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The four hostages in the Kreditbanken robbery sympathized with their captor (right)

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological response, sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger (or at least risk), in which the hostage has been placed. Stockholm syndrome is also sometimes discussed in reference to other situations with similar tensions, such as slavery, battered person syndrome, rape cases, child abuse cases and bride kidnapping. The syndrome is named after the Norrmalmstorg robbery of Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, in which the bank robbers held bank employees hostage from August 23 to August 28 in 1973. In this case, the victims became emotionally attached to their victimizers, and even defended their captors, after they were freed from their six-day ordeal. The term "Stockholm syndrome" was coined by the criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, who assisted the police during the robbery, and referred to the syndrome in a news broadcast.

Other uses

Loyalty to a more powerful abuser — in spite of the danger that this loyalty puts the victim in — is common among victims of domestic abuse, battered partners and child abuse (dependent children). In many instances, the victims choose to remain loyal to their abuser, and choose not to leave him or her, even when they are offered a safe placement in foster homes or safe houses. This unhealthy type of mental phenomenon is also known as "Trauma-Bonding" OR "Bonding-to-the-Perpetrator." This syndrome was described by psychoanalysts of the object relations theory school (see Fairbairn) as the phenomenon of psychological identification with the more powerful abuser. A variant of Stockholm syndrome includes cases of abusive parents and abusive siblings in which the victim, even after entering adulthood still justifies the family abuse. (see Bejerot).

Evolutionary and psychoanalytic explanations

According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, the tendency might well be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable — at the very least — the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism of identification.

Sociological explanation

Based on the capital theory by Pierre Bourdieu, five forms of capital from the economic to the symbolic are constantly fought over in the society. Social actions amount to capital which can be used for power in various fields of social interaction. This power depends on violently preventing others from accessing capital and it is the opposite to a non-violent social action, where the capitals are used to increase the capital possessed by others. In the marxist class theory, capital is essential for self-realization. It has been proposed that traditions maintain the class society and forms of capitalist violence. In a hostage situation, these traditions are by-passed in a way which may allow an unforeseen action from a lower class person to gain capital. As personal interests are in conflict with the traditional culture, this lapse of tradition provides to the victims an independent forum where they interpret the actions of the abductor outside traditional norms and relate to the abductor in a compassionate way. This may lead to the need of assuring that the powerfully felt struggle for social equality of the abductor succeeds. This need may be accompanied by a sense of security, which exists between a loyal person and the abductor.

Possible examples of Stockholm syndrome

  • Colleen Stan, a.k.a. "Carol Smith" was held captive from 1977 until 1984 by Cameron and Janice Hooker in locked wooden boxes. She slept in a coffin-like box under the Hookers' bed. During her imprisonment Colleen was consistently tortured and sexually assaulted to the point of complete mental and physical subservience. Yet through it all, she stayed, even when it seemed she could escape. In the end, it would be left to a jury to answer the question: Was Colleen Stan brainwashed and forced to endure years of sexual degradation and mental torture as she and Janice Hooker contended, or a willing partner in her own enslavement, and as Cameron Hooker maintained, in a consensual "love" relationship? For an in-depth synopsis of the case, see The Case of the Seven Year Sex Slave and Perfect Victim: The True Story of "The Girl in the Box" by the D.A. That Prosecuted Her Captor [ISBN 978-0440204428]. Also documented with A&E's 'American Justice" episode 166.
  • Millionaire heiress Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. After two months in captivity, she actively took part in a robbery they were orchestrating. Her unsuccessful legal defense was that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome and was coerced into aiding the SLA. She was convicted and imprisoned for her actions in the robbery, though her sentence was commuted in February 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, and she received a Presidential pardon from Bill Clinton.
  • Natascha Kampusch, a 10-year old Austrian child who was kidnapped by Wolfgang Priklopil before escaping at the age of 18 in 2006, showed signs of having suffered from Stockholm syndrome, as evidenced by her grieving after her captor's suicide.[1]
  • Shawn Hornbeck was kidnapped at age 11 in 2002 and held for four years by Michael J. Devlin in Missouri. Shawn Hornbeck started using Devlin's last name and despite talking to police on two separate occasions about other unrelated matters Shawn Hornbeck did not seek the assistance of law enforcement. There have been many questions raised in the media reports surrounding his rescue in January 2007 about why he did not speak out earlier leading to reported speculation that he suffered from Stockholm Syndrome. However, there are many, including other victims of sexual abuse, and others who have been victims of kidnappings, who have expressed their understanding and support Shawn's decisions not to make an attempt to escape. [2][3]

Lima syndrome

The Japanese embassy hostage crisis in December 1996 is currently touted as an example of so-called "Lima Syndrome," in which the opposite effects from the Stockholm syndrome came into light. Rather than the captives becoming submissive, this incident showed signs of the MRTA guerrillas becoming more sympathetic to the plights and needs of their hostages.

See also


External links

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