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Parental Alienation Syndrome

Information on Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)

“This article analyzes every precedent-bearing decision and law review article
referencing PAS in the past twenty years, finding that precedent holds PAS
inadmissible and the majority of legal scholarship views it negatively.”

“PAS as developed and purveyed by Richard Gardner has neither a logical nor a
scientific basis. It is rejected by responsible social scientists and lacks solid
grounding in psychological theory or research.”

“Both Gardner (PAS’s originator) and NAMBLA claim that adult-child sex is
biologically natural, not inherently harmful to the child, and that any resultant
harm is caused by social stigma rather than the sexual contact itself.”

“While Gardner claimed that “repeat offenders must be removed from society,” he
advocated that they only be imprisoned after treatment has failed, advocating that
they not be imprisoned with “hardened criminals,” or be subjected to lengthy
sentences. As a political advocate, Gardner lobbied to abolish mandated reporting
of child abuse, to abolish immunity for reporters of child abuse, and for the
creation of federally funded programs to assist individuals claiming to be falsely
accused.”

The Evidentiary Admissibility of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Science, Law, and


Policy Jennifer Hoult - Children’s Legal Rights Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1, 2006
Abstract: Since 1985, in jurisdictions all over the United States, fathers have
been awarded sole custody of their children based on claims that mothers alienated
these children due to a pathological medical syndrome called Parental Alienation
Syndrome (”PAS”). Given that some such cases have involved stark outcomes,
including murder and suicide, PAS’s admissibility in U.S. courts deserves
scrutiny. This article presents the first comprehensive analysis of the science,
law, and policy issues involved in PAS’s evidentiary admissibility. As a novel
scientific theory, PAS’s admissibility is governed by a variety of evidentiary
gatekeeping standards that seek to protect legal fora from the influence of
pseudo-science. This article analyzes every precedent-bearing decision and law
review article referencing PAS in the past twenty years, finding that precedent
holds PAS inadmissible and the majority of legal scholarship views it negatively.
The article further analyzes PAS’s admissibility under the standards defined in
Frye v. United States, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Kumho Tire Company
v. Carmichael, and Rules 702 and 704(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence,
including analysis of PAS’s scientific validity and reliability; concluding that
PAS remains an ipse dixit and inadmissible under these standards. The article also
analyzes the writings of PAS’s originator, child psychiatrist Richard Gardner -
including twenty-three peer-reviewed articles and fifty legal decisions he cited
in support of his claim that PAS is scientifically valid and legally admissible -
finding that these materials support neither PAS’s existence, nor its legal
admissibility. Finally, the article examines the policy issues raised by PAS’s
admissibility through an analysis of PAS’s roots in Gardner’s theory of human
sexuality, a theory that views adult-child sexual contact as benign and beneficial
to the reproduction of the species.

http://ssrn.com/abstract=910267
paper available at :
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=642440

from the paper : 1. American Precedent Holds PAS Inadmissible - Because unreliable
scientific claims pose a unique risk of undue influence and prejudice in the
courtroom, the evidentiary admissibility of novel scientific material is governed
by gate-keeping rules that are intended to ensure that such testimony meets
adequate standards of reliability. As a novel scientific theory, PAS’s
admissibility is governed by these gate-keeping rules. Gardner published the claim
that fifty American decisions set precedent holding PAS admissible under the
relevant evidentiary rules. A closer examination reveals this claim to be
unfounded; current U.S. precedent holds PAS inadmissible. By July 19, 2005, sixty-
four precedent bearing cases referenced PAS. Only two of these decisions, both
originating in criminal courts in New York State, set precedent on the issue of
PAS’s evidentiary admissibility; both held PAS inadmissible….

