Breivik was 'already damaged by the age of two'

The story of Anders Behring Breivik is one of a disaster in the making.

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Norwegian version - click here.

This is a possible interpretation of the psychological evaluations from the 1980s of the boy who grew up to become a mass murderer.

In 1983 and 1984, some of Norway's top specialist child psychologists wanted to forcibly remove Anders Behring Breivik from his mother's care.

A psychologist at the National Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Statens Senter for Barne- og Ungdomspsykiatri (the SSBU), Norway's leading body for child and adolescent psychiatry, who in the 1980s observed the interaction between Anders and his mother, was queried by police in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 22 July 2011.

The psychologist fiercely criticised the Barnevernet, Norway's state Child Welfare Service, for stopping the care order.

"It is tragic that nothing was done in regards to his care situation at the time, as Anders would have developed altogether differently. His actions are essentially an extreme expression of the price society has to pay for the inadequacy of the Child Welfare Services."

The psychologist claims incompetence on the part of the child welfare services, and the mother's aggressive lawyer, put a stop to the care order.

Experts invoke the so-called three-generations hypothesis to explain how a seemingly pleasant boy from Oslo's West End became a mass murderer.

The psychologist explained it thus to the police investigating the terror attacks:

"At the time, the so-called three-generations hypothesis was believed to explain why some people develop major issues. If someone's parents had a difficult childhood relationship with the parents, and subsequently failed to develop healthy relations to their own children, then this third generation would fare badly."

To the SSBU's psychologists, Anders Behring Breivik was a case of "third generation". Two generations removed, his family lived in Kragerø, a small town in the south of Norway, in the early 1940s.

A family tragedy in Kragerø

The psychological evaluations from the 1980s report that Anders's grandmother contracted the polio virus at the time of his mother's birth.

The grandmother consequently was paralysed from the waist down, and came to live in complete isolation in Kragerø. No one could know of the family tragedy that was her handicap.

Anders's mother was sent away to an orphanage and returned home after two years. She had a good relationship to her father, but he died when she was eight years old. According to the psychological reports this was the start of her personal nightmare.

Anders's grandmother became wheelchair bound and developed paranoia and hallucinations. His mother was frequently blamed for the grandmother's handicap since she had become paralysed at the time of his mother's birth. "This is your fault", she was told.

Anders's grandmother "saw things" and heard voices. In police interviews following the 22 July attacks, the psychiatrists assumed that Breivik's grandmother suffered from schizophrenia and paranoia, and that she was psychotic. From the time his mother was eight years old, she had to assume the role of caregiver to her schizophrenic, psychotic mother.

Her mother demanded she stay at home to care for her the rest of her life. Anders's mother never left the house, and no friends were allowed to visit her at home.

"A difficult child"

At age 17, Anders's mother could take no more. Lacking formal education and having no network, she packed her bags and fled to Oslo on her own, in the middle of the night. She rejected any further contact with her family. She then fell pregnant and was a lone mother before meeting Jens Breivik in the late 1970s.

He was to become Anders Behring Breivik's father.

She became pregnant by him; they married and moved to London, where he was employed at the Norwegian Embassy. Whilst pregnant, she claimed the unborn Anders was being 'a difficult child' in her womb.

According to reports obtained by TV 2, she described the unborn baby as "a nasty child that wreaked havoc and tormented her".

She wanted an abortion; however upon returning to Norway, she was pregnant beyond the three-month limit, and so it was too late.

"A paranoid system"

Anders, then, was defined by his mother as nasty even before he was born. As quoted in the reports from the 1980s, the mother described the fetus as a "a difficult, fidgety child that kicked her, almost consciously".

A psychological evaluation from 1983 states:

"In her experience, Anders is fundamentally nasty and evil and determined to destroy her," and "she sees herself as a victim of a paranoid system".

His mother eventually gave up breastfeeding Anders, because he was "sucking the life out of her".

