Every state defines child abuse and neglect in statute. In New Jersey, N.J.S.A. §9:6-1 defines the specific terms “abuse,” “cruelty,” “abandonment” and “neglect.” Other statutes, like N.J.S.A §9:6-3, use these definitions to establish criminal penalties. But statutes and regulations cannot account for every situation.
Nearly 50 years ago a bank robbery took place in Stockholm, Sweden. The perpetrator took four bank employees hostage for six days. When they were finally freed some of them refused to cooperate with efforts to prosecute the perpetrator. Indeed, some of them even helped defend him. And so, the mental disorder “Stockholm Syndrome” was coined. Does this kind of reaction apply to victims of child abuse? If so, what is the psychobiology in play?