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Gardner, Richard A(lan) 1931-2003

GARDNER, Richard A(lan) 1931-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born April 28, 1931, in New York, NY; committed suicide after developing reflex sympathetic dystrophy May 25, 2003, in Tenafly, NJ. Psychiatrist and author. Gardner was particularly well known for his work in child psychiatry, but became infamous for espousing his unproven Parental Alienation Syndrome theory. Completing his undergraduate work at Columbia College in 1952, he earned his medical degree from the State University of New York in 1956 and a certificate in psychoanalysis in 1966 from the William A. White Psychoanalytic Institute. From 1960 to 1962 he was a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Germany; returning home, he was certified in psychiatry in 1963 and child psychiatry in 1966. He did his residency at the New York State Psychiatric Institute/Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and went into private practice in 1966. He was also a visiting professor at various institutes and universities, and, most notably, a volunteer clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University from 1963 until his death. Gardner was a respected psychiatrist in the field for many years, but when he developed his theory of Parental Alienation Syndrome he received strong criticism from his colleagues. In this theory, Gardner asserted that children who accuse a parent—usually a father—of abuse are doing so not because the accusation is true but because the other parent has indoctrinated the child into believing the abuse has happened as a way of attacking a spouse. Gardner was therefore often called by lawyers to testify in court as a defense for parents accused of child abuse. The result was often that children would be ordered by the court to live with the parent accused of being abusive. In one case, sixteen-year-old Nathan Grieco was told to live with his father and that if he did not do so his mother would go to prison. Shortly afterward, Grieco committed suicide. Despite the lack of scientific proof for his theories, Gardner was repeatedly used to great effect in some four hundred similar child custody battles. Fellow psychiatrists frequently but unsuccessfully denounced him and feared that many children suffered unnecessary abuse as a result of his testimonies. Gardner also published his ideas in several books, many of which were self-published. These include Psychotherapy with Children of Divorce (1976), Separation Anxiety Disorder: Psychodynamics and Psychotherapy (1985), Sex Abuse Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials Revisited (1990), True and False Accusations of Child Sex Abuse (1992), Therapeutic Interventions for Children with Parental Alienation Syndrome (2000), and Sex Abuse Trauma? vs. Trauma from Other Sources? (2002). He also wrote several pseudonymous books aimed for juvenile audiences, including The Child's Book about Brain Injury (1966), Dr. Gardner's Stories about the Real World (1972), Dr. Gardner's Fairy Tales for Today's Children (1974), and Dr. Gardner's Modern Fairy Tales (1977).



Writers Directory, 18th edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2003.


Independent (London, England), May 31, 2003, p. 232.

New York Times, June 9, 2003, p. A29.

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