Richard Gardner’s Smoking Guns and Elephants

Revised: January 4, 2014

by Julia Fletcher

The only time children aren’t protected in family court is when no one knows how to protect them and no one wants to talk about it.  

Ever since Dr. Richard Gardner started marketing his ideas in lectures, “expert witness” courtroom testimony and self-published books, proverbial elephants in the room have stood in the middle of courtrooms, feeding at the troughs of hundreds of thousands of child custody cases with their backs facing abused children.  Those elephants have been in the middle of courtrooms all over the country and all over the world for about the last four decades. They’ve been risking lives,  ruining lives and taking lives.

It’s time for the elephants to leave.

Richard Gardner’s elephants are big, but they’re not complicated. In fact, as soon as everyone realized how twisted Richard Gardner’s theories were, the elephants should have been out the door.

Perhaps the first step is to ask this: Since those in authority must have known how disturbed Dr. Gardner was , why were the elephants allowed to stay? Was it because he earned a degree in psychiatry or because he invented a new “syndrome”?

He called the new creation, “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” — except it wasn’t a syndrome. It was a strategy.

The National District Attorneys Association knew it was a strategy and published the article,  Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need to Know Part 1 and Part 2 in November 2003. 

They wrote:

PAS is an unproven theory that can threaten the integrity of the criminal justice system and the safety of abused children. Prosecutors should educate themselves about PAS and be prepared to argue against its admission in court. In cases where PAS testimony is admitted, it is a prosecutor’s responsibility to educate the judge and jury about the shortfalls of this theory. As more criminal courts refuse to admit PAS evidence, more protection will be afforded to victims of sexual abuse in our court system.

What have the authorities done since then to protect us from the “PAS” scam?

One way to measure the progress would be to count the cases in which attorneys, Guardians ad litem, Attorneys for Minor Children, custody evaluators, mediators, visit supervisors, parenting coordinators and judges feed the elephants every Monday through Friday.

Another would be to count the cases in the headlines each week about “high-conflict custody battles” ending in tragedy.  

Meanwhile, travelling from case to case and show to show all over the country, those peddling Gardner’s theories, his vocabulary and Gardner-like vocabulary, fuel the fires of lucrative “high conflict” custody cases. Long lines of mothers and fathers accompanied by attorneys who have hired evaluators, who recommend mediators and reunifiers to be followed up by social workers, Guardians ad Litem and/or Attorneys for Minor Children who bring with them witnesses and experts  –  form long lines, walking one by one through courthouse metal detectors, past security guards and into family courtrooms where judges who manage these cases drag entire childhoods into the ground until the children “age out of the system”. 

Most everyone working in family court sees what’s happening in case after case — and most pretend they don’t.

It’s that lack of honest discussion for the last four decades which has purchased shiny new things for those who set up and use the PAS scam in family courts. One attorney representing a protective mother in Italy spoke about the use of PAS in the Italian courts, aptly called it GAS:


I do not maintain that, in the name of the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) supposing that this pathology exists – and I am among those who firmly do not believe in it – that one can take children away from mothers or that it is possible to place children in foster homes for an indeterminate period of time – as happens for those poor mad offenders who violate the law and go to the criminal asylums (which are next to close down). 

On the contrary, those who have serious mental problems are treated in a better way. They receive TSO (Involuntary Mental Health Treatment) and after fifteen days they are set free. The disease which surely exists in Italy and which is becoming more and more widespread is the GAS, acronym of the “Sindrome di Alienazione Giudiziaria” (Judiciary Alienation Syndrome).

This is one that actually exists: The citizens’ distrust of the Italian Judicial System is at it’s peak and there is no sign of improvement despite the experts’ government we have.

So I would ask psychologists and social workers to deal with from now on, the GAS instead of the PAS, and we will see who they suggest to be placed in the foster homes instead of the children.”

Rome 17th October 2012

Attorney Giuseppe Lipera

The PAS scam is wherever Gardner’s theories were spread and and wherever family court attorneys, child custody evaluators, parental coordinators and judges don’t talk about or care about whether or not child abuse occurred. Here’s why: According to Dr. Gardner’s theories, “inducing parental alienation in a child” is far worse than emotionally, physically and/or sexually abusing a child.

It should be no surprise to anyone that most child custody cases in which Dr. Gardner’s twisted theories reign drag on for the entire childhood of a child who is the subject of it all. Various attorneys, custody evaluators and  parenting coordinators come and go, joining and leaving and joining the same circus year after year. Sometimes three or four elephants are needed to carry them all by the time the children “age out of the system”.

The attorney’s statement above and Gardner’s lecture below show what a nightmare of a spectacle it’s been ever since Dr. Gardner first began to spread his theories throughout the United States and other countries.

Maybe there’s enough of a smoking gun in the following transcript to show those with the power to do something where those elephants are so they can spoken about and removed from every family court.

The transcript is of Gardner’s lecture in The Netherlands in 1999. He’s speaking at a conference called “The Child’s Best Interest Conference”. He tells his audience about the “medical syndrome” he invented and named “The Parental Alienation Syndrome”. He recites his definition of “medical syndrome”. He lists the physiological and psychological symptoms of Down Syndrome and expects his audience will make the leap to believe “The Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS) is a “medical syndrome” too. At least one man in the audience who laughs the loudest at Dr. Gardner’s jokes seems happy to make that leap.

One problem that isn’t talked about is that physiological and psychological signs and symptoms found in syndromes like Down Syndrome are not found in Richard Gardner’s “PAS”. There are no outward physical characteristics of “PAS”. No genetic difference, hormonal imbalance or vitamin deficiency. There are no weak or excessive nerve impulse patterns. No abnormal change in any bodily fluid, tissue or function.

