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Richard Gardner, Father of “Parental Alienation,” in His Own Words

* Works cited are listed at the end of the article.

The field of reunification therapy is based on the theories promoted by Richard Gardner, MD. But contrary to all that is known medically and scientifically and psychiatrically as to the trauma sexual activity causes to children, Richard Gardner advocates and normalizes sexual activity between adults and children.

Gardner’s work has set the stage for the development of a society without norms or morals, as is being accomplished through the family court system. Following his lead, they are producing a criminal population of murderers and child abusers.

Gardner promoted his personal fantasies and theories on childhood sexuality through his own private publishing company, Creative Therapeutics. He his books, cassettes, and videotapes, he marketed himself as a forensic psychiatrist, claiming that he had testified as an expert in approximately 300 cases, both criminal and civil, in some 24 states. He advertised himself as advocating for the defense in child sexual abuse cases.

Promoting child sexual abuse for the survival of the species

Gardner bases his promotion of sexual activity in the child on an ostensible desire to keep the human species going. As such, he calls the child a “survival machine.” He uses the term “charged up child” as a potential progenitor likely to transmit their own genes through the birth process at an early age. Gardner postulates that when a child is drawn into sexual encounters at an early age, the child is likely to become highly sexualized and will crave sexual experiences during pre-puberty years. The younger the “survival machine” is at the time sexual urges appear, he says, the longer will be the span of procreative activity and the greater the likelihood the individual will create more “survival machines” in the next generation. (1992, pp 24-25).

Gardner specifically advocated for the procreative purposes of the white race. His absorption and support of the Nazi theory of eugenics is a thread that filters through his work.

There is an evolutionary benefit to sexual practices known as paraphilias, according to Gardner. He advocates many different types of human sexual behavior such as pedophilia, sexual sadism, necrophilia [sex with corpses], zoophilia [sex with animals], coprophilia [sex involving defecation], klismaphilia [sex involving enemas], and urophilia [sex involving urination]. According to him, these things can be seen as having species survival value and “do not warrant being excluded from the list of what are socially acceptable forms of sexual behavior.” Gardner professed that “such alternate forms of sexual innovations served nature’s purposes by their ability to enhance the general level of sexual excitation in society and thereby increase the likelihood that people will have sex, which then contributes to the survival of the species.” (1992, pp 18-32)

On children being sexual creatures

“There is good reason to believe that most if not all children have the capacity to reach orgasm at the time they are born.” He states that some children experience “high sexual urges in early infancy,” again a false premise, “and a normal child exhibits a wide variety of sexual fantasies and behaviors, many of which would be labelled as sick or perverted if exhibited in adults.” (1991, p 12)

Because Gardner asserts that children experience orgasm, he views damage from the perspective of the failure of gratification from orgasm, the frustration of not reaching climax.

This is an assertion that is medically and scientifically absolutely false and with no scientific merit at all. Children do not experience orgasm. The physical necessary biological hormonal development does not take place until puberty. None of this exists in the prepubescent child. These are the fantasies of a psychotic mind, producing a psychotic process. Gardner was an MD, which means he had a scientific understanding of the biological process in humans, but he chose to disregard that knowledge and imagine and promote a functionally psychotic process that does not adhere to the science.

“The sexually abused child is generally considered to be the victim, but the child may initiate sexual encounters by seducing the adult.” When they accomplish the task of seducing an adult into sexual activity and they’re caught in the act, then they will accuse the adult of being the perpetrator of engagement, he says.

On the prevalence and normality of sexual activity in other parts of the world vs. the Western world

Gardner does state that genuine sexual abuse of children is widespread and that over 95% of all sexual abuse allegations are valid (1991, p 149). But he also considers sexual activities between adults and children to be a universal phenomenon, which exists in a significant degree around the world in every culture (1992, p 670). “Incest is widespread and is probably an ancient tradition.” (1991, p 119) He suggests that the prevalence of this phenomenon is related to the survival of mankind. But a phenomenon existing in large numbers does not mean that it is a good thing.

Gardner states that Western society is excessively moralistic and punitive toward “atypical” sexual behavior. He states, “The draconian punishments meted out to pedophiles go far beyond what I consider to be the gravity of the crime.” The current prohibition of sex between adults and children, which he traces to the ancient Jews. He states that it is of interest that of all ancient peoples, it may well be the Jews who were punitive toward pedophiles. “Early Christian proscriptions against pedophilia appear to have been derived from the earlier teachings of the Jews, and our present overreaction to pedophilia represents an exaggeration of Judeo-Christian principles and is a significant factor operative in Western society’s atypicality with regard to such activities.” (1992, 46-47)

