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Conclusion

The main themes that seem to emerge from these interviews are that the children concerned were most secure with their primary carer and were not happy about being separated from that carer. Where it was the primary carer who had abducted them, they did not seem to see it as abduction. For all of the children there was dislocation and stress. It was the uncertainty, insecurity and conflict between their parents that caused the most distress. Children who felt that their parents had explained the situation seemed a little happier about the event itself than those who thought they had been deceived by the abducting parent into believing they were going on an outing or holiday. For all of the children their dependence on their carers was such that they felt that they had to align themselves with the person who was primarily responsible for that care at any given time, no matter how unhappy they may have felt.

Most of the children were able to use school and friends as a means of distraction, but all were uncomfortable with the insecurity of their practical living arrangements and the upheaval of frequent moves. It was not always easy to determine how much of each account was that of the child derived from their own direct experience and how much was influenced by parental feelings and accounts which had become the accepted narrative within their immediate family circle. At some level all of the children seemed aware of their parents’ feelings. Some experienced this as emotional pressure on them and articulated it as such; others were very sensitive to parental anxiety that was, in turn, causing them anxiety.

The clarity and compelling quality of the children’s accounts suggest that for all of them the event was vivid and remained very much alive.

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