Child snatching: A new epidemic of an ancient malady

  • Lenore C. Terr
    Reprint requests: Lenore C. Terr, M.D., 450 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94108.
    Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco USA

    Law School, University of California, Davis USA
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      Eighteen children kidnapped successfully or abortively by a parent were psychiatrically evaluated; 16 were found to have one or more of five functional changes: (1) aftereffects of severe fright or psychic trauma, (2) effects of mental indoctrination, (3) grief or rage about parental abandonment, (4) rejection of the offending parent, and (5) exaggerated identification with a parent or wish fulfillment about a parent. There are serious problems at the law-psychiatry interface regarding stolen children. Both fields must direct their efforts to the prevention of these family tragedies. Psychiatric evaluation is indicated for every child who returns from a child-stealing experience. Pediatricians and child psychiatrists may help the courts to understand the child's point of view by testifying regarding medical findings as well as by interpreting the child's testimony and behavior to the court.
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