Lacking a scientifically definitive list, Dr. Gardner appears confused, interrupting and contradicting himself throughout his lecture. He tells his audience the following:

  •  Mild, Moderate and Severe “PAS” is “a disease” found only in the context of child custody disputes.
  •  Mothers acquire this “disease” from the family court process – fathers, not so much.
  •  There are two components of the “PAS”: 
  1. The moth parent  brainwashes the child in “a campaign of denigration” against the other parent; and, 
  2. The child’s own contributions to the “campaign of denigration”.
  • Although Dr. Gardner doesn’t mention it during his lecture, one should apparently also look for certain speech patterns in infected mot  parents. Specific inflections of a mother’s voice might include: anxious, angry, impatient, flustered, fearful, terrified, inconsiderate, rude, and/or obnoxious.
  • In addition, the clinician should be able to hear all of the parents’ telephone conversations  – which requires certification in Phone Tap 101.

In place of talking about behavioral data showing the difference between symptoms of malicious alienation and symptoms of emotionally, physically and sexually abused children, Dr. Gardner acts out short skits.

Instead of comparing and contrasting reliable and scientifically valid  therapeutic responses to malicious alienation with the reliable and scientifically valid therapeutic responses to emotionally, physically and sexually abused children, Dr. Gardner tells jokes.

He displaces actual child abuse statistics and data which provide plausible reasons for paternal abuse and maternal abuse with this theory:

“The women were the primary caretakers primarily, and the children wanted to be bonded more with the mothers because they want the mothers to have more availability, more access and the children wanted to stay with their mothers, they were more strongly bonded with their mothers.”

Using examples of his “own personal experiences” to support his theory, Gardner plays the roles of mothers, fathers and  children – mostly anxious, angry, impatient, flustered, fearful, terrified, inconsiderate, rude, and/or obnoxious mothers and children who don’t sound very alienated at all.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about Dr. Gardner’s lecture is that the behaviors he describes are common behaviors seen in mothers and children who have actually witnessed and/or endured emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. Each scenario dramatized could easily be a typical day in the life of an abused mother and child. The words are there and the behaviors are there, but Gardner’s mocking impersonation of  mothers and children trivializes those same words and behaviors – leading an unsuspecting audience to believe that red flags of possible abuse should instead be automatically suspect. (See FOX NEWS interview: Retired California Family Court Judge DeAnn Salcido , Lost in the System

Gardner places behaviors actually seen in abused children in his category of: “Absurd Justifications” and speaks the words that would be cries for help in variations of the same mocking voice. He says the cases he dramatizes are cases from his office practice – in which he apparently mocked, challenged and ignored children if they:

– did not immediately disclose abuse

–  used multisyllabic words

– became angry and/or emotionally shut down when their disclosures of abuse were challenged, and/or

– if they stopped disclosing abuse after being isolated with their named abuser.

Instead of saying how we can differentiate between symptoms of real abuse and symptoms of “induced” alienation he warns, “…bringing in the child protection people in it can destroy the father’s life in one telephone call.”

He does say in passing: In cases of real abuse, “the PAS diagnosis” doesn’t apply. If you sneeze, you’ll miss that part. If you miss it, you might think alienating a child is worse than any other kind of abuse anyway – because Dr. Gardner says that too. (That part is a “must see” because it’s when he feeds the elephants.) 

Playing a teen who says his father “used to beat” his mother and threaten to hit him, Dr. Gardner morphs from the teen to a young child, using a sing-song voice  and the term “mommy”. Then he turns himself back into a teen, explaining as Gardner the Teen to Gardner the Clinician that his father threatened to hit him if he didn’t smile for a photo. He says his father makes him watch videos he “hates”. Notice the total lack of follow-up questions to clarify why he “hates” the videos. There is no “What happened before that?” or “What happened next?” Instead, after a question or two, Gardner the Clinician confronts Gardner the Teen with the allegedly abusive father’s denials of abuse – something abusers can usually do for themselves.

He mocks a hypothetical mother who complains of becoming financially destitute after divorce  – as though irreparable physical, emotional and financial damage could never leave a single parent – mother or father – without the funds to pay for food, clothes and bills.

That which Gardner says isn’t science, social theory or common sense. It’s entertainment – complete with someone in the audience laughing more loudly than the others like he’s planted in the audience to prompt others to laugh when he laughs. 

He tells a joke with a punch line about a mother in labor. He questions a four-year-old girl about her use of the word “penetrated” and sounds like he’s struggling to keep a serious look on his face. Gardner the Clinician doesn’t ask the questions most good clinicians would ask. Instead, he explains to Gardner the Hypothetical Four-Year-Old Girl that the definition of the word “penetrated” is “sexual intercourse”.

Listening to the audio of this lecture and/or reading the transcript, most should wonder how Dr. Gardner’s twisted ways became such an integral part of the family court process.

After his gig in The Netherlands, Gardner toured the world for the next four years – marketing PAS and selling his books until he died from what was said to be a suicide. The FBI should probably investigate that too.


Transcript: June 24 , 1999, Open University, Breda, The Netherlands. A One Day Symposium led by Richard A. Gardner M.D. on The Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Um… When I was a student in high school, and a, my teacher, one of my teachers, was giving me guidelines for writing a… an article, book review, or just any kind of an article. The guideline was this: Tell them what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell ‘em what you’ve said. And that helped increase my grades. It’s a very good principle.

