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Stockholm Syndrome Revisited

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 75 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2008 Pages: 76,77,79,80,83,86
Arthur Slatkin
Date Published
December 2008
8 pages
This article reviews the concept of the Stockholm syndrome and presents results of an examination of the Stockholm syndrome, its occurrence in hostage situations, and resulting assumptions related to situational factors in the syndrome’s development.
Strentz’s assumptions about situational factors, which were believed to be related to the development of the Stockholm syndrome, were promulgated in the 1980s and widely accepted by those in the negotiation field. However, they were not subjected to scientific study until the 1990s. It was found that only time and social interaction were positively related to the development of Stockholm syndrome. The question whether the Stockholm syndrome, which occurred with much less frequency than was generally accepted, should be given such centrality remains significant. It appears that earlier speculations about its frequency and importance were somewhat exaggerated. It is recommended that trainers can train negotiators to be aware of this phenomenon and to promote its development more efficiently or, alternatively, bypass it and achieve the same or similar result. The phenomenon, called the Stockholm syndrome, attributed to a Swedish hostage situation which occurred in 1973, is defined as a nonvoluntary and unconscious positive bond between captive and captor that develops in response to the trauma of victimization. In a true manifestation of the phenomenon, hostages do not perceive the incongruity or irrationality of their feelings toward the hostage-takers in a self-critical or insightful way. In years since the syndrome was first reported, questions have arisen about its frequency and the centrality or importance of its occurrence in hostage situations. One study, completed over 10 years ago, examined some of the untested but accepted and popular beliefs and understandings of the phenomenon, the seminal work of Thomas Strentz. 2 notes