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Richard A. Gardner

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Richard Gardner, the smiling superevil superpedophile (or, at least, that's what some people like to believe...)
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Richard Alan Gardner (April 28, 1931 – May 25, 2003) was an American psychiatrist and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Today he's mostly known for his hypothesis of the parental alienation syndrome, although he also created the mutual story-telling therapeutic technique for use in play therapy in child psychiatry.[1] Due to this and other theories, he's sometimes considered pro-pedophile, although this is not true.

In the 1980s, he testified in Satanic Ritual Abuse cases, such as the Wee Care Nursery School abuse trialWikipedia, and later testified in child custody cases.

His suicide[edit]

Anti-Gardner websites like to kick and scream on Gardner's suicide[2], but this only proves these people are morally repugnant as they don't mention the real cause of his suicide. Dr. Gardner killed himself due to type I complex regional pain syndrome[3], formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a chronic systemic disease characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in the skin which does not have demonstrable nerve lesions.


The world goes crazy with Dr. Gardner's "pro-pedophile" theories.

Anti-Gardnerians like to quote-mine Gardner, in order to "prove" he's pro-pedophile. Here's a summary of his theory from his article, "A Theory About The Variety of Human Sexual Behaviour"[4]:

  • Gardner believes that pedophilia, as well as other paraphilias, have a genetic origin, but this does not mean he believes it's good; in fact, those who believe Gardner says otherwise are committing a sort of inverted appeal to nature, as something natural (or "genetic") is not necessarily good;
  • Gardner also says that social and cultural factors are also involved, the acceptance of pedophilia varies across societies and across the times, with pedophilia being unrestrained in accepting societies and repressed in non-accepting ones;
  • Gardner says that some children might have positive experiences as victims of pedophilia, and this might make them pedophiles as adults;
  • Pedophiles that were once victims might identify themselves with their victimizers, and might imitate the acts that were done by them on other victims;
  • There are pedophiles who want to find dominance with children and others who are passive and emotionally dependent;
  • Due to their weakness and social status similar to females, children are viewed similarly to females by pedophiles;
  • Pedophiles might want to compensate for feelings of emotional deprivation;
  • They are narcissistic;
  • They are masochistic;
  • Finally, Gardner also adds other social and cultural factors, such as the sexual revolution of the 60s which led to increased acceptance of sexual relations, the AIDS epidemic, which might make people view children as safer, and a youth-centered culture;
  • Amongst other things.

(The definition of paraphilia according to Dr. Gardner is "forms of sexual attraction that don't contribute directly to reproduction".)

Of course, just as Alfred Kinsey had to contend with Judith Reisman-style slander campaigns that viewing paraphilias a different way equals pro-pedophile, Gardner has to contend with these kinds of people.

In addition, he said in his "Misinformation vs. Facts about Richard A. Gardner, M.D."[5], that his ideas on the origins of pedophilia do not mean that he supports the practice of pedophilia, that it's a good thing for society, or that pedophiles should be granted primary custody of their children; he also states that pedophilia is "natural" in the sense that any person can be involved in pedophile acts (although only a minority do).

If you're still not convinced that Richard Gardner was not pro-pedophile, let's read the last two paragraphs of his theory:

As mentioned, I have been particularly careful to avoid making any judgments about these atypical forms of human behavior. I believe, however, that many societies have been unjustifiably punitive to those who exhibit these paraphilic variations and have not been giving proper respect to the genetic factors that may very well be operative. Such considerations might result in greater tolerance for those who exhibit these atypical sexual proclivities. My hope is that this theory will play a role (admittedly small) in bringing about greater sympathy and respect for those individuals who exhibit these variations of sexual behavior. Recognizing that they do play a role in species survival may contribute to some alteration of this unfortunate attitude.