So I’m going to tell you what I’m going to say first. And that is, that the legislators have power to give judges power to cure the disease Parental Alienation Syndrome. I repeat, the ju…the legislators have the power to empower judges, to cure, to prevent The Parental Alienation Syndrome. If the legislators do not give the judges the power to cure this disease, it will continue to grow and (unintelligible) and get worse and worse.

Now, um… You people in Europe have certain advantage over us in the United States, in that you can, you can sometimes learn from the errors that we make.

I have lived in Europe for two years, from 1960 to 1962, when I lived in Germany I was in the, a, military service. And then I’ve been back and forth many times. I’ve lectured in many countries in Europe. And uh, I was a visiting professor for a couple of years at The University of Leuven.  I was a visiting professor at the University of St. Petersburg, uh, formerly uh, Leningrad, and I have lectured in various cities throughout uh Europe (unintelligible).

And I have been back and forth and I have seen certain trends. You take on our bad habits and you take on our good habits. Kind of what Oppenheimer once said, uh, “The United States is the greatest country in Europe.”

And I think there’s a lot of truth to that.  But, we may be very bright, but we also have made mistakes. And bad habits start and you people pick them up a few years later.

So I’m going to tell you something about what’s going on in the United States and give you some advice, the same advice I’m giving in the United States. You’ll see how this all falls into place as I progress.

Let me first talk about the Parental Alienation Syndrome and elaborate what I mean by it. You have in your handout materials in the doc… this document, which I strongly recommend you look at as I talk. It’s an outline of my presentation. There are two pages. The diagnosis of The Parental Alienation Syndrome and the treatment, oh … I’m very sorry. There’s been an error! The um… this one sheet should have been diagnosis and one sheet should have been treatment. It was reproduced incorrectly.

So I’ll talk about the diagnosis and I’m going to just verbally tell you about the treatment. It’s unfortunate that… that error was made.

Okay let’s talk about the diagnosis. It is a syndrome. What is the definition of a syndrome? A syndrome in medicine is a collection of symptoms that justify being put together because they occur together and they may have a common cause. A good example of a syndrome would be Down Syndrome, uh in which you have a combination of uh mental retardation, um.. you have a uh, a drooping lip. You have a facial expression that is… is similar to Asian people. And it was because of that, that in… in the, in the last century, it was called “Mongolian Idiocy” because the facial expression was similar to Asians and of the mental retardation. Of course today, we would not… we’d find that offensive and we would not name a disorder uh, in that manner. Uh, but that was the original name. In addition, the children had certain uh, abnormal creases of the palms of the hands and uh… uh a shortening of the fifth finger. Now when you look at all those symptoms, why do they fit together? We now know that there’s a certain genetic abnormality that explains that.

And so it’s a cluster of symptoms that appear together in uh, and that warrant a uh, a that cluster is given the name “a syndrome” and… uh… you may or may not know the cause. I observe the syndrome and I will describe it to you and then I will give you some of my ideas as to the cause of this syndrome and um, what can be done about it – going back to the legislators and going back to the judges.

Now I have been involved in doing child psychiatry uh since my training days in the late 1950s, over forty years ago.  And I have been involved in… in… in child custody litigation uh since the early 1960s – a period of about thirty-five years and I’ve observed certain… the evolution of certain developments. I did not see the Parental Alienation Syndrome until about 15 years ago. Uh, so from the late 50s and early 60s until the early 1980s I never saw this disorder.  And yet I began to see it in the early 1980s, wrote my first article on it in the mid 1980s – 1985 – and it is still growing and uh, increasingly become a problem.

Now, what are the symptoms of this disorder? Let me define it first. The Parental Alienation Syndrome is a disorder that arises almost exclusively, if not completely, in the context of a child custody dispute. I have not yet seen a case in which it was not a child custody dispute. So most often it’s the mother and father. On occasion, I’ve seen it in grandparents and a, and a step-daughter or a step-son or, or some other relatives who are fighting with the parent for the child. But it’s still a child custody dispute.

There are two components. The first is a programming or brainwashing by one parent where they brainwash into the child a campaign of denigration against the other parent. And the second component, and this is most important, is the child’s own contributions. So it’s the two together that are present when one justifies the term, um, Parental Alienation Syndrome. Um, if it were merely a question of programming or brainwashing, I would have called it that. But there was this other ingredient, the element of the child’s own contribution, that led me to the conclusion that I should provide it a… a different name and then to encompass that other component.

Now, it generally does not start until a programming parent uh, decides to program the child in order to strengthen his or her position in a child custody dispute. The hope being that the children, in the context of this campaign of… of… of denigration and hatred will then speak to the court, speak to the judges and… and the lawyers, whomever, and convince them that they should not go with the other parent because they hate him or her because that parent has been so abusive, so neglectful that complete rejection is justified and that any court or any judge that would… would put the children with this other parent would be making a serious error. And so that there is a campaign that goes on every single day in order to keep it going, to keep the… the scenarios in the memory of the children, so that they can, they can uh, give their little speeches, uh to the proper people at the proper time in order to strengthen the programmings [sic] parent’s uh position in the custody lawsuit.

Now, if I will now address myself to the eight major symptoms of The PAS, Parental Alienation Syndrome. And the term PAS is… is… is very common and it is the one that is often referred to. Uh, now the first is the campaign of denigration. The, the other parent who we call “the victimized parent”, “the victim parent”, “the alienated parent”, these are the terms that are… are coming into use uh, in the United States.

Um, it’s usually not a parent who has been an abuser. If the parent has been an abuser, then The Parental Alienation Syndrome diagnosis is not applicable. It’s only in the situation where that parent has been a reasonably  good, devoted and loving parent and then suddenly finds himself the, the target, the victim, the word “targeted parent” is also used, “the target parent”, “the victim parent” uh, to be the target of this campaign of hatred.

