Does grooming by child abusers lead to Stockholm syndrome?

Stockholm syndrome is commonly linked to high profile kidnappings and hostage situations. Aside from famous crime cases, regular people may also develop this psychological condition in response to various types of trauma.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly the Stockholm syndrome is, how it got its name, the types of situations that may lead to someone developing this syndrome, and what can be done to treat it.

how to stockholm syndrome get its name?

How a Botched Bank Heist Created 'Stockholm Syndrome' - YouTube

Stockholm syndrome is named for a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1973. Four people were held hostage by the robbers for six days; when they were rescued, the hostages attempted to protect the perpetrators, with whom they had an amicable relationship.

What are the symptoms?

Stockholm syndrome is recognized by three distinct events or “symptoms.”

Symptoms of Stockholm syndrome

  1. The victim develops positive feelings toward the person holding them captive or abusing them.
  2. The victim develops negative feelings toward police, authority figures, or anyone who might be trying to help them get away from their captor. They may even refuse to cooperate against their captor.
  3. The victim begins to perceive their captor’s humanity and believe they have the same goals and values.

These feelings typically happen because of the emotional and highly charged situation that occurs during a hostage situation or abuse cycle.

For example, people who are kidnapped or taken hostage often feel threatened by their captor, but they are also highly reliant on them for survival. If the kidnapper or abuser shows them some kindness, they may begin to feel positive feelings toward their captor for this “compassion.”

Over time, that perception begins to reshape and skew how they view the person keeping them hostage or abusing them.


While Stockholm syndrome is commonly associated with a hostage or kidnapping situation, it can actually apply to several other circumstances and relationships.

Stockholm syndrome may also arise in these situations

  • Abusive relationships. It has shown that abused individuals may develop emotional attachments to their abuser. Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, as well as incest, can last for years. Over this time, a person may develop positive feelings or sympathy for the person abusing them.
  • Child abuse. Abusers frequently threaten their victims with harm, even death. Victims may try to avoid upsetting their abuser by being compliant. Abusers may also show kindness that could be perceived as a genuine feeling. This may further confuse the child and lead to them not understanding the negative nature of the relationship.
  • Sex trafficking trade. Individuals who are trafficked often rely on their abusers for necessities, like food and water. When the abusers provide that, the victim may begin to develop positive feelings toward their abuser. They may also resist cooperating with police for fear of retaliation or thinking they have to protect their abusers to protect themselves.
  • Sports coaching. Being involved in sports is a great way for people to build skills and relationships. Unfortunately, some of those relationships may ultimately be negative. Harsh coaching techniques can even become abusive. The athlete may tell themselves their coach’s behavior is for their own good, and this, according to a 2018 study, can ultimately become a form of Stockholm syndrome.

Stockholm syndrome is a coping strategy. Individuals who are abused or kidnapped may develop it.

Fear or terror might be most common in these situations, but some individuals begin to develop positive feelings toward their captor or abuser. They may not want to work with or contact the police. They may even be hesitant to turn on their abuser or kidnapper.

Stockholm syndrome is not an official mental health diagnosis. Instead, it is thought to be a coping mechanism. Individuals who are abused or trafficked or who are the victims of incest or terror may develop it. Proper treatment can go a long way to helping with recovery.

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