It would be an error for the reader to conclude that I am condoning all of these forms of sexual behavior. I think each one must be considered in its own right with regard to the judgments that one passes on them. An important determinant of my own judgments relates to the coercive element, especially when the coerced person is weaker and/or younger. Although pedophilia may ultimately serve nature’s purposes, it is still a form of exploitation of an innocent party. Sadomasochism may also serve the purposes of the survival of the human species, but it is basically a form of cruelty that we could well do without. I have mentioned that we differ from lower animals with regard to the development of the human brain, which has the capacity to suppress and repress those forces that press for indiscriminate reproduction of DNA and its passage down the generations from one survival machine to another. Also, consideration must be given to the social attitude toward a particular variation. It is a disservice to guide children along an atypical developmental track (especially when there is no evidence that their genes are propelling them along that path), because they will predictably suffer for their atypicality. I am not suggesting that we submit to every social prejudice. What I am suggesting is that we try to educate society to be less prejudiced and to be less condemning of those with paraphilias (especially those that do not cause harm to younger and/or weaker individuals).
—Richard Gardner, A Theory About The Variety of Human Sexual Behaviour (1996) (Bold and italics are RationaWiki's.)

The sentences written in bold are usually quote-mined by anti-Gardnerians. But, if you read both paragraphs well, and especially the italics, you'll see that he doesn't condone all paraphilias, and that he says that the "coercive element" in them must be taken into account, "especially when the coerced person is weaker and/or younger". He gives two examples of paraphilias he doesn't condone: pedophilia, due to being "a form of exploitation of an innocent party" and sadomasochism, because it is "basically a form of cruelty that we could well do without".

(For a reason why you might still think he is pro-pedophile, read our page on the is-ought problem.)


Again in his "A Theory About The Variety of Human Sexual Behaviour"[6], he states, quoting one Dr. Jonathan Greene, that "homophobia may also have survival value. Homophobes are revolted by homosexuality and may actively attempt to constrain their behavior. In extreme cases they may even attempt to eliminate homosexuals entirely".

He also states that homosexuals tend to be more sexually active than heterosexuals and that they tend to be narcissistic like pedophiles.

Additionally, he compares homosexuality to necrophilia, stating: "One could argue that something must be seriously deranged in a man who would prefer to have intercourse with a dead body than with a beautiful young woman. One could argue that there must be something seriously wrong with a man who would spurn sexual intercourse with an attractive and receptive young woman and, in preference, put his penis into the anus of another man".

In conclusion, he agrees with the position that homosexuality should be considered a paraphilia, noting that: "I recognize that I am in the minority of my colleagues when I take this position, but I believe that political factors, much more than scientific, determined its strange and somewhat confusing placement in the manual", this because he also notes other paraphilias are a diagnosis of homosexuality through a back door.

However, we must take into account that, in Gardner's opinion, homosexuality can be condoned due to the lack of the "coercive element" mentioned in the previous section and that paraphilias (according to him) are forms of sexual attraction that don't contribute directly to reproduction. Still, his acceptance of myths about homosexuals and his comparison of homosexuality to necrophilia make him a homophobe, albeit much, much, much less so than e.g. James Dobson.

And yet, there are some, such as the anti-Gardnerian, anti-Kinseyan and Reisman-quoting "Liz Library" website, who state that Alfred Kinsey was pro-pedophile and that his Kinsey Reports are what potentiated Richard Gardner to "invent" his supposedly pro-pedophile parental alienation syndrome.[7] Oh, the irony!

The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)[edit]

What is it?[edit]

For starters, a syndrome is "a cluster of symptoms, occurring together, that characterize a specific disease".[8]

The PAS is a syndrome, "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".[9]

It includes as symptoms:

  1. A campaign of denigration;
  2. Weak, absurd, or frivolous rationalizations for the deprecation;
  3. Lack of ambivalence;
  4. The “independent-thinker” phenomenon;
  5. Reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict;
  6. Absence of guilt over cruelty to and/or exploitation of the alienated parent;
  7. The presence of borrowed scenarios;
  8. Spread of the animosity to the friends and/or extended family of the alienated parent.[10]

It is divided into three types: mild, moderate and severe. A mild case might not exhibit a majority or all of those symptoms, while a moderate or a severe case does;[11] furthermore, the mild and moderate cases of PAS do not involve transferal of custody to the alienated parent, while the severe ones do.[12]

Furthermore, PAS does not exist when there are cases of any kind of abuse or other incapacity to educate children; it only exists when there are groundless accusations against the alienated parent.