Uh and it’s a, it… it… it… it’s divided, you’ll see mild, moderate and severe forms. There are three categories, and the categories are very important in deciding what to do. So in the mild category, the campaign is… is a is mild, it may be uh just uh… uh maybe five ten percent of the time. It often, uh in the presence of the programmer, it will be most intense, but once the programmer is not available, not there. It’s at the transition points when the child is being transferred from one parent to the other that a, the children will come forth with these little speeches of hatred in order to demonstrate to the programmer that they are uh, saying these things that they have been programmed and brainwashed to say. Uh, and the children will uh use violent profanities, uh, spit in the face of the uh, victimized parent, uh, the most terrible names that they can think of, uh they will use uh, against their parent. And the programming parent just stands there, says nothing.

Uh, if I were to say, you know, “What do you think about uh, what he’s saying to his father? It’s very disrespectful.”

It’s… (Feminine voice, nonchalantly.)  “He’s just expressing himself. I encourage him to say how he feels. It’s important for him to express himself.”

With none of the traditional, “That’s no way to speak to your father.” You know, “If you say that again you’re going to be punished, you’ll go to your room.” No disciplinary measures uh, are uh, are imposed and that’s the way of programming the child and encourage, encouraging the child to uh, continue in this way.

Uh, the next, uh the second, there’s a weak, frivolous or absurd rationalizations for the deprecation.

So uh, you’ll say to the child, um, “Why do you hate your father so much? Why?”

He’ll say. (Voice of older child, hesitating, nervous.) “Uh, well, I,I, I can’t remember now, I’ll tell you next time.”

(Kindly.) “We have time. Please, please tell me, why?”

“Um, well, he used to chew too loud when we eat at the table.” Or, “He chews very loud.”

“Is that a reason never to see him again? “

“Yeah. Yeah. Well uh, that’s a reason.”

You’ll say to the mother, ”What do you think about that?”

(Feminine voice, flippantly.) “Well I respect his feelings and if he thinks it’s a good reason, it’s good enough for me.”

There is that support again. That’s more of the programming process. Um, some of these are very absurd. Every example I give, that I will give you today, and every example that I’ve written in any of my books and articles come from my own personal experience with these… patients. I have created none of them.  I don’t have a creative enough mind to think of these things. Every one is a true clinical experience.

“Um, well, uh, why else don’t you want to see him?”

“Um, Well, uh um, he used to belch when he eats.”

“He used to belch.” he says. “Is that the reason not to see him? He used to hiccup, or belch or burp?”

“Yeah, yeah, that’s the reason.”

“Uh, any other reason?”

“He used to hit my mother.”

(In disbelief.) “Did you ever see him hit your mother?”

(Changing his voice to a sing-song younger child’s voice.) “No, but my mommy says he… she… he used to hit her…”  >

“Did you ever…”

“…used to beat her.”

“Did you ever hear him beat your mother?”


“No? Well, how do you know? Your father says, he says he never did that. He says that your mother is lying and that he not once in his life has he ever hit her.”

(Deeper voice, talking loudly, sounding agitated .)  “He’s a liar!”

(Calmly.) “Your mother [sic]…  your father says that your mother is a liar.”

“My mother would never lie to me.”

“And my…”

“My father always lies to me.”

(Calmly). “Wha, wha.. give me another example of the time your father lies.”

“I can’t think of it now. I’ll tell you next time.”

 So, it’s… it’s… that the excuses, they have no basis in reality. Um the um…

“I never had a good time with him.  I always hated every minute of it.”

“Well. There’s a picture here, and it’s from Disney World, and your mom and your dad and you and your sister. There’s Donald Duck, and Mickey Mouse and you have a big smile on your face. You seem to be having a good time.”

“I hated every minute of it.”

“Then why are you smiling?”

“He made me smile, he said if I didn’t smile, he would beat me.”

Or uh, “He said if I didn’t say “Cheese” like this, “Say cheese”, to make believe I was smiling, that he would hit me.”

So you have these absurd justifications for the campaign, uh maybe ludicrous, but uh, the child that doesn’t appreciate how absurd they are but it’s part of the child’s campaign.

Uh, the next is lack of ambivalence. All human relationships have mixed feelings. So you , you say to a child. “Okay, I want to write down the things you like about your… mother, the things you don’t like about your mother,  things you like about your father and things you don’t like about your father.”

So when you get to the…preferred parent, everything is positive. Everything is wonderful. Anything negative? Nothing negative. And the opposite with the hated parent. Only negatives. So it, let us say it’s the mother who is the uh the target. And I’m going to come to that later. It’s an important point about the gender differences. There’s been a change, where now it’s shifting where more and more fathers are now becoming programmers and the mothers victims. That’s a recent development in the United States which I’m going to elaborate on a little later.

Um, so um…do…You’ll say, let’s say the father has programmed the child.

“I hate my mother. Uh, I can’t stand her.”

“Something positive. Something good.”

“Nothing good.”

“And in your whole life, she never did one good thing?”


And then a list all of the bad things. “What’s the bad things?”

“She makes me turn off the television and go to sleep. She makes me…she says I can’t even watch television until I finish my homework. Uh, she says uh, uh, I…, I…, I can’t go out and play with my friends until I do my homework.”

Something like that. The opposites – all positives or all negatives – nothing’s a mixture. And you see that in PAS.

Uh, then the next is the “independent thinker” phenomenon where the child claims that all these ideas are his or her own and that it has nothing to do with the influence of the programming parent.

