Hostage-taking is a dramatic, time-limited public event aimed at coercing a third party. Domestic sieges develop when a man seizes and detains a hostage who is usually a child to whom he is related. After a siege by the police the child is generally handed over without physical injury, but sometimes the outcome is less benign and the hostage-taker and/or the child might be injured or killed. The explicit demand of the domestic hostage-seizer is usually to obtain redress within a family conflict. However, the motive for this form of coercive communication is more expressive than instrumental. While the aim of this impotent reprisal is to inflict emotional harm on the primary victim (i.e. the mother) as a punishment for perceived injury, the action is mainly a public demonstration of the intensity of the father's feeling for both his child and for the child's mother. The deprived father invokes the power of theatre to achieve his ends and the events tend to follow a standardized sequence, prompted by culturally determined informal 'scripting'. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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