Her relationship to Jens Breivik ended. Lacking education and having limited language skills, she struggled to adapt to the diplomatic scene in England.

Returning to Norway, she borrowed Jens Breivik's apartment in the Oslo borough of Frogner. Shortly thereafter, Anders's father received the first concerned messages from neighbours in no. 18, Fritznersgate.

There was a lot of noise coming from the apartment. Jens was told the children were left entirely on their own at night. Precisely like her mother before her, his six year older sister became a 'substitute mother' to Anders while their mother worked night shifts as an auxiliary nurse.

"Asked to touch the penis"

In the summer of 1981, the mother applied for economic help at the Vika social welfare office. The following year she applied for respite care for her now two year old son at the weekends. She describes her son as excessively demanding. According to a patient journal from 1982, she is exhausted and can no longer manage her children. She wished that they would "bugger off".

"The mother must watch over him constantly, as she puts it, to avoid disasters. Anders reacts to his mother's corrections and ambivalent attempts at interventions with horselaughs and smirks. According to his mother, 'he just tiptoes about, smirking'. If she slaps him, Anders replies 'it doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt'.

"The mother deems him to be clingy and demanding. 'I have do to something with him all the time. I just feel like peeling him off of me.' Since they began living on their own, Anders has slept in his mother's bed at night, with close bodily contact. The mother has made scarce and futile attempts to put a stop to this; she may not want to. During their stay at the SSBU, she has however been able to remove Anders's nursing bottle, which is usually filled with red juice. Up until recently he was using the bottle continuously at home, but was able to do without when away," one report states.

The application for respite care was granted; Anders was placed with a young couple. After a short period however, the mother cancelled the arrangement. The foster parents told police during the investigation after the terrorist attacks, that the mother, when bringing two year old Anders to the house, had asked that he be allowed to touch the man's penis, because he had no one to compare himself to in terms of appearance. 'All he ever saw were girls' parts,' she said.

"Beat the mother at home"

On 3 February 1983 Anders, his mother and sister were admitted to the family outpatient unit at the National Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (SSBU) in Oslo. Acting on advice from neighbours, the mother voluntarily contacted Oslo's Health Council's Family Counselling Office to ask for help in managing Anders. She described him as 'hyperactive'.

"She describes her son as 'excessively active and fidgety, capricious and prone to unexpected whims'. She keeps him under constant guard to avoid disasters."

She claimed Anders reacted by 'guffawing, smirking and being clingy'.

Anders was diagnosed as a "difficult child". The mother claimed he beat both his sister and herself at home and that he behaved like a one-year old, using a feeding bottle and refusing normal meals. At night, he demanded to sleep in her embrace.

A child psychiatric clinical investigation

The mother was referred back to the SSBU; but nonetheless controversial at a time when the child protection agencies and psychiatric profession came under much scrutiny.

The chief physician assistant when Anders and his family were admitted, a psychiatrist, made the following statement to police in the wake of the 22 July terror attacks concerning this professional strife:

"Being an expert comes at a cost, and the psychiatrist believes many were thrilled to hear that the SSBU were in the wrong."

Collaboration with the Child Welfare Services was often difficult:

"They handled the most complicated cases, but theirs was the least qualified staff. They were enthusiastic and idealistic; but more often than not, they were young and recently educated social workers, or child welfare officers with negligible experience."

The SSBU's staff were a child psychiatrist, a psychologist and a social worker, activity therapists, nurses and child welfare officers. Their task was to observe the family's interaction and behaviours at mealtimes.

They observed how the children behaved while playing, held conversations with the family members and performed tests.


The Behring family slept at home, arrived at eight o'clock in the morning and were dismissed around 4 p.m. Some days they came back in the evening. The underlying theory for the work that was done at the centre, was that symptoms and problems in children and adolescents were connected to issues within the family.

