphasizes that "in many cases the therapy of these families is not possible without court support.  Only the court has the power to order these mothers to stop their manipulations and maneuvering.  And it is only the court that has the power to place the children in whichever home would best suit their needs at the particular time.  Therapists who embark upon the treatment of such families without such court backing are not likely to be successful.  I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough."

    The mother is not only prohibited from having fair court representation, she is also prohibited from having fair and even-handed therapy.  Gardner finds it imperative that "... the therapist be court ordered and have direct input to the judge. This can often be facilitated by the utilization of a guardian ad litem or a child advocate, who has the opportunity for direct communication with the court.  The mother must know that any obstructionism on her part will be immediately reported to the judge, either by the therapist or though the guardian ad litem or child advocate.  The court must be willing to impose sanctions such as fines or jail.  The threat of loss of primary custody can also help such mothers 'remember to cooperate.'" Mothers in these cases are forced to adhere to prearranged "treatment" regardless of whether or not they agree with any of the decisions being made.  If they voice objections, they will be labeled as uncooperative and/or mentally ill.

    Under his category of "severe" PAS, he states that "... the mothers of these children are often fanatic. They will use every mechanism at their disposal (legal and illegal) to prevent visitation. They are obsessed with antagonism towards their husbands.  In many cases, they are paranoid. Sometimes the paranoid thoughts and feelings about the husband are isolated to him alone; in other cases this paranoia is just one example of many types of paranoid thinking.  Often the paranoia did not exhibit itself prior to the breakup of the marriage and may be a manifestation of the psychiatric deterioration that frequently is seen in the context of disputes, especially custody disputes."  Such generalizations are quite common descriptions under PAS, stigmatizing a mother who is attempting to protect her child if she believes that child is being sexually abused.

    He continues with the opinion that these mothers project onto their husbands "... many noxious qualities that actually exist within themselves.  By projecting these unacceptable qualities onto their husbands they can consider themselves innocent victims.  When a sex-abuse allegation becomes part of the package, they may be projecting their own sexual inclinations onto him.  In the service of this goal they exaggerate and distort any comment the child makes that might justify the accusation.  And this is not difficult to do because children normally will entertain sexual fantasies, often of the most bizarre form.  I am in agreement with Freud that children are "polymorphous perverse" and they thereby provide these mothers with an ample supply of material to serve as a nuclei for their projections and accusations."  All this from the man who said that there is some pedophilia in every one of us.

    Not content with labeling the mother with a dubious mental disorder, Gardner goes as far as labeling the children as "similarly fanatic."  These fanatic children apparently "... have joined together with her [the mother] in a relationship in which they share her paranoid fantasies about the father."  The way PAS is designed, a child who acts out, discusses what he or she believes is inappropriate sexual behavior coming from the allegedly abusive father, or demonstrates fear when in the presence of the man identified as the abuser will immediately assume to have been coached by the offending mother.  These children will not be believed, and will not receive the care and protection they desparately need.  Gardner takes legitimate concerns such as a child exhibiting fear over the prospect of visitation with an allegedly abusing father, "blood-curdling shrieks, panicked states, and hostility so severe that visitation is impossible...," and creates the assumption that the child is either lying about the abuse or has been coached by the mother to behave in such a manner.

    In "moderate" cases of PAS, Gardner makes more generalized and sexist comments such as "... the rage-of-the-rejected-woman factor is more important than the paranoid projection contribution."  He cites the mothers' "... campaign of denigration and a significant desire to withhold the children from the father as a vengeance maneuver."  He states that a major difference between "severe" PAS in mothers as opposed to "moderate" PAS is that the mothers in the "severe" category "... have a sick psychological bond with the children (often a paranoid one)."  Mothers suffering from "moderate" PAS are more likely to have a " ... healthy psychological bond that is being compromised by their rage." One wonders if the more likely a mother is to stand by her beliefs and principles and not acquiesce under pressure from her ex and others in the court in order to protect her child, the more likely she is to be labeled within one of the more "severe" PAS categories.  If she is fairly easy to manipulate and control, most likely her level of PAS will be on a milder side.

    Children are not to be believed according to PAS, and the therapists, judges, lawyers, child advocates, and guardians ad litem who support it will ensure that the children's needs are not met.  Gardner goes as far as to compare a child's cries for help regarding sexual abuse to getting a polio shot.  The court's therapist "... must have a thick skin and be able to tolerate the shrieks and claims of maltreatment that these children will provide.  Doing what children profess they want is not always the same as doing what is best for them. Therapists of the persuasion that they must 'respect' their child patients and accede to their wishes will be doing these children a terrible disservice. These same therapists would not 'respect' a child's wish not to have a polio shot, yet they will respect the child's wish not to see a father who shows no significant evidence of abuse, maltreatment, neglect, etc."  The most astounding statement Gardner makes regarding children who are alleging abuse is that "... to take the allegations of maltreatment seriously is a terrible disservice to these children."

