Gardner’s Legacy: Misogyny, Antisemitism, and Courtroom Quackery

The founding father of ‘parental alienation’ theory, Richard Gardner, self-published his non-peer reviewed theorisations prolifically. Authoring 41 books and in excess of 200 articles, he published  misogynistic, paedophile-sympathetic, and antisemitic rhetoric that was central to his ideas about mothers. Gardner hypothesized that western outrage and punitive approaches towards paedophilia was due to a Jewish conspiracy which caused hysteria in mothers and the state. Unsurprisingly, this recently compelled Italy’s supreme court to prohibit ‘parental alienation theory,’ branding it ‘unscientific Nazi theory’. Currently, the theories’ use is being investigated by the UN.

Ignoring the roots of ‘parental alienation’ theory is dangerous because the roots provide the rationale behind the notion. It dictates the target, purpose and application. Ignoring the well-founded reasons behind the theory’s total discreditation allows the deception to flourish. In the past few years ‘parental alienation’ theory has inexplicably experienced a resurgence; now, routinely, women and children in family court are subjected to Gardner’s legacy, particularly if they have concerns about violence or continuing abuse post-separation.

Modern day proponents of ‘parental alienation’  theory often seek to distance themselves from Gardner’s original views, presumably because wholly quoting their guru would be political suicide. They instead rebrand the theory, dressing it in new labels with extra layers of junk science, amid an absence of empirical or clinical evidence. The original basis is concealed.

Victims of abuse are disproportionately revictimized – they are five times more likely to become victims of the theory after alleging abuse in court. Psychologists (or others posing as professionals) are hired in children’s cases, flinging pseudoscientific ‘diagnoses’ around the courtroom that aren’t even listed in diagnostic manuals, such as ‘induced psychological splitting’.

The new guises of Gardner’s ‘alienation’ have no clinical or scientific foundations, like the original beliefs they are modelled upon. New theories emerge spearheaded by new disciples, who, like Gardner, also happen to be prolific, non-peer reviewed self-publishers.

These so-called disorders cannot be diagnosed by any clinical professional because their existence is limited to the imaginations of the authors; Gardner-derived fringe theories have no more validity than other pseudoscientific so-called disorders that stained justice in the past. Like the court accepting that black men’s physiology was an indicator of born criminality, or that homosexuality was both criminal and disorderly. Nowadays, the court says if you are suspected of ‘alienation’ you are a disordered, unfit mother.

Historically, the court and psychological profession were susceptible to disinformation. Consider the witch craze of the 16th century, or the eighteenth century diagnosis of Drapetomania which positioned slaves desiring escape as mentally ill, or the Hysteria diagnosis utilised to incarcerate ‘difficult women’ since the dawn of time. Latterly, derivatives of ‘parental alienation syndrome’ are attributed to women and children who wish to place limits on an abusive (usually) father. Each discredited theory mandates a brutal retaliatory response to a reasonable, understandable action.

Collectively, these pseudoscientific disorders have been discredited, yet most were not eradicated until untold damage was done. In the case of ‘alienation’, courts today are actively legitimising it. The judiciary apparently are just as susceptible to disinformation as they were during the witch trials, and the courtroom narratives of ‘alienation’ are similarly circular.

Those accused of witchcraft would be under pressure to admit it to avoid torture, or tortured until they confessed. Nowadays in court, those accused of ‘alienation’, are under pressure to admit it to avoid the torture of losing a child, or tortured by losing a child until they confess.

If a mother or a child continues reporting abuse, those reports are considered a ‘symptom’, rather than information about a crime that needs investigating. An alarming flurry of judgements emerged from London’s High Court that mandated into law a Gardner-derived fringe theory as a new mental health ‘condition’. The trickle-down happened fast, officially and judicially entrenching junk-science. One of the ‘symptoms’ of ‘induced psychological splitting’ is children reporting an abusive father. The treatment is being sent to live with him. If a child maintains their allegations they are not cured of the ‘splitting’. It’s easy to understand what could go wrong for the 1.7 billion children a year subjected to abuse globally.

New theories based on ‘parental alienation’ are echoes of Gardner’s opinions; the apple does not fall far from the tree. Today it even forms part of a diagnosis from regulated clinical professionals in court (as well as a cohort of unregulated quacks). Fringe theories relating to ‘alienation’ are not listed in diagnostic manuals. They are concocted falsehoods; a diagnosis of the undiagnosable. Regulators could put a stop to this but are generally toothless. Light-touch regulator HCPC states that they don’t investigate what goes on in the courtroom, leaving court appointed experts above the standard practices of good clinical governance.

If you are in family court and are worried about overcoming allegations of parental alienation, check out Paramily’s course which teaches safe, effective, preventative strategies you can use whether you are legally represented or not. Access The Parental Alienation Protocol here.

Further reading: View our submission to the UN Investigation into ‘parental alienation’ theory here

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