Hence, if the family was able to be 'sorted out', the child's conditions would improve and the symptoms would subside. After treatment most families returned home, and the SSBU would continue to work with the local offices of the Child Welfare Services, child psychiatric services and the school.

After four weeks at the centre, however, the conclusion when it came to the family Behring was quite the opposite.

Anders was placed in the centre's therapeutic nursery and given access to an elaborately equipped playroom with an abundance of exciting toys; cars, boats, houses, figures, wild and tame animals, cowboys, indians, a puppet theatre, colours, scissors, papers and lots of games. According to field experts at the SSBU, most children would be overwhelmed at being provided with such options.

"Mother's frustrations"

When Anders was placed in this environment however, the experts observed a four-year old devoid of any zest for life; the polar opposite of the extremely demanding child his mother had described.

"A striking absence of emotional engagement whilst playing. Joyless application of toys. Does not interact with other children in play. He has no concept of pretend play. He is very careful with his toys. Anders lacks spontaneity and a desire to be active, imagination and an ability to engage in play. He also does not display the mood variations typical of children his age. He lacks a vocabulary for expressing emotions. Anders requires very little attention. He is careful, controlled and nags very rarely. He is extremely tidy and cleanly and may become insecure whenever this is not present. He does not initiate contact with other children. He participates in activities mechanically, displaying little or no joy or interest. He often seems sad and struggles to express himself emotionally, but when he does react, his reactions are excessively strong."

After some days in the nursery, Anders stated it was nice to come there and 'bad to leave'. Theoretically and practically, he displayed good learning aptitude. The reports gradually reflect a joy of mastering and an ability to accept praise. It was concluded nothing was wrong with Anders. He was a resourceful child; his home environment was the problem. He had become the scapegoat for his mother's frustrations, the reports concluded.

"I wish you were dead"

Anders's special teacher at the therapeutic nursery told police "her blood froze when she realised the connection". That little Anders, her pupil from the nursery, had carried out the terror attacks on 22 July.

The special teacher recognised several similarities between Anders the adult and the child. Her description of the four year old Anders resonates with what she has read about him in newspapers; his lack of emotion, his weak relationships with friends and aloofness.

Anders's mother was a hot topic of conservation among the staff at the SSBU while the family was being observed. She openly told her son, 'I wish you were dead'. Also, she was obsessed with sexual themes.

The SSBU found the mother to be a borderline case. This diagnosis implies the subject is in a state between neurotic and psychotic.

"Projects sexual fantasies"

The mother's ambivalent behaviour toward Anders would shift from one minute to the next. "From being kind and affectionate, she could instantaneously shout loudly and aggressively at him from one moment to the next", one report observed.

He was brutally rejected. She openly stated, in front of other people, that she wished her son was dead. She clung to Anders, whilst simultaneously rejecting him.

"How is a four year old child supposed to process that? He must be so confused. She both ties him to herself whilst pushing him away", one staffer told police.

A 1983 report states:

"Anders is a victim of his mother's projections of paranoid-aggressive and sexual fears toward men in general", and "she projects onto him her own primitive, aggressive and sexual fantasies; all the qualities in men that she regards as dangerous and aggressive."

"Wipes meticulously"

The documentation compiled in the 1980s notes the mother's many ideas and fantasies concerning men and boys; that they were dangerous, and impossible to relate to.

Anders sought to distance himself from his mother. Their relationship was characterised by defiance. He would alternate between clinginess, petty aggression and extreme childishness. According to the psychologist, this displays a yearning for an affection his mother was incapable of giving him. Instead, Anders's six years older sister 'in part assumed a maternal role'.

Staff from the therapeutical nursery observed the following in Anders:

"(He is) extremely cleanly and pedantic, he doesn't spill and he is not messy. He repeatedly washes his hands and wipes his mouth meticulously, He becomes bewildered when things aren't adequately in order and he is obsessively placing things neatly next to one another."

When questioned by the police, the SSBU psychologist opined 'it seems plausible that his mother punished him severely for a degree of messiness that must be considered normal for a four-year old'.