    Therapy is seen as the only means of treating PAS.  However, Gardner states that "therapy for the children ... is most often not possible while the children are still living in the mother's home."  Since therapy is the only treatment possible, and Gardner himself has stated that child therapy with "evidence" of PAS will not be successful as long as the child is living with the mother, court-ordered placement with the alleged abuser is 100% guaranteed.  He states that "... the first step toward treatment is removal of the children from the mother's home and placement in the home of the father."  PAS is set up in advance to remove children from the mother's care.  If PAS is introduced by the father, his attorney, his court-appointed and self-selected therapists, so-called child advocates, and the court-appointed guardian ad litem during a contested child custody hearing, the mother is guaranteed to lose custody of her children unless Gardner's "Sex Abuse Legitimacy Scale" is shown to be what University of Washington Professor John Conte has described as "[p]robably the most unscientific piece of garbage I've seen in the field in all my time."

    Gardner states that if the mother has her own therapist, "... a mutual admiration society may develop in which the therapist (consciously or unconsciously) becomes the mother's champion in the fight.  Women in this category have a way of selecting therapists who will support their antagonism toward the father. Most often, the mother chooses a woman as a therapist -- especially a woman who is herself antagonistic toward men."  The mothers' side of the story is guaranteed from the get-go to (1) not be heard, or (2) deemed sick.  If she does have a therapist, the courts view will immediately be tainted against that person under PAS because when therapists who supports the mother manage to have any contact with the alleged abuser, they -- especially if female -- "... typically will be hostile and unsympathetic."

    Gardner encourages the court to prohibit the children from being "... 'treated' by her (as mentioned, rarely a man)."  He urges the court to order the mother to see the court's therapist, "... even though her cooperation is not likely to be significant and even though she may be influenced significantly by her therapist."  Once again, the system is set up in such a way that the mother cannot protect either her own interests or that of her children.  If she attempts to do so, she will be severely penalized by removal of her children from her care and/or prohibition of any contact with her children whatsoever.

    From "Issues and Dilemmas in Family Violence," published by the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence And The Family:

    "When parents separate after an abusive relationship, shouldn't fathers have as much right as mothers to be granted physical custody of and visitation rights with their children?

    "Tensions exist between children's needs for contact with their father and their need to be protected from the physical, sexual and psychological abuse that is common in families where there has been other forms of violence such as woman abuse.

    "Although most people believe that fathers should have equal access to their children after the termination of a relationship between the parents, the equal-access option is based on the assumption that the fathers will act in their children's best interests. However, that is a naive assumption in situations where family violence has occurred.

    "Fathers who batter their children's mothers can be expected to use abusive power and control techniques to control the children, too. In many of these families, prior to separation, the men were not actively involved in the raising of their children. To gain control after the marital separation, the fathers fight for the right to be involved.  Often children who have been exposed to violence in the family are frightened to confront their father's negative or abusive behavior, and mothers cannot protect them.  Sometimes the father tries to alienate the child from the mother by using money and other enticements, negative comments, or restricted access to the telephone during visitation with him.  Other times, fathers may threaten or actually kidnap the child to punish elieve that when a woman leaves a violent man, she will remain the primary caretaker of their children.  Family courts, however, may not consider the history of woman abuse relevant in awarding custody. Recent studies suggest that an abusive man is more likely than a nonviolent father to seek sole physical custody of his children and may be just as likely (or even more likely) to be awarded custody as the mother.  Often fathers win physical custody because men generally have greater financial resources and can continue the court battles with more legal assistance over a longer period of time.

    "Family courts frequently minimize the harmful impact of children's witnessing violence between their parents and sometimes are reluctant to believe mothers. If the court ignores the history of violence as the context for the mother's behavior in a custody evaluation, she may appear hostile, uncooperative, or mentally unstable. For example, she may refuse to disclose her address, or may resist unsupervised visitation, especially if she thinks her child is in danger. Psychological evaluators who minimize the importance of violence against the mother, or pathologize her responses to it, may accuse her of alienating the children from the father and may recommend giving the father custody in spite of his history of violence.

    "Some professionals assume that accusations of physical or sexual abuse of children that arise during divorce or custody disputes are likely to be false, but the empirical research to date shows no such increase in false reporting at that time. In many instances, children are frightened about being alone with a father they have seen use violence towards their mother or a father who has abused them. Sometimes children make it clear to the court that they wish to remain with the mother because they are afraid of the father, but their wishes are ignored.

    "Research indicates that high levels of continued conflict between separated and divorced parents hinders children's normal development. Some practitioners now believe that it may be better for children's development to restrict the father's access to them and avoid continued danger to both mothers and children."

    Please note that Parental Alienation Syndrome is NOT recognized as a valid medical syndrome by either the AMA or the APA.  Gardner's work has never been up for peer review. He's able to get around this by publishing his own works.  Creative Therapeutics, the publisher of his books, including Parental Alienation Syndrome, is his own publishing company.  PAS is based strictly on his own observation.

    Trish Wilson


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