I agree that Parental Alienation and Domestic Violence by Proxy do exist. However, I disagree with Dr. Gardner, and believe his application of PAS is dangerous, and has damaged the validity of parental alienation aka domestic violence by proxy. Dr. Gardner’s PAS theory has perpetrated a gender bias, and created a divide, of mothers against fathers, when in reality, the problems parents are facing in family court have to do with systemic failures that rob fit, loving parents (either mothers or fathers) of custody of their children, and deny parental rights. And too often, abusers win custody at the detriment of children.
Dr. Gardner was a paid expert court witness, the majority of his clients were fathers accused of domestic violence or child abuse. He was an expert speaker, whose career became famous because of PAS. Dr. Gardner’s PAS is not based on systematic research; rather, he developed this theory through his personal observations and work as an expert witness. The PAS criteria used by Gardner, are basically cut/paste and built from the ruins of his earlier (the widely discredited) test for determining whether children were fabricating allegations of sexual abuse, the “Sexual Abuse Legitimacy Scale” (SAL Scale). The only appellate court to rule on the admissibility of the SAL Scale held it inadmissible because there was no showing that it had “some reasonable degree of recognition and acceptability among the spectrum of scientific or medical experts in the field” (Page v. Zordan, 564 So. 2nd 500, Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1990).
Dr. Gardner provides no scientific data to support his theories about PAS, and most of his articles on the subject have not appeared in peer-reviewed medical journals, which require analysis by fellow professionals before publication.PAS also isn’t listed as a “syndrome” in the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of such disorders.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome:
Is It Scientific? http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/res/dallam/3.html
Scientific and Professional Rejection of PAS (developed by Dr. Gardner): http://www.dvleap.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=kQAngavEi6E%3D&tabid=173
Dr. Gardner used PAS as an “abuse excuse” to help fathers win court, by discrediting the mothers claiming abuse happened as being an “alienator” whose testimony cannot be trusted, and thereby labeling the mother with a kind of mental illness. Dr. Gardner believed women made abuse allegations against a former partner because they were sexually frustrated, and upset about the end of the relationship. This perpetrates an adversarial he said/she said environment in court, by diverting attention from the alleged abuse to casting suspicion, and assigning blame to one party. Abuse allegations should be taken seriously, and properly investigated. Dr. Gardner believes that 90 percent of the allegations of abuse against children in custody cases are false, whether they involve physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Dr. Gardner also believed that mothers found, by his unscientific and unreliable methods, to be alienators should be sent an intimidating and strong message from the courts including financial sanctions, jail time and loss of custody. This itself creates alienation — indeed, many parents report the Courts, and unjust court orders, are actually alienating them from their children.
“The mother must know that any obstructionism on her part will be immediately reported to the judge, either by the therapist or though the guardian ad litem or child advocate. The court must be willing to impose sanctions such as fines or jail. The threat of loss of primary custody can also help such mothers ‘remember to cooperate.” — Dr Richard Gardner, American Fatherhood.
Dr. Gardner also implemented “threat therapy” to forcibly reunite children, even those alleging abuse happened, with a parent. Some children have been jailed and involuntarily held in psychiatric facilities as part of threat therapy. There are many modern versions of Dr. Gardner’s work implemented in the US, and other courts around the world.
Alternatively, Benjamin D. Garber believes that Dr. Gardner’s PAS theory confuses cause and effect. He cautions that it is very easy for a presumption of alienation “to take on a life of its own without proper consideration of the many alternative (and often more likely) causes of a child’s distress during parental separation and divorce“. PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME: FRYE V GARDNER IN THE FAMILY COURTS (PART 2 OF 2): http://expertpages.com/news/parental_alienation_syndrome2.htm
Further, in cases where domestic violence is present, the dynamic of parental alienation is a little different because the alienating behavior is part of the abuse dynamic, and often occurs throughout the relationship. For example- an abuser may teach the children to disrespect the other parent, calling them names, or even engaging in abusive parents. Domestic Violence by Proxy is the term commonly used to label alienating behavior in the context of abuse, it means that an abuser uses the children as a weapon to hurt or gain control of a partner who has left, and has no access to.
Also worth reading about is the Grieco case. In February 1998, Nathan Grieco, 16, of North Huntingdon (PA) was found dead in his bedroom, a belt around his neck. His death came after years of custody disputes between his mother, Karen Scott, and his father, Louis Grieco. Dr. Gardner found that mother, Ms. Scott. was an alienator, and ordered threat therapy for Nathan. Nathan was alleging that his father was physically abusive to him, and told the family court judge that he did not want to visit his father. Both Dr. Gardner and the court were unrepentant even after the suicide, and it was only after an exposé in the local newspaper that custody arrangements for the two surviving boys were changed.
Casualties of a Custody War: http://old.post-gazette.com/custody/parttwo.asp
Gardner’s definition of PAS is:
1. The Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) is a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes.
2. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification.
3. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) of a parent’s indoctrinations and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.
Excerpted from: Gardner, R.A. (1998). The Parental Alienation Syndrome, Second Edition, Cresskill, NJ: Creative Therapeutics, Inc.