"Must be removed from his mother"

After the family had spent one month under observation, a meeting took place; everyone that were involved in the evaluation participated. Background information was obtained from the Child Welfare Service and social security office.

The meeting lasted a half day and came to a severe decision. Anders had been subjected to a grave negligence of care and had to be urgently removed from his mother.

"The family is in dire need of help. Anders should be removed from the family and given a better standard of care; the mother is provoked by him and remains in an ambivalent position which prevents him from developing on his own terms."

The psychiatrist explains how Anders was constantly picked at in a negative way.

"Anders has become an anxious, passive child that averts making contact. He displays a manic defense mechanism of restless activity and a feigned, deflecting smile. Considering the profoundly pathological relationship between Anders and his mother it is crucial to make an early effort to ward off a severely skewed development in the boy."

"Does not cry"

Vigelandsparken nursery, which Anders attended daily, had also noted the boy's peculiarities.

"He doesn't cry when he gets hurt, does not initiate play on his own and does not have many friends."

The SSBU concluded that the main problem was not his mind, but the circumstances Anders faced at home. The psychologist expanded on his evaluations from the 1980s in police questioning following the 22 July attacks.

"It is tragic, knowing what happened later, that he wasn't placed in the care of others. That might have given him a chance of coping."

The SSBU thought Anders should be put in a foster home; the Child Welfare Service felt this measure would be too dramatic for his mother. A compromise was reached, whereby Anders was placed in respite care during the weekends. The SSBU intended this to be the first step on the way to permanent foster care.

Demanded custody

This plan, meanwhile, was botched after Jens Breivik, Anders's father, received a report from the SSBU. Realising that the boy's care situation was unsustainable, he demanded to be granted custody immediately through his solicitor.

He wanted to take the matter to court, and motioned for an interim court order; this would entail him immediately being granted full custody before the case had been heard by the court.

The mother, initially supportive of granting weekend respite care, abruptly rejected the notion of conceding custody of Anders to his father. A legal tug of war ensued. The mother employed a solicitor that wrote the SSBU a severely worded letter.

"Relief care for Anders by way of a foster home is an utterly reprehensible suggestion for my client; her requirement for respite care has long since ceased to apply."

At this point, the SSBU and the Child Welfare Service put the brakes on, instead anticipating the outcome of the court hearing. On 3 October 1983, Oslo District Court ruled that the case didn't merit urgency.

Court case dropped

The most likely motivation for the ruling was a sudden change in the accounts of the Vigelandsparken nursery school. The ruling quotes the nursery's administrator:

"Since he started attending the nursery in 1981, I have come to know him as a joyous and happy child. His demeanour towards adults and other children is entirely normal."

It had never crossed the administrator's mind that there might be something wrong with the boy. She expressed bemusement at the notion that any particular arrangements were necessary to accomodate him, and claimed her views were shared by the rest of the nursery's staff.

As Anders now seemed to thrive in the nursery, it was decided he should remain in the care of his mother until the full hearing in the District Court later that year. His father interpreted the ruling to imply that there was no failure of care, and dropped the court case. Jens Breivik has since had very limited contact with his son.

Requested to use force

The SSBU, meanwhile, remained deeply concerned, opining Anders would be devastated under the care of his mother. Fears were expressed that the mother's condition, too, might disintegrate if Anders continued to live with her. They stated, 'the mother has her own problems to cope with', while insisting 'urgent action is crucially needed to prevent a severely skewed development in the boy'.

A psychologist with the SSBU wrote the Child Welface Service a letter about one month after the ruling by the Oslo District Court, requesting the issue of a care order. They were asked to remove Anders from the mother by force. A month later, her lawyer replied by accusing the psychologist of 'monomaniacal harassment'.

