Traumatic bonding

Traumatic bonding occurs as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds that are resistant to change.[1][2]

Patrick Carnes developed the term to describe "the misuse of fear, excitement, sexual feelings, and sexual physiology to entangle another person."[3] A simpler and more encompassing definition is that traumatic bonding is: "a strong emotional attachment between an abused person and his or her abuser, formed as a result of the cycle of violence."[4]

Fractionation, conversationally or interpersonally moving the target from one feeling to its opposite and back again several times in the course of a conversation in order to increase bonding is related to hypnotherapy and Neuro-linguistic programming. Bonding is a biological occurrence related to emotions that makes people more important to each other and is influenced by time spent together.[3]

In abusive relationships

Although the victim may disclose the abuse, the trauma bond means that the victim may wish to receive comfort from the very person who abused them.


Unhealthy, or traumatic, bonding occurs between people in an abusive relationship. The bond is stronger for people who have grown up in abusive households because it seems to them to be a normal part of relationships.[3]

Initially, the abuser is inconsistent in approach, developing it into an intensity perhaps not matched in other relationships of the victim. It is claimed the longer a relationship continues, the more difficult it is for people to leave the abusers with whom they have bonded.[3]

See also


  1. Dutton; Painter (1981). "Traumatic Bonding: The development of emotional attachments in battered women and other relationships of intermittent abuse". Victimology: An International Journal (7).
  2. Chrissie Sanderson. Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 15 June 2008. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. p. 84.
  3. Samsel, Michael (2008). "Trauma Bonding". Michael Samsel LMHC. Archived from the original on May 10, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  4. Wendy Austin; Mary Ann Boyd. Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing for Canadian Practice. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 1 January 2010. ISBN 978-0-7817-9593-7. p. 67.
  5. "Why does my child keep returning to the abusers?". PACE (Parents Against Childhood Exploitation). October 15, 2013. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2018.

Further reading

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