Now, the programming parent wants the child to say that because the programming parent is often accused by the father and by others of being a programmer, of being a brainwasher. So the child says, “It’s all my own ideas and she had nothing to do with it.”

Uh and the that, the programmer says,

(Feminine voice, harshly.) “It’s your opinion, right? It’s your own opinion, right? And it’s nobody elses’ opinion, right?”

(Weakly, resigned.) “That’s my own opinion.”

Uh, and I remember one mother said, “Now you tell him, do you want to see… if you don’t want to see your father, you don’t have to see your father. I respect your right not to see your father. I respect your right. If I have to get a lawyer to protect you from seeing your father, I will do so. If I have to go to the Supreme Court of the United States to protect you from seeing your father, I will do that because I respect your right not to see your father. Now, do you want to see your father?”

(Laughter from some in audience – one laughing louder than others.)

“No, no, no.”

“See Doc? He doesn’t want to see his father.”

And then the child says, “I don’t want to see my father.”

And the (Unintelligible) will say, “It’s my idea.”

“That’s your own opinion, isn’t it?”

“Yes, that’s my opinion.” (Sounding bored, resigned.)

(Seriously at first, Gardner then changes to a lighter tone, sounding like he’s smiling. He provides no background for the case or details of what “danger” prompted the mother to approach the Supreme Court for protection. He elicits more chuckles from a few in the audience.And you see the programming. There is also the message that he is so dangerous, so dangerous that we’re going to have to get a lawyer to protect the child and that if we have to go the… the Supreme Court of the United States to hear this case, uh, on this child to see his father. Uh, but you see the programming.  And you see the child being programmed, brainwashed to profess that these opinions are his own.

Uh, the next is the reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict. Uh, no matter how strong the evidence, that the victimized parent  is… is… is in the right, has done nothing, and that the programming parent is being deceitful, the child reflexively supports the position of the programmer.

So uh the mother says, “He’s not giving us any money. He’s not sending us the money. Uh, uh, I don’t know where we’re gonna get food. We may starve. We may have to leave the house, freeze in the winter and things like that. We won’t have enough clothing to buy.”

And, and, and she… she creates in the children the… the idea that they’re going to be naked in the streets in the middle of the winter, frozen in the snow, starving to death, and it’s all because of the father because he’s not paying the money.

And, and, and the father, um says,

(Calmly, authoritatively.) “That’s a lie. That’s not true. I have checks here. Every week I give her this check and s..he shows the child, and she signs her name, that’s her name, and that means that she took that money”.

(Note: This was Gardner’s “therapy” in which the alleged abuser directly – and sometimes forcefully – confronts the child’s allegations with the “therapist” present in the room. Gardner recommended using this same confrontation in cases of child sexual abuse.)

The child looks at him and says, “That’s a forgery. You’re lying. That isn’t her s… that isn’t her signature.”

There’s no way to get the child to be convinced that perhaps that the… the programmer is lying. Uh, and, um, so there’s always support.

Uhm. The next is the absence of guilt.

The child I mentioned will spit in the face of the victimized parent. Uh, use the most vile profanities, the most hateful statements without any guilt, without any feeling of embarrassment, without feeling any… any sense of sympathy or empathy for the victimized parent. (Note to reader: It is important to know that this behavior is frequently seen in children who are forced to visit with a parent who has emotionally, physically or sexually abused them. Later in this lecture, Gardner tells his audience that parental “alienation” is worse for a child than physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse. This might be the reason, in all of these scenarios, Gardner dismisses all presented variations of alleged abuse as absurd or irrelevant.)

Uh, so I’ll say to the child, “Now, let me understand this. You say you never want to see your father again in your whole life, even if you live a thousand years.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” (Unconvincing.)

“And, uh, you say you want him to pay for all the expenses from your school, private school and private college uh, no matter how far you want to go.”

“Uh, Yeah, that’s right.” (Again, unconvincing.)

“Do you think that’s fair to him? That you never see him and that all he should do is pay them money?”

(Sounding annoyed.) “Yeah, that’s fair, that’s fair.”

“Uh, don’t you feel a little embarrassed with yourself?”

“No, I’m not embarrassed at all. I’m not guilty, no, it’s right.”

“But why?”

“Because of all those things he did.”

“All what things?”

“He’s mean. He’s always very mean to me. He made me go to Disney World. Uh, he, he, he made me uh go to movies I didn’t want to see. He… he got these video tapes that I hated.”

And… and… and all these, all these preposterous reasons.

Uh, but there’s no guilt because the programming parent is not inducing guilt, is not teaching the child good manners, respectful behavior, not reprimanding the child when the child is disrespectful and… and providing a healthy environment which teaches the child respect for the other parent. It’s the healthy parent says, “We’re divorced, I’ve had my problems with him, but he’s your father and you’re not going to speak to him that way. And you’re going to respect him and I want you to apologize to him for using those words. And if you don’t, then you’re gonna, no television.” Something like that.

Um, so you… you don’t get the parent teaching the child proper behavior, proper morals, proper ethics, proper values when it comes to the father…  uh… uh… the… the victimized parent.

The next is the borrowed scenarios. The children incorporate into their campaign, words, terms that are not age appropriate.

Uh the… the child could not possibly have that in his or her vocabulary.

A, uh, a…a…a father calls.

(Authoritatively.) “Let me speak to the children.”

(Glibly.) “They just came home from school, and they’re changing their clothes, and they’re ready to go out and play, and they’re too busy to talk to you. Call back later.”

Call back later.

“Uh, uh… oh they’re ready, they’re just ready to have supper. You can’t talk to them now.”

And hangs up and he calls again.

“It they’re they’re just finishing their dessert. You can’t talk. And stop harassing us. Stop this harassment. “

And then uh, calls again.