He wrote: "While I am not a psychologist, in my 30 years of legal practice I have acquired the ability that I presume to be absent in young (name withheld). Namely, a fairly comprehensive and extensive knowledge of other people. On these grounds I am convinced that if ... (the mother's name) is unfit to care for Anders without the interference of the Child Welfare Service, there are very few, if indeed any mothers in this country fit to properly raise their own children."

"Thrown to the wolves"

The aggressive response seems to have put the Child Welfare Service off, because nothing else happened. Three months later, the SSBU's psychologist wrote again to request a response. In February 1984, the case was put forward for the consideration of Barnevernsnemnda (the municipal child welfare committee).

The mother and her lawyer faced off against a representative of the Child Welfare Service; a newly-educated social worker who had never before presented a case before the tribunal. Interviewed by police following the 22 July attacks, she said she had felt that she was 'thrown to the wolves' in 1984. The mother was supported by a well-prepared lawyer. 'The mother won the hearing, naturally', the social worker told the police.

Placed under supervision

The case now rested with the Vika social welfare office, where it became a matter of internal discussion. The severe report from the SSBU was weighed against the nursery school's highly favourable account of young Anders, and the mother's tenacious lawyer.

The social office decided to place the family under supervision; an official would visit the family in their home once a month to ensure conditions were acceptable. The mother and her lawyer however resisted. Nonetheless three visits were made; one of them was announced, the two others were not. They concluded that everything seemed to be in order.

In the summer of 1984, the Child Welfare Committee delivered its final verdict. The mother's lawyer completely dominated the young, newly-educated social worker; Anders was neither placed in foster home nor in respite care, and the supervision was discontinued.

"A failure on the part of the Child Welfare Service"

The psychologist that had monitored Anders and his family in 1983, criticized the Child Welfare Service fiercely in police interviews.

"The family's situation was deeply troubling. The boy was at risk of developing serious issues, and had the Child Welfare Service deliberately chosen to do nothing, they would have failed him. If however they rejected to act on the SSBU's suggestions, the SSBU cannot be faulted. They did not have authority to make formal decisions. Only the Child Welfare Service could do that."

The psychologist believes the principle of biological connection to be overemphasized; that is to say, the assumption that the biological parents always are best suited to look after their children. 'It is a matter of fact that some parents are unfit to take care of their own children.'

A psychiatrist at the SSBU who was involved with Anders and his family, told police

'The Child Welfare Service handled the most difficult cases, yet theirs were the least qualified staff; for the most part, they were young and recently educated social workers.'

"Serious developmental disorder"

This all took place in 1983 and 1984; a period in which professional recommendations were not always followed.

"The principle of status quo was upheld. Fathers had very little influence at the time. Mothers were given preference in legal hearings over child custody and professional evaluations were routinely ignored. The opinions of one nursery school administrator and a social worker were given more emphasis than those of a specialist psychologist; this was entirely common at the time", the psychiatrist told police.

His colleague, the psychologist, has told police that a care order is considered whenever a development is observed that 'gets increasingly worse, and when it is not possible to rectify it in the home'.

The SSBU feared 'serious developmental disorder'; not in terms of psychiatric issues, but an 'antisocial development'.

– It's too late for Anders

As a general rule, according to the psychologist, children can develop serious issues if their parents deprive them of contact, presence and openness. If a child seeks comfort, warmth and compassion in an adult, but instead receives rejection and punishment, it may also cause harm. They could come to fear other people, experience trust issues and struggle to make emotional attachments, instead preferring to pre-emptively reject other people.

All these traits were observed in Anders's mother, who herself had an exceptionally difficult childhood. In police interviews subsequent to the 22 July attacks, nearly everyone that knew Anders described him as a loner with little discernable emotion and no close friends.

The SSBU's psychologist was asked by police whether there is an age limit when it becomes impossible to nurture personality changes in children.

His reply: You can almost always change, but 'for Anders, having done what he did, it is too late.'

Engelsk oversettelse: Trygve Lie / Screen Media