A. PAS Is Not a Medical Syndrome - A medical “syndrome” defines a “distinct”


correlation between a set of symptoms and a particular pathology. Determining
whether PAS is a valid medical syndrome requires an assessment of whether it is an
existing pathology and whether its diagnostic criteria correlate accurately with
that pathology….Both Gardner and NAMBLA claim that adult-child sex is biologically
natural, not inherently harmful to the child, and that any resultant harm is
caused by social stigma rather than the sexual contact itself. Gardner claimed the
sole “determinant as to whether these experiences [i.e. a sexual encounter between
an adult and a child] will be traumatic is the social attitude towards these
encounters” and stated: [M]any societies have been unjustifiably punitive to those
who exhibit these sexual paraphilic variations [e.g. pedophiles, rapists, etc.]
and have not been giving proper respect to the genetic factors that may very well
be operative. Such considerations may 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
individuals who exhibit these variations of sexual behavior. [Further,] they do
play a role in species survival. While Gardner claimed that “repeat offenders must
be removed from society,” he advocated that they only be imprisoned after
treatment has failed, advocating that they not be imprisoned with “hardened
criminals,” or be subjected to lengthy sentences. As a political advocate, Gardner
lobbied to abolish mandated reporting of child abuse, to abolish immunity for
reporters of child abuse, and for the creation of federally funded programs to
assist individuals claiming to be falsely accused.

Parental Alienation Syndrome and Parental Alienation: Getting It Wrong in Child


Custody Cases Carol S. Bruch University of California, Davis 35 Family Law
Quarterly 527 (2001) Abstract: As courts and legislatures continue their
enthusiastic ventures into family law reform, they make frequent use of theories
and research from the social sciences. This essay focuses on developments in child
custody law stemming from “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (PAS), a theory
propounded in 1985 by Richard Gardner, M.D. that became widely used despite its
lack of scientific foundations. The discussion highlights theoretical and
practical problems with PAS, provides a similar review of more recent proposals
labeled “Parental Alienation” (PA), and concludes with recommendations for lawyers
and judges who must evaluate these and similar developments.
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=298110&rec=1&srcabs=910267
paper available at :
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=228611

from the paper:


C. The Flaws in PAS Theory - The deficiencies in PAS theory are multiple. Some
have already been identified in social science literature and child custody
judicial opinions; still others are now emerging. First, Gardner confounds a
child’s developmentally related reaction to divorce and high parental conflict
(including violence) with psychosis. In doing so, he fails to recognize parents’
and children’s angry, often inappropriate, and totally predictable behavior
following separation. This error leads him to claim that PAS constitutes a
frequent example of folie à deux or folie à trois, Shared Psychotic Disorders that
the American Psychiatric Association and scholarly studies report occur only
rarely. His assertion that these disorders occur primarily in young children is
also contrary to the literature, probably also due to a misreading of typical
developmental responses to divorce on the part of young children. Second, possibly
as a consequence of these errors and his tail-of-the-elephant view, Gardner vastly
overstates the frequency of cases in which children and custodial parents
manufacture false allegations or collude to destroy the parent-child relationship.
Taken together, these assertions have the practical effect of impugning all abuse
allegations, allegations which Gardner asserts are usually false in the divorce
context. Here, too, Gardner cites no evidence in support of his personal view, and
the relevant literature reports the contrary—that such allegations are usually
well founded. Third, in this fashion, PAS shifts attention away from the perhaps
dangerous behavior of the parent seeking custody to that of the custodial parent.
This person, who may be attempting to protect the child, is instead presumed to be
lying and poisoning the child. Indeed, for Gardner, the concerned custodial
parent’s steps to obtain professional assistance in diagnosing, treating, and
protecting the child constitute evidence of false allegations. Worse yet, if
therapists agree that danger exists, Gardner asserts that they are almost always
man-hating women who have entered into a folie à trois with the complaining child
and concerned parent. Indeed, he warns judges not to take abuse allegations
seriously in the divorce court setting in high conflict cases (severe PAS cases).
Neither Gardner nor those who accept his views acknowledge the logical
difficulties when Gardner asserts that abuse allegations which are believed by
therapists constitute evidence of PA by the protective parent. Fourth, Gardner
believes that, particularly in serious cases, the relationship of an alienated
child with the rejected parent will be irreparably damaged, probably ending for
all time, unless immediate, drastic measures (custody transfer, isolation from the
loved parent, and deprogramming) are taken. Here, too, reliable sources reveal
that his theory is exaggerated, with all but unusual cases (for example, those
appearing in violent families) resolving themselves as the children mature. Fifth,
as these sources suggest, Gardner’s proposed remedy for extreme cases is
unsupported and endangers children. In his admitted decision to err on the side of
under-identifying abusers, Gardner appears to have overlooked the policy
differences between criminal law and child custody law and also to have
misunderstood the distinction between the burdens of proof in criminal and civil
cases in the United States. To the extent that PAS results in placing children
with a parent who is, in fact, abusive, the youngsters will be bereft of contact
with the parent who might help them. Parent groups and investigative reporting
describe, for example, numerous cases in which trial courts have transferred
children’s custody to known or likely abusers and custodial parents have been
denied contact with the children they have been trying to protect. In less extreme
cases, too, children are likely to suffer from such a sudden dislocation in their
home life and relationship with the parent they trust. Even therapists who accept
PAS theory have advised against custody transfers to no avail in some reported
cases in which it seems judges have implemented Gardner’s views on their own
initiative….PAS as developed and purveyed by Richard Gardner has neither a logical
nor a scientific basis. It is rejected by responsible social scientists and lacks
solid grounding in psychological theory or research. PA, although more refined in
its understanding of child-parent difficulties, entails intrusive, coercive,
unsubstantiated remedies of its own. Lawyers, judges, and mental health
professionals who deal with child custody issues should think carefully and
respond judiciously when claims based on either theory are advanced.

Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force On


Violence And The Family - ISSUES AND DILEMMAS IN FAMILY VIOLENCE Issue 5 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 need 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 the mother for leaving, or to try to force her to return. Most
people, including the battered woman herself, believe 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.
http://web.archive.org/web/20000307233013/www.apa.org/pi/pii/familyvio/issue5.html

LOYOLA OF LOS ANGELES LAW REVIEW 29:1367-1415 (1994) THE PARENTAL ALIENATION
SYNDROME: A DANGEROUS AURA OF RELIABILITY Cheri L. Wood - PAS testimony should not
be admitted in court because of the causation and evidentiary problems with the
theory. Because of the dangerous aura of reliability and trustworthiness extant in
Dr. Gardner’s self- published theory, admission of PAS is inevitable and
particularly disconcerting. http://fact.on.ca/Info/pas/wood94.htm

Dr. Richard Gardner: A Review of His Theories and Opinions on Atypical Sexuality,
Pedophilia, and Treatment Issues by Stephanie J. Dallam, RN, MSN, FNP Reference:
Dallam, S. J. (1998). Treating Abuse Today, 8(1), 15-23.
http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/res/dallam/2.html

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is one such theory. This unsophisticated,


pseudoscientific theory explains a child’s estrangement from one parent or
allegations of abuse at the hands of one parent by blaming the other. The theory,
developed by the late Richard A. Gardner, M.D., portrays the preferred parent
(usually the mother under PAS) as an evil “alienator” who is virtually solely
responsible for turning a vulnerable child against their estranged parent (usually
the father under PAS)….there has been no consistent empirical or clinical evidence
that PAS is a valid syndrome or that the so called “alienator’s” behavior is the
actual cause of the alienated child’s behavior towards the target parent (Walker
et al, 2005). In fact, the majority of mental health and legal experts who have
studied the issue consider PAS theory to be both erroneous and dangerous to the
children involved. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/faq.htm

