Love bombing is an attempt to influence a person by lavish demonstrations of attention and affection. It can be used in different ways and can be used for either a positive or negative purpose. Members of the Unification Church of the United States (who reportedly coined the expression) use or have used it to convey a genuine expression of friendship, fellowship, interest, or concern. Critics of cults use the phrase with the implication that the "love" is feigned and that the practice is psychological manipulation in order to create a feeling of unity within the group against a society perceived as hostile. In 2011 clinical psychologist Oliver James advocated love bombing in his book Love Bombing: Reset Your Child's Emotional Thermostat, as a means for parents to rectify emotional problems in their children.
The expression "love bombing" was coined by members of the Unification Church of the United States in the 1970s and was also used by members of the Family International. In 1978 Sun Myung Moon, the founder and then leader of the Unification Church, said:
- Unification Church members are smiling all of the time, even at four in the morning. The man who is full of love must live that way. When you go out witnessing you can caress the wall and say that it can expect you to witness well and be smiling when you return. What face could better represent love than a smiling face? This is why we talk about love bomb; Moonies have that kind of happy problem.
- As soon as any interest is shown by the recruits, they may be love bombed by the recruiter or other cult members. This process of feigning friendship and interest in the recruit was originally associated with one of the early youth cults, but soon it was taken up by a number of groups as part of their program for luring people in. Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members' flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark. Love bombing - or the offer of instant companionship - is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives.
In the 1995 book Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse, anthropology professor  Geri-Ann Galanti writes:
- A basic human need is for self-esteem.... Basically [love bombing] consists of giving someone a lot of positive attention.
In the 2010s British author and psychologist Oliver James recommended love bombing as a technique for parents to help their troubled children. He described it as, “dedicating one-on-one time spoiling and lavishing your child with love, and, within reason, pandering to their every wish.” A reporter for The Daily Express tried the technique with her son and reported:
- It’s not rocket science that showering a child with affection will impact positively on their behaviour but what surprised me was how much my behaviour changed. Love bombing enabled me to see my child through a fresh lens, my disposition towards him softened and he seemed to bask in the glow of positive attention.
Manipulative abusive use
The expression has also been used to describe the tactics used by pimps and gang members to control their victims, and referring to the behavior of an abusive narcissist who tries to win the confidence of a victim.
In his closing statement in the trial of the murder of Helen Bailey, prosecutor Stuart Trimmer QC told the jury that the accused Ian Stewart's version of events was "quite absurd" and that the accused had "grossly deceived" Bailey, saying: "It is perfectly plain she was completely overwhelmed by what some people might call 'love bombing'. It is a matter of common sense and knowledge that someone shortly bereaved might not have the logical equipment to see she was being deceived."
- Richardson, James T. (2004). Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe. Springer. ISBN 0-306-47887-0. p. 479
- Dennis Tourish and Tim Wohlforth, On the Edge: Political Cults Right and Left, Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000, page 19.
- All you need is love bombing, The Guardian, September 21, 2012
- "1999 Testimony of Ronald N. Loomis to the Maryland Cult Task Force".
- "Eyewitness: Why people join cults". BBC News. March 24, 2000. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
- "The Children of God: The Inside Story".
- "Sun Myung Moon (1978) "We Who Have Been Called To Do God's Work" Speech in London, England".
- Singer, Margaret (1996; 2003) Cults in Our Midst. Revised edition, 2003. Wiley. ISBN 0-7879-6741-6
- California State University profile
- Langone, Michael, Recovery from Cults, 1995, W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 0-393-31321-2, Chapter 3 - Reflections on "Brainwashing", Geri-Ann Galanti
- Love bombing kids to get happy results, The Daily Telegraph, February 22, 2011.
- 'Love bombing' reminds parents how much fun it is to be with kids, The Australian, March 2, 2013.
- It took one day to change my son’s bad behaviour, The Daily Express, June 30, 2011.
- Gangs and Girls: Understanding Juvenile Prostitution, Michel Dorais, Patrice Corriveau, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, Jan 1, 2009, page 38
- Red Flag of a Narcissist #1: Love Bombing; My Narcissistic Ex-Husband
- "Helen Bailey murder trial: Ian Stewart 'grossly deceived' author". BBC News Online. BBC. 16 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017.