What gender commits it the most, why and how to solve it?[edit]

In its original formulation, Dr. Gardner believed that it was mothers who committed most PA because of patriarchy, the fact that mothers were the primary caregivers of children, which gave them more opportunities to alienate their children from their fathers/other parents,[13] and the shift of the "tender-years presumption" to a "best interests of the child" standard.[14]

However, by the late 90s and early 2000s, he believed that fathers and mothers now alienated their children in a 50-50 proportion, as fathers now had more custody than before and they also had access to Gardner's materials which could be used to teach parents how to alienate their children from their mothers/other parents.[15]

For him, the solution was to adopt guidelines which gave the primary caregivers the custody of children. He did not agree with preferential joint custody/shared parenting provisions.[16]

Scientific validity of the PAS[edit]

Anti-Gardnerians state that the PAS has no scientific validity and that Gardner never published his studies in peer-reviewed studies. Well a Google Scholar search [17] and his own website [18] have lots of peer-reviewed studies.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in a draft version of the Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings, quotes three of Gardner's books: "Family evaluation in child custody mediation, arbitration, and litigation", "The parental alienation syndrome: A guide for mental health and legal professionals" and "True and false accusations of child abuse"[19]

Finally, the APA does not have any official opinion on the PAS, stating it needs more research.[20]

The Coordinadora de Psicología Jurídica del Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Psicólogos de España ("Legal Psychology Coordinator of the General Counsil of Official Colleges of Psychologists of Spain") states that "Los investigadores y los psicólogos muestran gran consenso al considerarlo como una alteración cognitiva, conductual y emocional, en la que el niño desprecia y critica a uno de sus progenitores" ("Investigators and psychologists show a great consensus in considering it [i.e., PAS] as a cognitive, conduct-based and emotional change in which the child disparages and criticizes one of his/her progenitors").[21]

The early research red herring/lie[edit]

Anti-Gardnerians usually state that Dr. Gardner didn't publish his early research in peer-reviewed journals. This is not true. He published "Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation" in the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry's Academy Forum magazine in 1985.[22].

Even if it were true, this would be a red herring, since he and others have published peer-reviewed research, either pro- or con-PAS.

Additionally, he wasn't the first to talk about PAS. It was Wilhelm Reich in 1933 who first spoke of divorced parents who defend themselves against narcissistic injury by fighting for custody of their child and defaming their former spouse and that these parents seek “revenge on the partner through robbing him or her of the pleasure in the child. […] In order to alienate the child from the partner, it is told that the partner is an alcoholic or psychotic, without there being any truth to such statements”[23][24].

The first formal studies on PAS were published by Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly in 1976 on the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry under a different name[25].

Dr. Gardner only coined the term "Parental Alienation Syndrome".

Why isn't it in the DSM?[edit]

Because research was/is not developed in a way that pleases the DSM editors. It's still not completely developed today, and psychiatrists want a lot of research for the DSM. Take a look at Tourette's syndrome, which took nearly 100 years (1885-1980) to be recognised in the books.

There were two attempts to put it in the DSM: in 1994, when the DSM IV was published, and in 2011, when the DSM V was published.

In fact, the DSM V includes two categories which are related to parental alienation syndrome (PAS):

  • child psychological abuse, which is broad enough to encompass PAS and other stuff, is defined as "non-accidental verbal or symbolic acts by a child’s parent or caregiver that result, or have reasonable potential to result, in significant psychological harm to the child”;
  • parent-child relational problem, which is the closest thing there is in the DSM to the PAS, and states that "the child’s perception of an alienated parent “may include negative attributions of the other’s intentions, hostility toward or scapegoating of the other, and unwarranted feelings of estrangement".[26][27]

Guidelines on child custody and child sexual abuse[edit]

Anti-Gardnerians also believe that Gardner's "Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation" and his child custody guidelines are pseudoscientific and not in conformity with accepted guidelines.

This is simply proven not true by the following facts:

  • Gardner had a list of peer-reviewed articles on his protocols for sex-abuse evaluation[28];
  • Not only were his protocols on sex abuse perfectly scientific, he was a consultant for what were then the most advanced scientific protocols, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry's "Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused"[29] and two of his books were cited ("True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse" and "Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation");
  • The American Psychological Association, in a draft version of the Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings, quotes three of Gardner's books, one of which is "True and false accusations of child abuse"[30]

Richard Gardner and Quackwatch[edit]

As a final ironic nail in the coffin, Stephen Barrett's Quackwatch recommended, until as late as 2012, Gardner's website, describing it the following manner: "Creative Therapeutics: Outstanding books by child psychiatrist Richard Gardner, M.D.".[31] (Creative Therapeutics was the name of Gardner's personal publishing and board game company).

