Recent study sheds light on the adverse impact of coercive control on children.
Coercive control almost always accompanies intimate partner violence (IPV), but IPV doesn’t need to accompany coercive control to effectively gain power and dominance over an intimate partner. Coercive control is increasingly recognized and now pays close attention to the traumatic impact on adult victims. Although the impact on children of IPV has been well-cited, the adverse effects of coercive control on children have begun to be examined. New data can help us make better-informed decisions about how to protect children.
A recent systematic review of 51 studies concluded that coercive control, separate from IPV, is a serious contributor to adverse child well-being outcomes (Xyrakis et al., 2023).
Coercive Control in the Home
In her well-received book, Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control, Taylor identifies that the structure of a familial environment is the most conducive for brainwashing—slowly breaking someone down in order to manipulate their thinking and beliefs to gain a powerful influence over them.
Coercive control is the descriptive term that encapsulates ongoing emotional, verbal, and psychological abuses. The essence of these types of abuse is to coerce—manipulate—with the singular focus to dominate and have control over the targeted person—in this case, an intimate partner. The coercive tactics that are embedded in behavior—sometimes seemingly “normal” behavior—including restricting access to money and financial decisions, gaslighting, statements of degradation and humiliation, isolation, using a threatening voice, etc. In a family, children are at high risk of being psychologically harmed by witnessing the over-powering abuse of a parent and becoming targets of coercion as well.
Coercive control has reached new levels of recognition. Since 2020, with reliable research regarding coercive control in intimate relationships showing that it causes devastating harm and may predict future physical violence, some states have protection laws or pending protection laws.