Alienated Children Can Suffer From Stockholm Syndrome

When The Abused Child Identifies With The Abuser

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The term "Stockholm Syndrome" sounds somewhat mysterious and though most people have heard the term few understand its meaning.  But, most of us know someone who is a victim.  If you know someone who stays in or returns to an abusive relationship then you know someone afflicted with the Syndrome.  From a social perspective the syndrome makes no sense but to psychologists it not only makes sense but it is seen as a common and logical survival technique.  And, it can be a factor in Parental Alienation.

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"Stockholm Syndrome"

In August, 1973 two men carrying machine guns attempted to rob a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. They took four hostages, one man and three women, strapped them with dynamite and held them captive in a bank vault for 5 1/2  days.  They were abused and threatened to the point where they were fearful for their lives.

When rescued the rescuers were shocked to learn that the hostages had actually bonded with their captors who had been terrifying them for over 5 days. 

They defended their captors and tried to protect them from the police. Eventually, one of the women became engaged to one captor and the other woman developed legal defense fund to help support the criminals.  For reasons unknown to the authorities the hostages had bonded emotionally with their captors.

Although this behavioral pattern had long been familiar to the psychiatric  community it has ever since then been known as Stockholm Syndrome.  Previous studies had identified the behavior in hostage and abusive situations including abused children, battered and abused women, war prisoners, cult members, incest victims, victims of crimes, concentration camp prisoners, and other relationships involving intimidation or control. Law enforcement personnel have long recognized this behavior with abused women who repeatedly take back abusive men and even attack police who try to rescue them from an in-process attack.

I the final analysis, bonding with a dangerous and powerful other is a survival strategy adopted, even if unconsciously,  by the victim.  It seems to be an effective strategy and police hostage negotiators often encouraged it since it may increase the hostage's chances for survival.

Patty Hearst: Classic Victim Of Stockholm Syndrome

Patty Hearst was the socialite, heiress granddaughter of the late publishing magnate, William Randolph Hearst.  In 1973, at age 19,  she was kidnapped and held for ransom by a left wing militant organization called the the Symbionese Liberation Army.  A couple of attempts to trade her for the kidnappers demands failed and she remained with the SLA for about a year and a half.  During this time she declared herself a member of the SLA  and on April 15, 1974 she was photographed participating in a bank robbery.  In September, 1975 she was arrested and eventually tried and sentenced to 35 years imprisonment.  However, President Jimmy Carter later commuted her sentence to two years and President Bill Clinton granted a full pardon in January, 2001.

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In a very short period of time Hearst transformed from being a pampered socialite heiress to a violent radical assuming the name, Tania.  What happened?  She was confined to a tiny room blindfolded, gagged, and tied-up.  She was subjected to radical rantings, abuse, and rape. She was deprived of sight, light, sleep, and food.  She was totally dependent on her kidnappers for all information and lived in constant fear of being killed if she did not cooperate.

Patty Hearst suffered classic and severe brainwashing and her survival instincts led her to join the SLA.  Today, she lives a normal life, having fully recovered from both the brainwashing and her experience with Stockholm Syndrome.  Her adaptation and acceptance of the SLA may well have saved her life.

Victim: Elizabeth Smart

Kidnapped:  June 5, 2002

Rescued:    March 12, 2003

Current contributor to ABC News.

Read More by clicking here

Stockholm Syndrome And Parental Alienation

It is believed that four conditions are generally present and relevant in people with Stockholm Syndrome.  All four arise in response to the relationship between the child and the alienator and the child may be exceptionally vulnerable because the relationship may already be strong.  It is the alienation from the targeted parent that is abnormal and the process can be very similar to Stockholm Syndrome.  The initial relationship may allow for a broader definition of strategies used by the alienator.

The victim must perceive a threat to their physical or psychological well being.  The fear may be a result of direct abuse, implied threats,  or witnessing abuse or violence against others.  The only way for the child to protect themselves is to at least quietly comply with and accept the alienator's point of view.  A narcissistic parent certainly meets the criteria of being quite capable of both overt and implied threats to both the child and other family members.

There was a period of time when my youngest daughter would return from a weekend visit with her father and crawl up on a couch, turn her head into the couch and begin to cry uncontrollably.  She could not or would not explain her stress but I eventually found therapy for her.  This helped but as she approached age 14 she requested to return to the therapist but after only one visit she refused to talk with the psychologist.  By this time she was well into the alienation process and her father influenced her to refuse the intervention.

The abuser repeatedly reminds the victim that there will be consequences if expectations are not met.  They could be threats of violence or with children it could be the loss of some desirable tangible or intangible possession or activity enjoyed by the child.  For instance, the alienator might be perceived as the "fun" parent while the other is no fun, has too many rules, and is the sole cause of the child's stress, confusion and  pain.  The child becomes even more stressed by the possibility of being stuck with the "bad" parent, losing the  "fun" or negligent parent and even experiencing retribution from the abuser if he/she is abandoned.

Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped at age 11 and held captive for 18 years.  While captive she gave birth to two daughters.  The kidnapper kept them all captive in his backyard.

A violent or aggressive alienator is consistent with personalty disorders and can be a significant element in alienating children. Violent outbursts aimed at other drivers, unknown third parties, or even inanimate objects such as a television can be part of the process.  Threatening,  intimidating, and manipulative outbursts can make children fearful that they will be the next target.

McKenzie Phillips is most famous for her starring role in the '70s-'80s sitcom "One Day at a Time."  She was first raped by her father, pop icon Papa John Phillips, in a hotel room when she was 18.  They went on to have a "consensual" sexual relationship for years.

The relationship continued long after she married at age19, and ended only when she became pregnant and feared her father was the baby's father. John Phillips  paid for an abortion. Read More

The abusive parent manages to manipulate the child so that they are isolated from  or reject any other perspectives.  The child becomes fearful of saying or doing anything that will precipitate a violent or intimidating outburst.  The parent commands a certain amount of "charismatic authority" so the child begins to ease their stress by accepting the abuser's view of reality.  their lives become preoccupied with the needs and desires of the abusive parent.

And, the prime motivating emotion of the alienating parent is the destruction of the target.  So, the child joins in the vitriolic hate and denigration of a parent that he/she once loved.

 To read more about Stockholm Syndrome click on the link.

Read more about Patty Hearst by clicking here

Read more about Elizabeth Smart by clicking here

Read more about Jaycee Dugard by clicking here

Read about Ariel Castro's victims by clicking here

Table of Contents

Alienator Personality Types And Parental Alienation
Alienator Personality Types Perpetrate Parental Alienation
Personality Disorders And Parental Alienation
Personality Disorders Play A Significant Role In Parent Alienation
Convergent Emotional Disorders
The convergence Of Emotional Disorders Can Be The Key To Parental Alienation
Family Dynamics' Significance In Alienation
Family Dynamics And Individual Personalities Are Significant Factors In Parental Alienation
Child Advocacy Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
Child Advocacy is Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
Therapeutic Intervention In Parental Alienation
Early Therapeutic Intervention May Prevent Parent Alienation
Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
A Carefully Executed Plan Of Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
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