When Coercive Control Continues to Harm Children: Post-Separation Fathering, Stalking and Domestic Violence

EMMA KATZ, Anna Nikupeteri, Merja Laitinen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


This article shows how domestic violence perpetrators can use coercive control against their children after their ex-partner has separated from them. Coercive control can include violence, threats, intimidation, stalking, monitoring, emotional abuse and manipulation, interwoven with periods of seemingly ‘caring’ and ‘indulgent’ behaviour as part of the overall abuse. Crucially, what this article provides is knowledge, hitherto largely missing, about how children and young people can experience coercive control post-separation. The article draws on two separate data sets, one from the UK and one from Finland, which together comprise qualitative interviews with 29 children who had coercive control perpetrating fathers/father-figures. The data sets were separately thematically analysed, then combined using a qualitative interpretative meta-synthesis. This produced three themes regarding children's experiences: (1) dangerous fathering that frightened children and made them feel unsafe; (2) ‘admirable’ fathering, where fathers/father-figures appeared as ‘caring’, ‘concerned’, ‘indulgent’ and/or ‘vulnerable-victims’; and (3) omnipresent fathering that continually constrained children's lives. Dangerous and ‘admirable’ fathering describe the behaviours of coercive control-perpetrating fathers/father-figures, while omnipresent fathering occurred in children as a fearful mental and emotional state. Perpetrators could also direct performances of ‘admirable’ fathering at professionals and communities in ways that obscured their coercive control. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-324
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number4
Early online date19 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • coercive control
  • domestic violence/domestic abuse
  • father figures
  • post-separation contact
  • private and family law
  • adult
  • article
  • care behaviour
  • child
  • clinical article
  • domestic violence
  • emotion
  • emotional abuse
  • father
  • Finland
  • human
  • human experiment
  • interview
  • male
  • mental health
  • offender
  • physician
  • stalking
  • survivor
  • synthesis
  • victim


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