The Impact of Coercive Control on Post-Divorce Relationships Between Mothers and Children

Session : Plenary 2: The Current State of Family Violence Research

  • Time : 12:15 pm PDT To 2:15 pm PDT on
  • Venue : The Impact of Coercive Control on Post-Divorce Relationships Between Mothers and Children

Full Abstract

Derived from practice-based work, this presentation explores the relationship between coercive control and maternal alienation. Ten divorced Dutch mothers participated in-depth interviews about becoming alienated from one or more of their children after divorce. Thematic analysis focused on relational dynamics. Two main themes emerged: coercive tactics by the ex-partner and their malignant influence on their children, and mothers‘ experiences when they sought support from professional service providers. An examination of tactics and consequences reveals how one parent can gain dominance over the other’s parent-child contact and quality of life, by positioning the children to influence decisions over their upbringing; and how, from the perspective of the targeted parent, children respond to these controlling tactics. Data analysis revealed how dominant partners sabotage relationships between the other partner and their children by employing a pattern of coercive tactics. The interviews also revealed how professionals respond in ways that are often ineffective and sometimes blatantly unjust, as when professionals assume that the two partners have equivalent power when in fact the power relationship is asymmetrical. In that situation, the targeted partners can lose direct and even indirect contact with their children. Professionals often lose sight of the needs of children in overlooking domestic violence. And they do not distinguish between the voice of the child and the best interests of the child.