In Parental Alienation Syndrome, one parent brainwashes or programs the child to turn against and vilify the other parent. It is difficult for many people to understand how an alienating parent could implant information that may be directly at variance with what the child had previously believed and experienced with the now-targeted parent.

I will explain the short version of how brainwashing works. Because we usually do not do original research, we learn most of what we know from others. For example, the world generally looks flat, but I have learned from others that it is round. We depend on and are vulnerable to what others give us to believe. Under certain circumstances we are very vulnerable. In a nutshell, our predisposition to incorporate the ideas of others is what makes brainwashing possible. Our dependence on what others tell us is the short and sweet explanation for the basis of brainwashing.

Parental Alienation Syndrome has been described as the Stockholm Syndrome taking place on the home front. What is termed the Stockholm Syndrome can serve to illustrate how, in fact, victims can be transformed to believe they love their captors and hate those who would save them.

The syndrome is named after a bank robbery in Stockholm in 1973. Bank employees were held hostage for six days, during which the victims became emotionally attached to their captors. After they were freed from their six-day ordeal, the former hostages refused to testify against the robbers and even defended them.

Research has suggested that hostages may exhibit the condition in situations that feature captors who do not abuse the victim and continued contact between the perpetrator and hostage. This condition does not result from a conscious decision or a rational choice.

Stockholm syndrome displays certain characteristics. Although these do not always exist together, they often do:
1) Hostages have positive feelings for their captors.
2) Victims show fear, distrust, and anger toward the authorities.
3) The captor has stripped nearly all forms of independence and gained control of the victim’s life, as well as basic needs for survival.
4) The perpetrator serves as a mother figure protecting her child from a threatening outside world, including law enforcement’s deadly weapons.

Hostages have to concentrate on survival, requiring avoidance of direct, honest reactions to destructive treatment. They must become highly attuned to the pleasure and displeasure reactions of their captors. As a result, victims seem more concerned about the perpetrator’s feelings than their own. Hostages are encouraged to develop psychological characteristics pleasing to hostage takers, such as dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide, or think. The captive actively devises strategies for staying alive, including denial, attentiveness to the captor’s wants, fondness (and fear) of the perpetrator, apprehension toward interference by authorities, and adoption of the hostage taker’s perspective. Victims are overwhelmingly grateful to captors for giving them life and focus on their acts of kindness, rather than their brutality.

Law enforcement and psychology professionals have offered several opinions concerning the development of Stockholm syndrome. However, most agree on the conditions necessary.
• A person held in captivity cannot escape and depends on the hostage taker for survival. The captor becomes the person in control of the captive’s basic needs for survival and the victim’s life itself.
• The hostage endures isolation from other people and has only the captor’s perspective available. Perpetrators routinely keep information about the outside world’s response to their actions from captives to keep them totally dependent.
• The hostage taker threatens to kill the victim and gives the perception as having the capability to do so. The captive judges it safer to align with the perpetrator, endure the hardship of captivity, and comply with the captor than to resist and face extinction.
• The captive sees the perpetrator as showing some degree of kindness. Kindness serves as the cornerstone of Stockholm syndrome; the condition will not develop unless the captor exhibits kindness in some form toward the hostage. However, captives often misinterpret a lack of abuse as kindness and may develop feelings of appreciation for this perceived benevolence. If the captor is purely evil and abusive, the hostage will respond with hatred. But, if perpetrators show some kindness, victims will submerge the anger they feel in response to the terror and concentrate on the captors’ “good side” to protect themselves.1

I have been asked how Stockholm pertains to Parental Alienation Syndrome since, in Stockholm, the victim’s survival is at stake. My answer is that in Parental Alienation Syndrome, victims feel emotionally that their survival is at stake – perhaps not their literal survival – but their emotional survival. If they don’t incorporate the perpetrator’s world view, they face emotional devastation at the hands of the perpetrator. Usually, they feel they will be abandoned and wander the desert.

As an aid in understanding this difficult to comprehend and fascinating phenomenon, you may view my YouTube videos on the topic by visiting my website at - see especially my YouTube videos:
• How Parental Alienation Syndrome Brainwashes the Child
• Parental Alienation and the Stockholm Syndrome

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Linet received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is board certified in both adult and child psychiatry and has practiced for over 30 years. In the past, he held faculty positions as Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell Medical College and also at the State University of New York, Health Sciences Center at Brooklyn. Dr. Linet completed his residency in psychiatry at the State University of New York, Health Sciences Center at Brooklyn, where he later also completed a fellowship in child and adolescent psychiatry. Subsequently, Dr. Linet was in charge of medical student education in child psychiatry at the State University medical school and later worked as Medical and Psychiatric Director of a residential treatment center for severely disturbed children and adolescents. Dr. Linet is comfortable using psychotherapy and psychopharmacology. He has expertise treating anxiety, depression and disruptive/acting out behavior - whether caused by psychological problems, ADHD, bipolar or other mood disorders. He wrote "Bipolar Disorder without Mania" and "The Search for Stimulation: Understanding ADHD," links to which can be found at Dr. Linet appeared on television programs featuring OCD and Tourette Syndrome. Internet links to various of his webcasts can be found on He is one of approximately 2000 physicians with a federal waiver to prescribe buprenorphine for narcotic addiction. He also counsels families and patients in handling substance abuse.