|| The Parental Alienation Syndrome: A Guide for Mental Health and Legal
Professionals (Second Edition)
||Richard A. Gardner
||Creative Therapeutics, Inc., ©1998
Creative Therapeutics, Inc.
155 County Rd.
Cresskill, NJ 07626-0522
Possibly the most significant insight Richard Gardner offers in this 440-page
second edition is, "The PAS [Parental Alienation Syndrome] is a relatively
new disorder, having evolved primarily from recent changes in the criteria
by which primary custodial placement is decided" (p. xxxiii). This
puts it in the classification of unintended consequence. Everybody has some
sense that things never anticipated can begin to happen, but it remains
quite difficult for persons to both recognize, adapt to, and change whatever
can be changed. The PAS then takes on the characteristics of a system error,
in which an event can trigger a cascade of consequences that quickly get
out of control and produce disaster. An example may be the nuclear power
reactor accidents and some airline crashes.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome has generated controversy. Some of this
is due to Gardner's use of the term "syndrome." In addition, much
of the controversy surrounding PAS may be generated by the resistance to
recognizing unintended consequences and the difficulty in trying to think
how to respond effectively to the reality. Gardner deals quite handily with
the major points of the criticisms that have been made.
It is also the case that any judge, lawyer, or mental health professional
knows that a frequent development in custody conflicts is that the child
becomes a battleground and can be swept up into the conflict. That cannot
be gainsaid. Whatever may be said about the name to use, the behavior is
real and it is a serious problem. It is a problem because it is damaging
This second edition also is able to refer to a growing number of research
studies and legal opinions that support and clarify the concept and the
behaviors that form the syndrome. Nothing has yet falsified the observations
and the concepts Gardner has put forth. Instead, it is becoming more clear
that his formulations and observations likely meet the Frye test and the
U. S. Supreme Court Daubert ruling for admissibility.
This book is required reading for anyone who deals with the tragedy of divorce,
custody conflicts, and the need to make recommendations and/or decisions
in that environment. It is not necessary to agree with everything suggested
by Gardner, but it is necessary to know what he is talking about. Anything
less is to fail to consider and uphold the best interests and the welfare
of the children involved when there is behavior that approaches this description.
Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.