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The impact of coercive control on children and young people

Helplines insight briefing

Publication date August 2023

This briefing shares children and young people’s experiences of coercive control between parents and carers. This is drawn from what adults told the NSPCC Helpline and children told Childline in 2022/23.

Coercive control is a form of domestic abuse that can often be overlooked. We look at the themes around coercive control that people talked about including:

  • controlling and isolating behaviours
  • using threats and coercion
  • emotional abuse
  • economic or financial abuse
  • services missing opportunities to support victims and survivors.

We also look at the impacts on children and young people experiencing coercive control including:

  • parents and carers describing children as quiet, stressed and depressed
  • behaviour changes including children emotionally and physically abusing parents and siblings
  • children expressing worries and fears about their parent’s and carer’s coercive and controlling behaviours
  • some children engaging in self-harm
  • disruption to children’s social and support networks.
The impact of coercive control on children and young people
Download the briefing (PDF)
“My ex used to subject me to emotional and mental abuse; they would often belittle me and prevent me from seeing any of my friends or family. I’m worried they are doing the same thing with my son. I spoke with my boy on FaceTime last night and he looked so worried and scared of saying the wrong thing – it was like my ex was listening in on him”.

Parent, NSPCC Helpline
“I want to talk about my dad. What he’s doing to me and my mum, we can’t take it anymore, all the horrible things he’s been saying. I know mum is scared of telling anyone or leaving, she doesn’t want it to get worse and besides, dad controls all our money. I think a shelter would help us, but then what? We’d have nothing. What can I do?”

Young person, Childline

This work has been supported by the Covid-19 Support Fund.


Please cite as: NSPCC (2023) The impact of coercive control on children and young people. Helplines insight briefing. London: NSPCC

Childline and NSPCC Helpline insight briefings

Our insight briefings use data and insight from Childline counselling sessions and NSPCC Helpline contacts to explore concerns children and young people have raised and how these affect them.

See the full series