The Traumatic Bond Of Adopted Children
The Duckling Experiment
Scientists created a robotic mother duck and took the ducklings away from their mother, and forced the motherless to accept the conditioning to the mechanical adoptive duck mother.
The control group was a biological mother duck and her ducklings. The mechanical mother frequently pecked the babies which resulted in the pain stimuli effect. What the study found was the mechanical mother's babies followed more closely and uniform than the biological group, where the bio group followed less closely and explored their environment more. This experiment was replicated several times with the same result.
The dynamics of birth abandonment trauma, traumatized infants from separation from biological mothers resulting in deep physical and psychological trauma and the population of adopted children can be applied to Trauma Bonding. Citing Stockholm syndrome, cognitive dissonance and the forced allegiance to the trauma bond of being adopted. All are outside of the perpetrated child abuse by adoptive parents or nurturing adoptive parents. The trauma bond is a real response to fear and pain conditioning in children.
A traumatic bond is created when pain is inflicted into the attachment. This bond is stronger (just like epoxy glue is stronger than rubber cement) than a non-traumatic bond. The more traumatic the bond, the harder to get out.
There are examples of this everywhere in nature and science. Researches found that when training a duck to “imprint” them, when they accidentally “stepped on the duck’s toe,” the duck imprinted them more than before. Science has conducted myriad experiments that demonstrate the power of “pain” to strengthen the bond. It’s the principle fraternities use in hazing where they humiliate or hurt their pledges to instill greater loyalty in them.
But there is still another factor which really cements people to the abuser. They get hooked by the “intermittent reinforcement.” The abuser, every once in a while, will give them what they need, i.e. “a pat on the arm” or saying “love you” or “bringing home a paycheck.” It’s intermittent.
If you ever studied classical conditioning (Pavlov’s dog and all of that), you may remember that if you want to “train” a rat to respond a certain way, rather than giving a steady reward (i.e. sugar pellet), give it only intermittently. Intermittent reinforcement is more powerful than steady reinforcement.
This explains the paradox of relationships. If your partner mistreats you in all kinds of emotional or physical ways, you run the risk of getting deeply hooked in.
You’d think it would work the other way – that if your partner made you feel secure, safe, and comfortable, you’d have a hard time leaving. But the irony is that many people feel freer to leave someone who has made them feel secure. Ever hear “nice guys finish last?”
But if they are made to feel chronically insecure, heart-sick, anxious, or hurt, they can get caught up in the drama of the abuse and locked into the dynamics of the relationship– especially if every once in a while, their partner gives them a little crumb of love — intermittent reinforcement.
If you are in a traumatic bond, you not only suffer from your partner’s criticism, blame, betrayal, unreliability, or neglect, but you suffer from beating yourself up for allowing it to happen.