Richard A. Gardner bigraphy, stories - American psychiatrist

Richard A. Gardner : biography

April 28, 1931 - May 25, 2003

Richard Alan Gardner (April 28, 1931 – May 25, 2003) was an American psychiatrist known for proposing the controversial hypothesis of parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in 1985. He developed the idea through personal observation in his private practice to explain what he considered to be an epidemic of false accusations of child sexual abuse. In addition to his practice, Gardner held a fully credentialed position as a clinical professor, not tenured, of psychiatry in Columbia University's division of child and adolescent psychiatry. Over the course of his career he published more than 40 books and 250 articles in a variety of areas of child psychiatry and operated a company, Creative Therapeutics, Inc., that marketed materials based on his theories. Gardner testified as an expert witness in many of custody cases in the USA. Gardner committed suicide in 2003.


Gardner committed suicide on May 25, 2003. Shortly after his death, his son, Andrew, claimed that Gardner was suffering from type I complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological syndrome formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy.


Gardner's observation of a "parental alienation syndrome" focused on how one parent may misuse the powers of socialization to turn a child against a once loved parent. Gardner's labeling of alienation processes as a "syndrome" remains controversial among psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists. PAS has not been recognized by the American Psychiatric Association or any other medical or professional association. It has been extensively criticized by scientists and jurists, who describe it as inadmissible in child custody hearings based on both science and law. Gardner's claims that PAS is scientifically valid and legally admissible are not widely supported and PAS is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-5 Task Force Chair David Kupfer and DSM-5 Task Force Public Representative James McNulty have written letters to concerned professionals that PAS will not be included in DSM-5.

His views stirred considerable controversy and he published a rebuttal of his critics' arguments before he committed suicide.

It is important to note that the PAS diagnosis has been repeatedly rejected for inclusion in the DSM-5. Gardner's own source data has been shown to be biased. There is no legitimate diagnosis of PAS. Promoting his observations runs contrary to protecting children who have witnessed domestic violence, whose behavior is entirely consistent with children who have witnessed domestic abuse or have been abused. The "symptoms" for PAS are virtually identical to the symptoms a child displays as a result of being abused or witnessing domestic violence. PAS is currently considered by most mental health professionals as inadmissible in court custody proceedings. Carol S. Bruch, Research Professor of Law at the University of California, Davis, implied that Dr. Gardner's description of PAS could inflict emotions on his audience. She found lack of careful analysis and rigor among the adopters of Dr. Gardner's observations.Parental Alienation Syndrome: Junk Science in Child Custody Determinations, Carol S. Bruch, European Journal of Law Reform, 3, 383 (2002)

In a 2002 article in the American Journal of Family Therapy, Gardner dismissed most of his critics as either biased or misinformed. "Attorneys frequently select out-of-context material in order to enhance their positions in courts of law... some of these misperceptions and misrepresentations have become so widespread that I considered it judicious to formulate this statement," he wrote.

In the same article, Gardner denied that he condoned pedophilia. "I believe that pedophilia is a bad thing for society," he wrote. "I do believe, however, that pedophilia, like all other forms of atypical sexuality is part of the human repertoire and that all humans are born with the potential to develop any of the forms of atypical sexuality (which are referred to as paraphilias by DSM-IV). My acknowledgment that a form of behavior is part of the human potential is not an endorsement of that behavior. Rape, murder, sexual sadism, and sexual harassment are all part of the human potential. This does not mean I sanction these abominations."

Gardner also advocated against mandatory reporting laws for child abuse, against immunity from prosecution of individuals reporting child abuse and for the creation of programs with federal funding designed to assist individuals claimed to be falsely accused of child abuse.


Category:American physicians Category:1931 births Category:2003 deaths Category:Columbia University alumni Category:Columbia Medical School faculty Category:Doctors who committed suicide Category:Forensic psychiatrists Category:People from the Bronx Category:People from Tenafly, New Jersey Category:Suicides by sharp instrument in the United States Category:Suicides in New Jersey Category:SUNY Downstate Medical Center alumni Category:Writers from New York City

Early life and career

Gardner was born in The Bronx on April 28, 1931 and graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University and the SUNY Downstate Medical Center, also serving as the director of child psychiatry in the United States Army medical corps while in Germany. Gardner was married to, then subsequently divorced Lee Gardner, with whom he had three children (Andrew, Nancy and Julie). Later he was a partner of Natalie Weiss.

Gardner had a private practice and held an unpaid position as Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Gardner claimed to have authored 85 articles in peer review journals, numerous books and testified in more than 400 child custody cases (one of which was the Wee Care Nursery School ritual abuse case). In 1970 when divorce was becoming more common in the United States, Gardner wrote Boys and Girls Book About Divorce to provide children with suggestions on how to cope with the situation, and in 1973 he created one of the first board games for use in child psychotherapy.


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Living octopus

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