“They’re doing their homework. They can’t be bothered. Stop harassing us. Stop the harassment.”

“They’re watching television”

Hang up.

“They’re re, they’re reading bedtime stories. Stop this harassment.”

Hang up.

“They’re asleep.”

Hang up.

 (After somehow listening in on all of the phone conversations, Gardner moves the scene to his office.)

“Why don’t you want to see your father?”

“ He..” A four-year-old… “He harasses us.”

“Harrass? That’s a big word for a child your age. What… what does harassment mean?”

“Ask my mommy, she knows.”

That kind of thing. So you, you see where it came from. Um.

A, a sex abuse accusation is often a spin-off or a derivative in… in maybe 10 or 15 percent of the cases. And bringing in the child protection people in it can destroy the father’s life in one telephone call.

Uh, a four-year-old girl.

Uh, “Why don’t you want to see your father?”

Uh, (Young female voice.) “He penetrated me.”

“Penetrated. That’s a big word for a four-year-old girl. It means se, sexual intercourse…but…”

“He penetrated me.”

Says, “What does that mean, he penetrated you?”

“I don’t know. Ask my mommy. She said he penetrated me.”

So you see the incorporation of… of terminology that could not possibly be uh, appropriate to the child that comes into the scenarios of denigration.  

Um, the uh, last is the spread of the animosity to the extended parent… extended family of the alienated parent. Um, the um previously, uh the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins had good relationship with the child. Now almost overnight, the child doesn’t want to speak to the grandparents or the uncles. The grandmother calls,

“I hate you Grandma. I never want to speak to you again.” Hangs up.

Uh, and uh, the grandmother of course is very pained by this, or the grandfather, uh, uncles aunts, they call up, they send presents for certain uh… events, cards, birthday cards, birthday presents, Christmas cards, Christmas presents, they’re returned, they’re thrown in the basket and there’s a sudden cut-off of all the extended family. And uh, uh… uh… and and these people may be in deep grief and pain over the loss of this child, but the alienating parent um… uh feels no sense of loss.

“I hated to go over there. I only acted as if I wanted to go but I really hated it.”

Now, as you can see from the chart, uh…these symptoms are in three categories uh, mild, moderate, uh and severe. Uh now, um, the differentiation is extremely important. And uh, if we go to the bottom part of this chart where it says “The transitional difficulties uh and the behavior”, that gives you a good idea often uh, as to which category it’s in. And so in uh transitional time, when the child is going from one parent to the other, um, you have limited or minimal problem in the mild. The moderate may be a significant problem. Uh the children refuse to go, uh, the… the father is begging, he’s trying to talk them into it, says to the programming parent, uh,

“Would you please tell them to cooperate?”

(Slightly higher-pitched voice.) “Can’t you see they don’t want to see you? Can’t you see they hate you? Don’t you get the message? What’s wrong with you? Are you blind? They hate you. Can’t you see they hate you? Why are you pushing them? Why don’t you respect their right not to see you if they don’t want to see you. What kind of a father are you?”

Those are the kinds of things which often serve to support… (Interrupting his own sentence.)

“Don’t you respect their wishes? Can’t ya see that they don’t want to go?”

And ah, or “Go to your father, we, I’ll get in trouble with the judge if you don’t go.”

Implication being that there’s no reason to go, but I’ll get in trouble, so go.”

And the children in the moderate, sometimes the visit is possible. Most often it is.  Once the children are outside of the view of the programming parent, usually they will quiet down and then they’ll be alright, …but then periodically, they catch themselves and will then start in with the campaign. Um, they um, often an older sibling will be the assistant programmer to the younger one so that you’ll have the ten or eleven-year-old girl uh, you know, who’ll watch the younger ones. And uh, uh intermittently, periodically say,

“I gotta watch, you gotta be careful of him, make sure everything’s alright….watch over you.” And then,

“I’m going to tell mommy you were nice to Daddy.”

“Daddy, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you.” And then,

So then child will go back, and go back to the mommy and say, “I told him I hated him.”

It’s traditionally, they only say bad things to the programmer. They say nothing good happened, that they were there for the whole weekend, they hated every minute of it and they couldn’t, kept look, looking at their watches to see when the time would be over and couldn’t wait to get back. The reality being, they had a great time and that periodically, they come forth with these uh, uh angry statements in order to have the material to give back to the programming parent.

In the severe form, visitation is impossible. Impossible. The children refuse to go. The programmer is often paranoid. The children believe they will be murdered, they will be poisoned, they’ll be raped. Uh they will be uh sexually abused, physically abused, neglected, beaten. Uh, uh togetherness  in the house, there’s blood-curdling shrieks, they’re trying to jump out of the window, run into the street. Uh, the.. they’re paranoid and they believe that uh… uh they will be subjected to, to terrible punishments, even though they have no evidence for it or even though they’ve never had any personal experiences to suggest  that even for one second that such things will happen to them. And so visitation is just about impossible in the severe form.

Now the behavior during visitation I described uh…

The bonding with the alienator: In the mild and moderate cases, the bonding with the alienator is usually good with the exception that the alienator, in, in order to um… strengthen his or her position in the lawsuit will um… uh, will program the children. Um, in the um, severe cases, the bonding with the alienator is usually quite set. Either the m… the uh, the alienating parent is is programming, uh, i… i… is paranoid or is extremely over protective, never trusted the um, the father, even at the very beginning.

Uh, I’ve had cases, uh, one case in which uh the mother uh refused to let the father in the delivery room. Now in recent years, this is much more common. I don’t know in Europe, in… in the US, they come in with the camcorders and they’re taking pictures of the delivery… (Gardner laughs and the audience laughs.) and they show their friends the delivery. (More laughter.)

