Abusive power and control (also controlling behavior and coercive control) 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.[1] The victims of this behavior are often subject to psychological, physical, 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).[2][page needed]

The vulnerabilities of the victim are exploited, with those who are particularly vulnerable being most often selected as targets.[2]: 3 [3][4] 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.[5] An attempt may be made to normalize, legitimize, rationalize, deny, or minimize the abusive behavior, or to blame the victim for it.[6][7][8]

Personality disorders

In the study of abnormal psychology, certain personality disorders display characteristics involving the need to gain compliance or control over others:[9] 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. [10]


In England and Wales, the Serious Crime Act 2015 created a criminal offence for controlling or coercive behavior in an intimate or family relationship.[13][14] For the purposes of this offence, the coercive behaviour must have been engaged in "repeatedly or continuously".[15] Another element of the offence is that it must have had, or have, a "serious effect"[16] on the victim. One way this can be proved, is that the coercive behaviour can be shown to have caused the victim to fear violence on at least two occasions, or for it to have had, or have, a "substantial adverse effect on the victims’ day to day activities".[17] The prosecution should be able to show that there was intent to control or coerce the targeted person in some manner.[18] In 2019, the UK government made teaching about what coercive control was a mandatory part of the education syllabus on relationships.[19]

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. On this basis, it was defined as 'any evidence of deterioration in the physical, psychological, or emotional welfare of the applicant or a dependent person which is caused directly by fear of the behaviour of the respondent.'.[20]

In the United States, to assist in preventing and stopping domestic violence against 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]

Family law is mostly under the jurisdiction of state and local governments in the United States. As such, states are unequally tackling coercive control through legislation.

See also


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Kantor, Martin (2006). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life: How to Deal with Manipulative People. ISBN 978-0-275-98798-5.
  5. ^ Sanderson, C. (2008). Counselling Survivors of Domestic Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84642-811-1. Retrieved 28 November 2021.
  6. ^ Crosson-Tower, Cynthia (2005). Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Allyn & Bacon. p. 208. ISBN 0-205-40183-X.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Christiane Sanderson (2006). Counselling Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN 1843103354. Retrieved April 6, 2016.
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ "Personality disorders - Symptoms and causes". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2022-07-17.
  11. ^ Rappoport, Alan, Ph. D."Co-Narcissism: How We Adapt to Narcissism". The Therapist, 2005 Archived 2015-08-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ a b Adrian Raine; José Sanmartin
  13. ^ Statutory guidance framework: controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship 05 Dec 2015 gov.uk
  14. ^ "University graduate from Poole admits controlling and coercive behaviour" Daily Echo 27 Mar 2019
  15. ^ Statutory guidance framework: controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship 05 Dec 2015 gov.uk
  16. ^ Statutory guidance framework: controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship 05 Dec 2015 gov.uk
  17. ^ Statutory guidance framework: controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship 05 Dec 2015 gov.uk
  18. ^ "Controlling or Coercive Behaviour in an Intimate or Family Relationship". CPS.gov.uk. Text was copied from this source, which is available under an Open Government Licence v2.0. © Crown copyright.
  19. ^ Price, Hannah (27 October 2020). "Coercive control: 'I was 16 and thought it was normal'". BBC. Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  20. ^ Baumann, J.D., Mark (2 January 2019). "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.
  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.

Juripop, Domestic and Sexual Violence (Free Training Programs)[1]

West Island Women Shelter (2020), Coercive Control: Screening Questionnaire and Evaluation Grid[2]

  1. ^ "Domestic and Sexual Violence: Free Training Programs". Juripop. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  2. ^ "Coercive Control: Screening Questionnaire and Evaluation Grid" (PDF). West Island Women's Shelter. 2022. Retrieved 24 May 2023.