Another reason for the controversy regarding the existence of the PAS relates to the fact that in the vast majority of families it is the mother who is likely to be the primary programmer and the father the victim of the children's campaign of denigration. My own observations since the early 1980s, when I first began to see this disorder, has been that in 85-90 percent of all the cases in which I have been involved, the mother has been the alienating parent and the father has been the alienated parent. For simplicity of presentation, then, I have often used the term mother to refer to the alienator, and the term father to refer to the alienated parent. I recently conducted an informal survey among approximately 50 mental health and legal professionals whom I knew were aware of the PAS and deal with such families in the course of their work. I asked one simple question: What is the ratio of mothers to fathers who are successful programmers of a PAS? The responses ranged from mothers being the primary alienators in 60 percent of the cases to mothers as primary alienators in 90 percent of the cases. Only one person claimed it was 50/50, and no one claimed it was 100 percent mothers. Elsewhere in this book (especially Chapter Five) I will discuss this gender difference in greater detail and will provide references in the scientific literature confirming the preponderance of mothers over fathers in inducing successfully a PAS in their children.

In recent years it has become "politically risky" and even "politically incorrect" to describe gender differences. Such differentiations are acceptable for such disorders as breast cancer and diseases of the uterus and ovaries. But once one moves into the realm of personality patterns and psychiatric disturbances, one is likely to be quickly branded a "sexist" (regardless of one's sex). And this is especially the case if it is a man who is claiming that a specific psychiatric disorder is more likely to be prevalent in women. My observations that PAS inducers are much more likely to be women than men has subjected me to this criticism. The fact that most other professionals involved in child-custody disputes have had the same observation still does not protect me from the criticism that this is a sexist observation. The fact that I recommend that most mothers who are inducing a PAS should still be designated the primary custodial parent does not seem to protect me from this criticism.

My basic position regarding custodial preference has always been that the primary consideration in making a custodial recommendation is that the children should be preferentially assigned to that parent with whom they have the stronger, healthier psychological bond (Gardner, 1989a, 1991b, 1992a). Because the mother has most often been the primary caretaker, and because the mother is more often available to the children than the father (I am making no comments as to whether this is good or bad, only that this is what is), she is most often designated the preferable primary custodial parent by courts of law. Somehow this position has been converted by some critics into sexism against women.

Richard A. Gardner, M.D.