Uh, anyway, uh…

(Feminine, irritated voice) “I don’t want you to film me. This is a personal matter.”

There was one woman, when the father came into the delivery room she said to the obstetrician… while she’s in labor, delivering,

“If you don’t get him out of here, I’m going to fire you.” (Just a few laughs.)

That’s not usually the time to fire the obstetrician.

But uh… this is the uh, the extent of the, of the uh… uh the re…the rejection. Uh, they don’t trust the father to hold the baby, he’ll drop it. I… I had one father who was a professional football player – uh, not soccer, our American football. Professional football player, and uh, the mother didn’t trust him to hold the baby. Uh, he couldn’t hold the baby, but he…he could hold footballs. And uh, this kind of thing. He would drop the baby. Uh, but these things are ludicrous and absurd, but uh, this is the extent uh to which you have people justifying uh ,the over protectiveness.

The bonding with the alienated parent is usually good. And that, as I said at the outset, if the father is a rejector, is an abandoner, is an abuser, then… uh… the “parental alienation syndrome”… uh… diagnosis is not justified because there has been no… there has been abuse and it’s an entirely different situation and this is a very important point. 

Now, let me tell you a little bit about my opinion as to what has happened, why we have this disorder, why it wasn’t until the early 1980s that I saw it and that I was doing uh, child psychiatry for maybe twenty-five years and never saw it, and then suddenly appears in the early 1980s.

I believe that the main reason relates to the uh, the fact that prior to the 1970s, uh mothers were automatically given custody. And that at least in the twentieth century, uh p… prior centuries, it was usually the fathers. That, that’s a different thing.

Um, and that in the 60s and the 70s, with the expansion of the women’s liberation movement, uh women, justifiably uh were given more opportunities for education, equal pay, job opportunities, education opportunities, all of these things which are important and wonderful developments and uh long past due. Men began to say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. Uh the idea that a woman should be given preferential treatment in child… as primary custodial parent sets it’s… it’s…  it’s predjudiced, it’s biased against men and we want to have equal opportunity for custody of the children.”

And the legislators, the courts agreed and there became a shift where fathers had equal opportunity for custody. And what happened was that then the custody litigation began to increase uh because now fathers had a chance to be, to get primary custodial status. The… as a result, there was an increase in custody litigation and then the parents began to program the children in order to strengthen their positions in the lawsuits.

Now, up until a couple of years ago, my experience had been that it was primarily the mother who was the programmer and that although the fathers would program, they weren’t as successful and the mothers seemed to prevail. And that uh, so that most of the programmers were mothers. And in my first book on the PAS, uh, my… my first was in 1987, uh the mothers were the primary programmers. The second book in 1992, the mothers were the primary programmers. The third book, which came out in 1998, I started to see a shift. And in the last year or two, the shift has been dramatic, where I’m seeing in the US, many more fathers now who are programmers and it’s almost at the point now where it may be 50/50. And I think what’s happened is, one thing, is that fathers have read my books and are learning the techniques and so can use the same intervention. And another relates to the fact that there’s been increasing time the children have with the fathers with the expansion of father opportunities and father access so  that the more time, they have more opportunity to uh, to program the children.

So now it seems… and my own personal experiences are being verified by friends, relatives, colleagues, uh, various parts of the country who are reporting the same thing to me and when I lecture in different parts of the US, I ask my greatest fans, “What’s your experience been?” and that’s usually been uh… uh the um… uh… in… in the last year or two, it seems to be equaling out.

Let me ask this audience, for all of our interest. For those of you in this audience who have familiar with this disorder… who are familiar with the disorder, in how many cases have the  mothers been the programmer and the father the victim? By raising hands. Where it’s primarily the mothers as the programmer and the father… uh please raise hands high you should all look and see.  It seems about a third of you are raising your hands. Now, how many have seen as the… the father is the programmer and the mother is the victim? Father is the programmer… I see just a few hands. This is why we’re seeing in the U.S. … um… up until two or three years ago and now it’s changing. And if I’m correct, and so many other waves that I’ve seen to come here a few years later, uh, you probably will see more fathers as programmers if that principle continues to hold uh, of… of… of getting our bad habits here in Europe a few years after it they’ve come… they’ve become common in the United States.

Now, um, unfortunately, your uh material does not have information on the treatment. It… it’s uh there was an error, there was another error, all the publications, uh on the PAS in scientific journals have been omitted from this document as well.

You have uh, citations from the uh the legal movements in which testimony of The Parental Alienation Syndrome has been recognized by a court of law but the um, and those are listed in your document here, but all the publications of which, of which there are probably a hundred now, uh some in German literature, uh one in French and the others in English. Um, I, I would assume uh that uh, Mr. van Dijk can probably make those available to you.

Now let me say something about the treatment um and uh emphasize very important points.

(Clears throat.) The Parental Alienation Syndrome has become politicized. It has become adversarial uh… in part because anything that goes into a court of law, almost, almost automatically becomes adversarial as one lawyer supports one parent’s position and one lawyer supports the other. So it behooves one of the lawyers to come up with garbage, with lies, with misrepresentations in order to support that lawyer’s position. Another reason why it’s become politicized, is that, because women were the ones who were more often the programmers up until a couple of years ago, I was criticized as being sexist, as biased against women for claiming that women are more often the programmers.

And my answer was, “That’s the reality. Let’s not deny this reality. To call me names for describing the reality, is it loses sight, what’s the reason for it?”