The Parental Alienation Syndrome: Is It Scientific? by Stephanie J. Dallam, RN,


MSN, FNP Dallam, S. J. (1999). In E. St. Charles & L. Crook (Eds.), Expose: The
failure of family courts to protect children from abuse in custody disputes . Los
Gatos , CA : Our Children Our Children Charitable Foundation. Gardner ’s theories
are based on his assumption that sex between a child and an adult is not
inherently harmful, and his belief that there is an epidemic of false sexual abuse
allegations being made by vengeful wives during custody disputes. Gardner
maintains these beliefs in spite of a wealth of clinical and experimental data
which prove otherwise. http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/res/dallam/3.html

Faller, K. C. (1998). The parental alienation syndrome: What is it and what data
support it? Child Maltreatment, 3(2), 100-115 “No data are provided by Gardner to
support the existence of the syndrome and its proposed dynamics. In fact, the
research and clinical writing of other professionals leads to a conclusion that
some of its tenets are wrong and that other tenets represent a minority view” (p.
112). http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/docs/Faller1998.pdf

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need to Know Part 1 of 2 Update -


Volume 16, Number 6, 2003 By Erika Rivera Ragland & Hope Fields PAS is based
primarily upon two notions, neither of which has a foundation in empirical
research. 1. PAS Presupposes a High Rate of False Accusations in Custody Cases The
theory of PAS is based in part on the notion that, within custody disputes, there
is a high incidence of false abuse allegations. Dr. Gardner theorized that
allegations arising within the context of a custody dispute have a “high
likelihood of being false,”5 and went so far as to state that he believed “the
vast majority of allegations in this category [divorce cases with custody
disputes] are false.” To the contrary, the available research suggests that false
allegation rates are not significantly high. For example, a 1990 study by Thoennes
and Tjaden evaluated 9,000 divorces in 12 states and found that sexual abuse
allegations were made in less than 2 percent of the contested divorces involving
child custody. Within this group, it appears false allegations occurred in
approximately 5% to 8% of cases. This study is one of the most comprehensive and
least subject to bias and sampling problems, since its sample is so large and
representative of the population of those divorcing with custody and visitation
disputes. 2. PAS Presumes a Disadvantage to Women in Child Custody
Determinations….Other Weaknesses: Lack of Peer Review and Recognition by DSM-IV
Dr. Gardner mostly self-published and thus did not generally subject his theory to
the peer review process. Moreover, PAS is not recognized by any professional
associations, including the American Psychiatric Association. PAS is also not
included within the DSM-IV. It is also worth noting that Dr. Gardner often
expressed disdain for child abuse professionals, labeling them “validators,”
theorizing that greed and desire for increased business prompted some sexual abuse
allegations, and speculating that parents and professionals alike made some false
allegations because “all of us have some pedophilia within us.” Conclusion - At
best, PAS is a nondiagnostic “syndrome” that only explains the behavior of the
child and the mother when there is a known false allegation. It is a courtroom
diagnosis befitting adversaries involved in legal sparring. It is not capable of
lending itself to hard data or inclusion in the forthcoming DSM-V. In short, PAS
is an untested theory that, unchallenged, can have far-reaching consequences for
children seeking protection and legal vindication in courts of law.
http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/update_volume_16_number_6_2003.html

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Professionals Need to Know Update - Volume 16,
Number 7, 2003 Part 2 of 2 By Hope Fields & Erika Rivera Ragland 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.
http://www.ndaa.org/publications/newsletters/update_volume_16_number_7_2003.html

Parental Alienation Syndrome: Frye V. Gardner in the Family Courts by Poliacoff,


Ph.D., P.A., Greene, Esq., and Smith, Esq
http://web.archive.org/web/20051124134133/http://www.gate.net/~liz/liz/poliacoff.h
tm

RICHARD A. GARDNER: IN HIS OWN WORDS “At the present time, the sexually abused
child is generally considered to be the victim,” though the child may initiate
sexual encounters by ’seducing’ the adult.” Gardner, Richard A., Child Custody
Litigation (1986), p.93
http://web.archive.org/web/20061012010857/http://www.gate.net/~liz/liz/pedoph.htm