“I too have come to believe that sexual activity between an adult and a child is a reprehensible act. However I do not believe it is intrinsically so. In other times and societies it may not be so. The determinate as to whether the experience will be traumatic is a social attitude toward these encounters.” (1992 pp 670-671)

Throughout his treatment recommendations Gardner repeats that it is the attitude of the public toward adult-child sexual that is the determinate of the child’s reaction. The view of pedophilia as a sickness and crime is simply a reflection of Western societies’ position on the subject, he says. “The determinate as to whether the experience will be traumatic is the social attitude toward these encounters.” (1992, pp 49, 670)

PTSD as desensitization

Gardner states his views on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as “nature’s form of systematic desensitization.”  “The post-traumatic stress disorder desensitization process involves representation of the trauma verbally, emotionally, and during fantasy play.” (1992, pp 532, 535)

The child may become preoccupied with thoughts and feelings about the trauma, but “each time the child relives the experience it becomes a little more bearable.” It may help the child to bury the whole incident. (1998, p 75) Over time the preoccupations diminish where they may become forgotten. (1992, 536)

This is again an entirely false premise. PTSD is more like being continually electrocuted, a situation in which the electric shock can reignite at any moment, by whatever glancing memory may re-trigger it.

Therapy in cases of child sexual abuse

Gardner does not recommend therapy for sexual abuse cases unless he’s 100% convinced the abuse has indeed taken place. (1991, p 666) He states it is extremely important for therapist to understand that the child who has been sexually abused may not need intervention.  “There is a series of assessments that should be evaluated, and it depends on whether the child was coerced and gained no pleasure and might be considered to be raped, to those who enjoyed immensely with orgastic responses the sexual activities.” (1992, pp 535, 548)

He advocates that when a child does go into therapy, a single therapist should be used, and the whole family, including the perpetrator, should be included in the so-called therapy. The therapist who is chosen should have an open mind regarding sexual activity between an adult and a child so that the child does not experience severe psychiatric effects that the therapist may induce in the treatment environment. (1992, p 528)

He blames therapists for introducing the bias that any sexual encounter between an adult and a child “however short, no matter how tender, loving, and non-painful, automatically and predictably must be psychologically traumatic to the child.” (1992 670-671)

This is all counterintuitive and illogical. These traumatic experiences unfold over a period of time with developing consciousness and awareness of the implications of the nature of the sexual exchange between an adult and child. The reverberations take place through all stages of the life process as the child develops into an adult, shaping and intruding upon the free and unimpaired development of interpersonal relationships involving trust, personal judgment, and decision making.

Therapy should be spent talking about other things, he says, as the goal is to help people forget about their problems. (1992, p 592) The goal of therapy should be to facilitate the desensitization process, not artificially prolong it with “psychotherapeutic muckraking.” He advocates that if the child feels guilty about participating, the child be told that in other societies such behavior is normal and our society has an exaggerated punitive response. “Older children may be helped to appreciate that sexual encounters between adult and child are not universally considered to be reprehensible acts. The child might be told about other societies in which such behavior was and is considered normal. The child might be helped to appreciate the wisdom of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ‘Nothing’s either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’” (1992, 549)

Gardner believes that fathers who deny committing sexual molestation should be engaged in therapy. If the father desires treatment, the therapist should focus on enhancing his self-esteem. This is accomplished by helping him understand that “there is a bit of pedophilia in every one of us” (1991, p 118) and “pedophilia has been considered to be the norm by the vast majority of individuals in the history of the world.” In our society, because we take a punitive attitude toward these inclination, “he has had a certain amount of bad luck with regard to the place and time he had been born.” (1992, p 593)

In addition to feeling sorry for his own misfortune, the father should be helped to feel pity for the child for being born “in a society that considers his behavior a heinous crime and/or a mortal sin.” (1992, p 592)

Gardner advocates that fathers have to be helped to see that although pedophilia is accepted in other cultures, this does not justify this practice in our society, even though our society overacts to it. “It is because our society overacts to it that children suffer,” he reminds us yet again. (1992, p 594-5)

“The removal of a pedophilic parent from the home should be seriously considered after all attempts to first be given the opportunity for community treatment. If that then fails, only then should some sort of forced incarceration be considered.” (1991, p 119) He states that although the child could be protected from further abuse, the therapist should not alienate the child from the molesting parent. (1992, p 537)

And what of the protective parent in therapy? Assuming it is the mother, Gardner says, “If the mother has reacted to the abuse in a hysterical fashion, or used it as an excuse for a campaign of denigration of the father, then the therapist does well to try and ‘sober her up.’ . . . Her hysterics . . . will contribute to the child’s feeling that a heinous crime has been committed and will thereby lessen the likelihood of any kind of rapprochement with the father. One has to do everything possible to help her put the ‘crime’ in proper perspective. She has to be helped to appreciate that in most societies in the history of the world, such behavior was ubiquitous and this is still the case.” (1992, pp 576-7)

