Patterson's Coercion Theory and Coercive Cycle (2023)

Patterson coercion theory | What is coercive cycle | Causes | Impacts | How to break the cycle

Parent-child coercive cycle in early childhood can have a major impact on a child’s development of social relationships and behavior​1​. Patterson’s Coercive Theory suggests how early conduct problems and harsh parenting can lead to a child’s adjustment difficulties later in life​2​.

Patterson Coercion Theory

Patterson’s Coercion Theory describes a process of how ineffective parenting in early childhood sets the stage for adolescent antisocial behavior later through association with deviant peers. In early childhood, mutual reinforcement starts when a child’s problem behaviors reinforce their parent’s coercive parenting, which unintentionally reinforces the undesired behavior. When the child reaches adolescence, this cycle of coercive behaviors propels the teenager into association with deviant peers who further reinforce deviant behavior that often ends in delinquency.

What Is Coercive Cycle

When a child disobeys the parent’s directive or request, the misbehavior provokes anger and hostility in the parent. The parent then reacts punitively, which provokes the child’s disruptive behavior, which raises the parent’s angry response even more. As the exchanges continue, the level of coercion intensifies and escalates to result in a coercive cycle​3​.

The parent-child coercive cycle is a cycle of negative parent-child interactions leading to the development of conduct and antisocial behavior in the child. The increasing hostility, aggression, and negativity between parents and children form a positive feedback cycle of aggressive behaviors​4​.

The cycle continues until one of the participants “wins.”

If the child finally gives in, the parent “wins” and coercive parenting is reinforced.

If the parent disengages, the child “wins” reinforcing the aggressive behavior​5​. The parent has been shaped to back down when the child’s behavior becomes even more aversive the next time the parent tries to discipline.

Consequently, parental behavior unintentionally reinforces difficult child behavior; aversive child behavior amplifies parental negativity. Negative reinforcement of the child’s misbehavior and the parent’s coercion creates a positive feedback cycle. Coercive parent-child interaction becomes increasingly challenging over time, leading to an escalation of aggressive behavior.

Patterson's Coercion Theory and Coercive Cycle (1)

What Causes The Coercive Cycle

According to the Coercive Theory, a coercive cycle typically begins in infancy.

At birth, a baby instinctually cries (aversive events) to get caretakers’ attention to meet their needs​6​. The baby learns that when they cry, the parent will pick them up.

Depending on the child’s temperament, the time it takes the parent to react may be the first step in teaching the baby to use aversive behavior to receive what they need.

Most families teach their children gradually to meet their needs using words and positive behavior to replace the use of coercion. However, if the coercive threat persists beyond infancy, then it becomes the early phase in the development of the coercive cycle.

Both the parent and the child may be responsible for creating the coercive cycle since both shape, reciprocate, and maintain it.

The Parent’s Contribution – Coercive Parenting

Parents who engage in coercive cycles tend to be authoritarian parents. They contribute to the escalation in several ways.

Harsh parents use more control and less guidance​7​. They often neglect to patiently teach children specific behaviors they need to get what they want.

Not only that, but their negative emotional reactions are bad examples of emotional regulation for their kids. When faced with adversity, children who haven’t developed self-regulation also become reactive.

Poorly regulated parents tend to interpret children’s negative emotions as intentional, and therefore use more coercive forces. Rather than diverting children’s attention away from a distressing event, harsh parents increase the focus on it instead of helping kids ease the distress. They promote inappropriate regulatory behavior.

In an emotionally charged interaction, the child reacts to the emotions rather than the content of the parent’s requests. Even when the harsh parent has a legitimate request, if the message is delivered with negative emotion, the child will react to the emotion rather than the request itself.

(Video) Coercion Cycle

The Child’s Contribution – Temperament

Children and parents often develop a pattern of mutual coercion during the toddler years. In toddlerhood, a child’s body, brain, motor skills, and emotions are developing rapidly.

With the ability to walk, toddlers start to explore the environment and venture into dangerous or forbidden places.

The primary challenge for parents during this time is to balance the demands of compliance with the allowance for free exploration.

To protect their children, parents think that they must start using harsh discipline, control, and limit setting to restrict toddlers’ mobility. Therefore, parenting a temperamentally demanding toddler poses difficult challenges.

A child’s temperament can influence the parent-child relationship problems. A child with a difficult temperament often shows emotion dysregulation, which is more likely to provoke harsh parenting responses​8​.

The more behavioral difficulties a child has, the more coercive, controlling, and negative the parent’s response will be, which, in turn, stimulates the child’s aggression, resulting in the coercive cycle.

