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Abusive power and control (also controlling behavior and coercive control)[1] is behavior used by an abusive person to gain and/or maintain control over another person. Abusers are commonly motivated by devaluation, personal gain, personal gratification, psychological projection, or the enjoyment of exercising power and control.[2] The victims of this behavior are often subject to psychological, physical, mental, sexual, or financial abuse.


Manipulators and abusers may control their victims with a range of tactics, including, but not limited to, positive reinforcement (such as praise, superficial charm, flattery, ingratiation, love bombing), negative reinforcement (taking away aversive tasks or items), intermittent or partial reinforcement, psychological punishment (such as silent treatment, threats, intimidation, emotional blackmail, guilt trips) and traumatic tactics (such as verbal abuse or explosive anger).[3][page needed]

The vulnerabilities of the victim are exploited, with those who are particularly vulnerable being most often selected as targets.[3]: 3 [4][5] Traumatic bonding can occur between abusers and victims as the result of ongoing cycles of abuse in which the intermittent reinforcement of reward and punishment creates powerful emotional bonds (that are resistant to change) and a climate of fear.[6] An attempt may be made to normalise, legitimise, rationalise, deny, or minimise the abusive behaviour, or to blame the victim for it.[7][8][9]

Based on statistical evidence, certain personality disorders correlate with abusive tendencies of individuals with those specific personality disorders when also compiled with abusive childhoods themselves.[10][failed verification]

Personality disorders

In the study of abnormal psychology, certain personality disorders display characteristics involving the need to gain compliance or control over others:[11] There are many different types of personality disorders and they are often characterized by 3 clusters. Individuals with cluster B personality disorders might be more prone to some negative behaviors related to having power and control over others. Cluster B includes narcissistic, histrionic, borderline, and antisocial personality disorder. [12]


In England and Wales, Section 76 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a criminal offence for controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship.[15][16] For the purposes of this offence, behaviour must be engaged in "repeatedly" or "continuously". Another, separate, element of the offence is that it must have a "serious effect" on someone and one way of proving this is that it causes someone to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them. There is no specific requirement in the Act that the activity should be of the same nature. The prosecution should be able to show that there was intent to control or coerce someone.[17] For relevant behaviour, it has been criminalised in section 77 of the Serious Crime Act 2015.[18] In 2018, Jordan Worth became the first woman to be convicted under this new law.

In 2019, Ireland enacted the Domestic Violence Act 2018, which allowed for the practice of coercive control to be identifiable based upon its effects on the victim.[19] In 2019, the UK government made teaching about what coercive control was a mandatory part of the education syllabus on relationships.[20]

In the United States, to assist in preventing and stopping domestic violence with children, there have been laws put into place to mandate report in specific professions, such as teacher, doctor, or care provider, any suspected abuse happening in the home.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Evan Stark. Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life .Oxford University Press (April 16, 2007).ISBN 978-0195154276
  2. ^ Lehmann, Peter; Simmons, Catherine A.; Pillai, Vijayan K. (2012-08-01). "The Validation of the Checklist of Controlling Behaviors (CCB): Assessing Coercive Control in Abusive Relationships". Violence Against Women. 18 (8): 913–933. doi:10.1177/1077801212456522. ISSN 1077-8012. PMID 23008428. S2CID 39673421.
  3. ^ a b Braiker, Harriet B (2003). "An Overview of Manipulation". Who's Pulling Your Strings?: How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation and Regain Control of Your Life. New York: McGraw Hill Professional. ISBN 9780071435680. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  4. ^ Simon, George K. (1996). "Recognizing the Tactics of Manipulation and Control". In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People (revised ed.). Little Rock, Arkansas: A.J. Christopher. ISBN 9780965169608.
  5. ^ Kantor, Martin (2006). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: How to Deal with Manipulative People. ISBN 978-0-275-98798-5.
  6. ^ Sanderson, C. (2008). Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  7. ^ Crosson-Tower, Cynthia (2005). Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Allyn & Bacon. p. 208. ISBN 0-205-40183-X.
  8. ^ Monique Mattei Ferraro; Eoghan Casey; Michael McGrath (2005). Investigating Child Exploitation and Pornography: The Internet, the Law and Forensic Science. Academic Press. p. 159. ISBN 0121631052. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  9. ^ Christiane Sanderson (2006). Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1843103354. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  10. ^ Miller, Paul M.; Lisak, David (1999-06-01). "Associations Between Childhood Abuse and Personality Disorder Symptoms in College Males". Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 14 (6): 642–656. doi:10.1177/088626099014006005. ISSN 0886-2605. S2CID 144858964.
  11. ^ Larsen, Randy J., and David M. Buss. Personality Psychology: Domains of Knowledge about Human Nature. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2010. ISBN 978-0073370682
  12. ^ "Personality disorders - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  13. ^ Rappoport, Alan, Ph. D."Co-Narcissism: How We Adapt to Narcissism". The Therapist, 2005 Archived 2015-08-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ a b Adrian Raine; José Sanmartin
  15. ^ Statutory guidance framework: controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship 05 Dec 2015
  16. ^ "University graduate from Poole admits controlling and coercive behaviour" Daily Echo 27 Mar 2019
  17. ^ "Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship".
    Text was copied from this source, which is available under an Open Government Licence v2.0. © Crown copyright.
  18. ^ "Serious Crime Act 2015".
  19. ^ Baumann, J.D., Mark. "Coercive control and emotional abuse illegal in U.K., France, Ireland –and Clallam?". Clallam County Bar Clallam County lawyers & legal news. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  20. ^ Price, Hannah (27 October 2020). "Coercive control: 'I was 16 and thought it was normal'". BBC. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  21. ^ Hyman, Ariella; Schillinger, Dean; Lo, Bernard (1995-06-14). "Laws Mandating Reporting of Domestic Violence: Do They Promote Patient Well-being?". JAMA. 273 (22): 1781–1787. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520460063037. ISSN 0098-7484. PMID 7769774.