Gardner says that in therapy perhaps the mother “can be helped to understand that in the history of the world his behavior has been more common than the restrained behavior of those who do not sexually abuse their children.” (1992, p 588)

More on how the protective parents should respond

Gardner blames the mother and the child for the father’s sexual abuse. “It may be that one of the reasons the daughter turned toward the father is the impairment of the child’s relationship with the mother.” (1992, p 579-80)

In his writing that the protective parent should be discouraged from involving herself with litigation, as it will interfere with the child’s natural “desensitization” process, and it will subject the child to interrogations that will inevitably be damaging. (1992, p 577) Moreover, legal investigations of the trauma may cause more damage to the child than what was done by the abuse. (1998, p 75)

Maybe the mother can protect her daughter by increasing her own sexuality, according to Gardner.  “Her own diminished guilt over masturbation will make it easier for her to encourage the practice in her daughter, if this is warranted. And her increased sexuality may lessen the need for her husband to return to their daughter for sexual gratification.”

The fact that feelings may be shared between the child and the preferred parent, for Gardner, de-legitimizes the credibility of the child. The empathic parent is not, then, an individual who understands what the child is feeling, or simply experiences a shared reality. For Gardner, any breach in forcing the child to a compliant position of adherence to the authority of the rejected parent, is an act of supporting alienation.


The Gardner concepts of “parental alienation” were generated by personal pathology, prejudice, and sales pitches to defend the indefensible acts of child sexual abusers, predators who sought out Gardner’s services as a forensic expert. Gardner’s core group of 300 clients involved men who had been accused of incest and sexual abuse of children.

When Gardner states that sexual abuse claims cause more damage to the child than the act itself, Gardner projects onto others tactics that he himself employs: coercion, manipulation of facts, and leading questions, as he deploys theories that are counterintuitive, counter to the direct experience of children exposed to adult sexual activity, and counter to scientific and medical knowledge and evidence.

This cruel aberration of a therapeutic process is based on the fantasies of a psychotic, deranged individual who has ascended as a force in the legal field because of its usefulness in defending criminals for profit. The “parental alienation” movement in the family courts is driven by an amoral legal system that has embraced the benefits of reasonable doubt to exonerate child abuse criminals and transfer children into the hands of abusers.

The motive of profit, driven by child support from federal funds into state coffers, underwrites the perversions of a racist pedophile-promotor who essentially said that children are born as sexual creatures and child sexual abuse doesn’t exist. These false concepts are antithetical to a society that respects the rights and privileges of individuals to protect children. But these concepts, which are counter to science, biology, and respect for human autonomy and self-direction,  are used as the basis of the aberrant and deviant incursions of those who wish to assert arrogant false premises in the family court system.

The imposition of aberrant psychopathic behaviors should under no circumstances be canonized and driven into the public arena by a drive for autocratic control and personal financial gain, but this is where we are: the current American court system is driven by the psychotic ravings of a psychopathic, racist pedophile-protector.

All of Richard Gardner’s concepts of adult-child sexual activity, as well as his concept of “parental alienation” can be represented by one Nathan Larson, an accountant from Charlottesville, Virginia, who ran for Congress in 2018. Larson publicly describes himself as a pedophile who raped his ex-wife repeatedly during their marriage, before her suicide. Larson describes his longing to have sex with his three year old daughter but is constrained from doing so because he “relinquished [his] parental rights during a custody battle.”[1] Mr. Larson is a somewhat extreme member on the continuum of examples of the predator population, represented in the real time, real life video tapes of adult men detached from the agony of screaming babies as their adult genitals are pushed into baby parts.

Each time court actors deny that child abuse is being committed, because of wrangling over verbiage created to cover acts of depravity instead of looking at the clinical behavior and statements of children, they risk condemning the subjects to extraordinary damage. Psychobabble that pretends to accurately portray a family dynamic should not be allowed to take the place of real behavior and the real communications of children.

The destruction of generations of children is an atrocity driven by hypocrisy and fear of criticism for what appear to be unpopular views. It is allowed by the failure of well-known and well-respected professionals to shout from the battlements that this theory, this philosophy undermines a safe and civilized society.

Though other professionals are not speaking up about this, the destructive nature of these concepts is strongly criticized by the experts of the Foundation for Child Victims of the Family Courts.

[1] Jesselyn Cook and Andy Campbell, “Congressional Candidate in Virginia Admits He’s a Pedophile,” HuffPost, May 31, 2018.

Works Cited, all written and published by Richard Gardner, Creative Therapeutics

Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited, 1991.
True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse, 1992.
The Parental Alienation Syndrome, 1998.


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