The reason was that the women were the primary caretakers primarily, and the children wanted to be bonded more with the mothers because they want the mothers to have more availability, more access and the children wanted to stay with their mothers, they were more strongly bonded with their mothers.

Uh, and uh, but with time now fathers are becoming equally bonded and the children now it it’s evening out.

The… the problem that I have found is that the courts have been unreceptive to coming down heavily and being properly restrictive of the programming parent. Um. This is the central problem.

(Lowering voice. Speaking slowly, deliberately.) Um. Inducing The Parental Alienation Syndrome in a child is a form of abuse. In a way, it may even be worse than physical abuse and sexual abuse.

(Speaking more casually.) You see, in physical abuse, there comes a time when the child reaches a point where the child can s…stop the parent. You… you’re twelve you… you’re thirteen, you’re fourteen, you can fight back, you can resist, you can run away. You’re old enough to call the police and you can protect yourself somewhat. And, so it certainly reaches a… a point when it stops. Not that there aren’t ongoing psychological consequences after but it… it can stop.

(Less seriously. Raising the pitch at the end of each statement as in questioning.) Sexual abuse uh, can certainly damage any child, psychologically to varying degrees from very little to very much depending upon the… the… the trauma associated with it. But ultimately the child can… is old enough to stop, to report it and bring about a discontinuation of it.

(Slowly, seriously, emotionally.) In psych… in PAS, you get life-long alienation. The bonding is eroded, it’s corrupted, it’s destroyed and if… if after eight, ten years, you’re strangers. It’s like an alumni meeting. The brain is just filled with hatred in the brain circuitry and all the loving, tender feelings all the… all the positive, loving experiences have evaporated. They’re replaced by the campaign of denigration. And even if there is contact then, it’s a lost. It’s lost. It’s never again the same.   And it’s… it’s a… it’s a form of abuse that may not be as easy to detect as physical abuse where you see bones and broken fractures and you see abrasions and you have medical reports or physical abuse, where you s… you may see evidence in… in… in medical examination. Here it’s psychological but it is… it is very detrimental.

Now, the courts have the power to cure the PAS. If a judge were to treat a PAS indoctrinating parent… like, let us say a father who reneges on paying his support or alimony. In the United States, and I’m sure here too, if a father doesn’t come up with his support and alimony payment, they can be taken from his salary or uh automatically or he can be put on notice that if he doesn’t pay, he’s on house arrest for the weekend so that from Friday afternoon to Monday morning he must stay at home and if he’s out of the house, he’s in contempt of court, he can be arrested. They can put shackles on his ankle, electronically communicating with the police department. Uh, random telephone calls 24 hours a day. No answering machine to ensure that he’s there. They do that routinely to fathers who have not properly paid for their uh, their monetary obligations.

If a judge were to say to a mother, “If the children are not… if the children… if the children are not at the father’s house at 5:00 on Friday, the car … there’s a court order here at 5:01, for the police to come and arrest you … for not getting your children there. And you will spend the weekend in jail …to help remind you that those children must be there.”

I haven’t gotten one judge to do that. Not one.

I haven’t even gotten one judge to say to a, such a mother, “I order you to take a tour of the jail just to see what it’s like to give you an idea of where you’re going if those children don’t go.”

I had a child in the early eighties, a seven-year-old boy, who was a PAS victim himself… boy is …the children are victims too. (As afterthought.)

(In the voice of a young adoring child.) “Dr. Gardner, is it true that if I don’t go and see my daddy, uh the judge is going to put my mommy in jail? That’s right, isn’t it true the judge is going to put my mommy in jail?”

Oh my, the kid was begging me. Every cell in his body was begging me to say, “Yes, the judge will put my… your mommy in jail.”

I said, “Well, you know that’s a possibility, he has the power to do that.”

“Okay I’ll see, I’ll see my daddy. Mommy, Dr. Gardner says the judge will put me in jail if I don’t see daddy, my daddy, so I’ll go see my daddy.” (Note: According to Gardner’s categories, such behavior in a child would indicate a total absence of the “Parental Alienation Syndrome”.)

He was begging me for the excuse. I beg the judges, the kids need the excuse. They want to be able to say to the alienator “I hate him. But I’ll go anyway to protect you.”

The judges won’t do it. Because it’s not the politically correct thing to do in the United States in 1999 to put a woman in jail, for not visit… visiting. Put a man in jail for not paying the money, it’s done every minute. Put a woman in jail, politically incorrect…look bad in the papers.

Now that men are starting to induce PASs, it’s easier… it will be easier. There are so many cases all over the United States of PAS… hundreds of thousands. There’s an epidemic, there’s no question. It has to happen. And once it happens, it’ll probably be easier if the man is the first one because then it will be easier for the judges.

So what I’m saying is this, the judges have the power, if anybody is in contempt of court, to put in jail. In other words, if… if… if somebody before a judge in the United States were to not appear … [Audio 45:28 – 45:31 missing]… to work within those guidelines.  Contempt of court in general, the judge has power to incarcerate.

There’s only two states in the United States that I know where the judge is empowered to incarcerate up to six months a parent who is in contempt of court for a visitation uh… order. And once that happens, there will be very, there will be a rapid shrinkage of PAS.

So, I started this presentation saying, what I said about the cure of PAS is the legislators empowering the judges to impose penalties, meaningful, humane penalties, on PAS inducing parents – regardless of the gender of the parent. This is the only cure I know of. Psychotherapy will not work. Nothing else I can think of will work and I’ve certainly been giving a lot of thought to this over the last fifteen years. And there’s nothing in my experience to suggest that there’s any other route to cure and my hope is that what I’ve said today will play some role in bringing about this change here.

Thank you.



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