And, in his article "Mental Help: Procedures to Avoid", Barrett quotes his book, "True and False Accusations of Child Abuse", on a segment on "Stimulation of False Memories".[32]

9/11 truther?[edit]

According to batshit crazy website, Dr. Gardner thought there was some kind of link between the 9/11 and parental alienation, that he was attacked because of these ideas and that his suicide was in reality a CIA secret job in order for him to shut up.[33]

Of course, his is the only website to link Gardner to 9/11 truth, so we'd not bet on that horse.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. The Gardner Library at
  2. Some examples: [1], [2]
  3. New York Times: Richard Gardner, 72, Dies; Cast Doubt on Abuse Claims
  4. Richard Gardner: A Theory About The Variety of Human Sexual Behaviour (1996)
  5. Richard Gardner: Misinformation vs. Facts about Richard A. Gardner, M.D. (2002)
  6. Richard Gardner: A Theory About The Variety of Human Sexual Behaviour (1996)
  7. Judith Reisman: Implications of the Kinsey Reports on Child Custody Cases (Hey, look, Reisman is anti-Gardnerian too! What a shame, Reisman and Gardner could have so much in common...)
  8. Richard Gardner: Misinformation versus Facts about the Contributions of Richard A. Gardner, MD (2003)
  9. Richard Gardner: Basic Facts about the Parental Alienation Syndrome (1998)
  10. Richard Gardner: "The Empowerment of Children in the Development of Parental Alienation Syndrome" (2002), American Journal of Forensic Psychology
  11. Richard Gardner: Misinformation versus Facts about the Contributions of Richard A. Gardner, MD (2003)
  12. Richard Gardner: Differential Diagnosis of the Three Levels of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) Children (1998-2002)
  13. "The Detrimental Effects on Women of the Gender Egalitarianism of Child-Custody Dispute Resolution Guidelines", Academy Forum
  14. "Judges Interviewing Children in Custody/Visitation Litigation", New Jersey Family Lawyer
  15. "March 2000 Addendum" in "Parental Alienation Syndrome (2nd Edition)" by Richard Gardner
  16. "The Detrimental Effects on Women of the Gender Egalitarianism of Child-Custody Dispute Resolution Guidelines", Academy Forum
  17. Google Scholar search: "parental alienation syndrome richard gardner"
  18. Richard Gardner: Articles in Peer-Review Journals and Published Books on the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) (2003)
  19. American Psychological Association: Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings (1994)
  20. American Psychological Association: Statement on Parental Alienation Syndrome (2008)
  21. Coordinadora de Psicología Jurídica del Consejo General de Colegios Oficiales de Psicólogos de España: "Consideraciones en Torno a la Pertinencia del Síndrome de Alienación Parental en la Evaluación Psicológica" ("Considerations on the Pertinence of the Parental Alienation Syndrome in Psychological Evaluation")
  22. Richard Gardner: Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation
  23. Wilhelm Reich: Character Analysis (1933 - the edition this link links to is from 1980)
  24. Glenn Sacks: Campaign: Ask DSM to Include Parental Alienation in Upcoming Edition (2010)
  25. Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly: The effects of parental divorce: Experiences of the child in later latency. (1976)
  26. National Parents Organization/Robert Franklin: Limiited Definition of Parental Alienation Syndrome Included in DSM-V (2013)
  27. National Post/Barbara Kay: Barbara Kay: Teaching children to hate the ex (2013)
  28. Richard Gardner: Articles in Peer-Review Journals on Dr. Richard A. Gardner's Protocols for the Sex-Abuse Evaluation (2003)
  29. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Practice Parameters for the Forensic Evaluation of Children and Adolescents Who May Have Been Physically or Sexually Abused (1997)
  30. American Psychological Association: Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings (1994)
  31. Stephen Barrett: Interesting Web Sites (2009)
  32. Stephen Barrett: Mental Help: Procedures to Avoid (2003)
  33. Dr. Richard Gardner: 9/11 Truther and Anti-Brainwashing Advocate for Children, Dead of a "Suicide" (2009)