Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Stockholm Syndrome

August 23, 1973 – Stockholm, Sweden. Two men entered a bank and took four bank workers hostage by gunpoint. The police quickly responded by surrounding the bank but could not act due to concern for the safety of the hostages. The stand-off lasted six days until the police finally negotiated the release of the hostages. During this ordeal, a very strange phenomenon was observed. The hostages had grown emotionally attached to their captors, rejecting rescue attempts and even defending their captors after their freedom. It was clear in subsequent interviews that the hostages had bonded with the criminals, supporting their cause and not minding the fact that they were threatened, abused and were made to fear for their lives. In fact, one woman later became engaged to one of the criminals, while another funded the legal fee for their trials.

Psychiatrist and criminologist Nils Bejerot studied this case and coined the phrase Stockholm syndrome to describe the phenomenon of hostages expressing empathy and sympathy to their captors, leading to bonding with and having positive feelings for them. This seems irrational as bonding is perceived as the product of a positive relationship where two people are loving and caring for each other, not threatening their life. This phenomenon has been well-documented throughout history in hostages, domestic abuse victims, prisoners of war and cult members. One study showed that up to 27% of hostage victims showed evidence of Stockholm syndrome in the U.S.

There are a few explanations for the Stockholm syndrome. The Freudian explanation is that the bonding is an individual’s response to the trauma of being threatened. By rationalising that they are in fact on the same side as the captors, the effect of the trauma is reduced as the victim feels less victimised. Evolutionarily speaking, human beings have always been under the threat of being invaded by a neighbouring tribe or country. This often involved the raping and abduction of women by the aggressors. Victims who would resist and fight back would have more likely been killed (along with their children), while those who responded as per the Stockholm syndrome would have been more likely to survive. It has been observed that the Stockholm syndrome is found more commonly in women.

Stockholm syndrome is a very common feature of human society, found in households in the form of battered-wife syndrome, in groups in the form of hazing and basic military training and in the bedroom in the form of bondage and masochism.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine


Parents only have one duty: to bring up their children with love. The problem is that so many parents do not know this fact, or have a twisted understanding of the concept of “love”. Some never even hug their child, some abandon their child for their own lives and some even abuse their child. However, that does not mean one should obsess with their child either. Always teaching the child that “they are the best” is not love. Also, trapping a child and preventing them from leaving you is obsession, not love. Some parents tell their children that studying will lead to a happy, successful future, and compare them to other children who get better grades. This is a crucial mistake, as the children will probably live out an unhappy life with a deep wound in their heart for the rest of their lives. This is because the parents’ role is not to secure a successful future and instructing them how to get there, but to allow the child to independently plan their future, taste failure and develop their own values and philosophy, only supporting them from the side. A parent is not a leader who leads a child along a predestined path of life, but an assistant who supports a child while they pave their own path of life and walk down it. To support and respect a child’s decisions, dreams, talents and potential; to teach the wisdom and skills the child will need to follow their dreams; that is true love.

Of course, that is not to say that one should neglect and leave a child without any interventions. If a child clearly makes an objective error or misbehaves, it is a parent’s role to correct it. This kind of home education is not interference like obsessing about the child’s studies, but supportive intervention that helps the child follow their dreams and not be lost on the way. Home education is a very important form of love that imbues a child with skills such as social skills, ethics, morality, philosophy and love that will allow them to lead a happy and wholesome life.

Why is parental love so important to a child? Childhood is a critical period when the child’s brain is rapidly developing and when the child begins to form his or her personality and view of the world. Almost every mental illness (especially personality disorders) can be traced back to a childhood trauma, or at least be affected by it. For example, a child whose parents did not care for them will grow up lacking love and attachment, leading to constantly seeking love and attention from others, which may develop into dependent personality disorder. If a child has to live up to the parents’ great expectations, they will not receive sympathy and fail to develop a self identity. To fill this void, the child will continuously float from one person to another to seek this sympathy. A child with obsessive parents being led to believe that they are the best could develop narcissistic personality disorder, who becomes violent and enraged when someone points out a mistake they made. As one can see, parental love is a crucial nutrient that fosters a healthy personality in a child, helping them become a wholesome, independent “person”.

No matter how poor the parents are, a child who was raised on love is able to construct a plentiful, happy life. Then, when the child becomes a parent, they will know how to raise their own children with love as well. The best parents are those who respect the child’s decisions and allow them to be free when they set out on their pursuit of happiness. All you need is love.

Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Stranger Danger

Babies first show “stranger anxiety” at between 8 to 10 months of age. As their brains develop rapidly, they also learn social-emotional skills and recognise the identity of “parents”. Thus, they do not trust any other adults that are not “parents”. This phenomenon usually disappears after two years, but they then receive education from adults that they should not trust strangers, or Stranger Danger.
Interestingly, most kidnapping cases are committed by an adult the child knows well.


Another fact related to stranger anxiety is that it is dependent on how close the baby is to its parents. Take the Strange Situation Test developed by Ainsworth as an example:

Put a baby under the age of 12 months and its parent in the same room, then separate the two. Next, send in an adult the baby has never seen before, then after a short while exchange the adult back with the parent.

Normal babies become anxious and agitated when a stranger enters the room, but then they calm down almost immediately as the parent returns. Also, when the parent returns the baby requests to be held, as physical contact represents safety for a baby.
However, a baby that has spent less time with its parents, or a baby with unresponsive parents exhibit a different behaviour. In fact, they become more agitated when the parent returns, and often show avoidance. This is because there has been insufficient bonding between the two.
A more extreme case is of a baby that has been abused. These babies become extremely disorganised and disoriented upon the parent’s return. This is also due to improper socio-emotional development. Babies like these that were not intimately bonded with their parents tend to have trust issues even after development, which may lead to social problems in adulthood.