View Full Version : Stockholm Syndrome

01-08-2013, 12:13 AM
I'm working on a story set in the future with human trafficing as a big theme. A major character in the story is a young girl, eight, was taken from her family and sold to be a domestic servant (though slave is much more apt).

Instead of just having the little girl beaten into submission and secretly planning on running away and killing her owner in his sleep, I've chosen to take different angle. Instead, due to the man's various methods of manipulation, the girl develops Stockholm syndrome. I've been doing a lot of my own research on the syndrome, but I'm finding very few sources in terms of the syndrome in children. So I'm reaching out to AW to lend some imput.

How could the villain instill Stockholm syndrome in a child? A Stockholm syndrome case revolves around the victim bonding with their captor as a means of survival and the mistaken belief their captor is showing them kindness simply because they don't kill them.

Drachen Jager
01-08-2013, 12:19 AM
I think you're mixing things up here (which may be why you haven't found the info you're after). I think Stockholm Syndrome is a red herring.

Why not look up physical and sexual abuse? Often the victims are young and often they do develop a strong bond with their abuser. It seems like that would fit your profile better.

01-08-2013, 12:27 AM
I'm sorry, why is Stockholm syndrome a red herring?

01-08-2013, 12:42 AM
I'm not commenting on the 'Stockholm Syndrome' thing. It doesn't matter what you call the effect. Why don't you look up the Patricia Hearst case. She was kidnapped and ended up robbing a bank in company with her captors.

Ari Meermans
01-08-2013, 01:25 AM
I'm with lbender, it really doesn't matter what you call the effect. An eight-year-old child who'd been taken from her family would be frightened and emotionally vulnerable. Have him destroy her self-esteem. Have him lie to her, tell her she wasn't taken but that her family gave her away because she was stupid, lazy, selfish, or whatever fits your story. Have him tell her he took her in because he did want her, that he knows she can be good if she's taught correctly. She will want to please him out of fear he won't want her either. Every "correction" no matter how abusive will make her want to try harder to please.

Drachen Jager
01-08-2013, 01:33 AM
I'm sorry, why is Stockholm syndrome a red herring?

Because I don't think that term really fits what you're looking for.

Why don't you try Battered Person Syndrome, Learned Helplessness, Cults, Brainwashing, or Domestic Violence.

Stockholm Syndrome isn't something that is generally generated on purpose, it's a mere side-effect of traumatic experiences.

Dave Hardy
01-08-2013, 02:09 AM
Stockholm syndrome derives from a case where bank robbers seized some hostages (not the Red Army Fraction's seizure of the West Germany embassy in Stockholm as I thought), and some of the hostages displayed sympathy and support for the robbers.

The connotation w/ Stockholm Syndrome (for me at least) is "inexplicable sympathy on the part of a victim with a random violent attacker." It brings up a different image, though similar, to the conditioning of slaves, oppressed people, long-term prisoners, to identify with their oppressors. It's one thing to bond with someone you're in contact with over a long time, Stockholm Syndrome suggests the sympathy appears in a sudden, violent, hostage incident between people who were previously strangers. Psychologically all these things may be related, but the specific circumstances vary greatly. What Patty Hearst endured may bridge your scenario with the Stockholm incident.

01-08-2013, 02:18 AM
Look of the stories of children who have actually gone through what you're talking about. I don't know your setting, but there are parts of the world where children are taken (or sold) from poor families, often stolen across borders and then put into servitude in wealthy families. (We actually had a discussion about this in P&CE, here on the board a couple of years ago.)

The children, while living in comparative squalor to their "employer" can be convinced that they're better of than they would be if they still lived with their birth family.

You sleep on a cot in the garage? So what, you used to live on a dirt floor!

You can't use the facilities in the house, but have to drink out of a water hose in the yard? So what, you used to have no running water at all!

Your blanket is thin and you're scared of the dark? So what, you used live without electricity at all!

Captives, and kids especially, develop a self-protective mindset that often includes doing things to humor or please their captors / tormentors because they learn that doing otherwise leads to suffering.