Negative Effects of Coercive Cycles

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Noncompliance and aggression are common in early childhood, but ineffective parenting can lead to an increase in conflict, which is a breeding ground for oppositional behavior​9​. Conduct problems often develop in families where coercive interactions are common.

Bullying or victims of bullying

By preschool age, children who are defiant at home likely have learned how to shut down unpleasant or unrewarding demands using aggressive behavior. They then carry this learned behavior over into interactions with others outside the family, such as peers and teachers​10​.

Reseearchers have found that having authoritarian and hostile parents are a salient characteristic of bullies and victims of bullying​11​. Poor emotional regulation also contributes to antisocial behavior at school.

Physical abuse

In the absence of positive interactions, the relationship between parent and child further deteriorates. Often, parents who assign negative attributes to the child will resort to harsh physical punishment as a means of controlling their children.

Harsh discipline may eventually escalate into physical abuse​12​.In the eyes of physically abusive parents, violence is the only thing that works with their children (incorrectly).

Poor emotional regulation and social skills

When parents are hostile, they model poor emotion regulation and do not teach their children how to interact with their peers cooperatively and socially​13​.Children who cannot regulate negative emotional arousal are likely to experience social problems with peers in school​14​.

Delinquency

Problem behaviors that have been formed at home are usually maintained at school by coercive exchanges with peers​15​. Children with antisocial behavior and poor social skills are often rejected by their normal peers, leading them to drift to deviant peers who reinforce their conduct problems.

The development of conduct problems in early childhood often leads to more serious delinquent​4​and criminal behaviors​16​ later in life. Researchers have also found a strong correlation between coercive parenting and subsequent early arrest​17,18​.

Breaking The Coercive Cycle

To break the coercive cycle, both the parent and the child need to learn to regulate their emotions to avoid escalated hostile exchanges. Interventions targeting coercive parenting practices can prevent escalation of conduct problems​19​. Educating parents and children about proper regulating strategies is another way to break the coercive cycle.

Nevertheless, if the pattern of conflict has been in place for years, it would be difficult to change it on your own without professional help. School counselors and psychologists can provide help to parents who wish to break the cycle.

Final Thoughts On Coercive Cycle

Although both the child and the parent contribute to creating and sustaining the coercive cycle, there is only one adult in this interaction. As grownups, parents need to take the initiative to break the harsh parenting practice and help kids learn adaptive relationship skills.

References

  1. 1.

    (Video) The Coercion Cycle

    Waller R, Gardner F, Hyde LW, Shaw DS, Dishion TJ, Wilson MN. Do harsh and positive parenting predict parent reports of deceitful-callous behavior in early childhood? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Published online April 10, 2012:946-953. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02550.x

  2. 2.

    SHAW DS, OWENS EB, GIOVANNELLI J, WINSLOW EB. Infant and Toddler Pathways Leading to Early Externalizing Disorders. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Published online January 2001:36-43. doi:10.1097/00004583-200101000-00014

  3. 3.

    Frick PJ. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Published online 2003:457-470. doi:10.1023/a:1023899703866

  4. 5.

    Patterson GR. The early development of coercive family process. In: Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents: A Developmental Analysis and Model for Intervention. American Psychological Association; :25-44. doi:10.1037/10468-002

  5. 6.

    Patterson GR. Coercion Theory. (Dishion TJ, Snyder J, eds.). Oxford University Press; 2015. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199324552.013.2

  6. 7.

    (Video) FAML100 - The Coercion Cycle

    Braungart-Rieker J, Garwood MM, Stifter CA. Compliance and noncompliance: the roles of maternal control and child temperament. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Published online January 1997:411-428. doi:10.1016/s0193-3973(97)80008-1

  7. 8.

    Hartup WW, Van Lieshout CFM. Personality Development in Social Context. Annu Rev Psychol. Published online January 1995:655-687. doi:10.1146/annurev.ps.46.020195.003255

  8. 9.

    Smith JD, Dishion TJ, Shaw DS, Wilson MN, Winter CC, Patterson GR. Coercive family process and early-onset conduct problems from age 2 to school entry. Dev Psychopathol. Published online April 2, 2014:917-932. doi:10.1017/s0954579414000169

  9. 10.

    Granic I, Patterson GR. Toward a comprehensive model of antisocial development: A dynamic systems approach. Psychological Review. Published online 2006:101-131. doi:10.1037/0033-295x.113.1.101

  10. 11.

    Ma X. Bullying and Being Bullied: To What Extent Are Bullies Also Victims? American Educational Research Journal. Published online June 2001:351-370. doi:10.3102/00028312038002351

  11. 12.

    Chaffin M, Silovsky JF, Funderburk B, et al. Parent-Child Interaction Therapy With Physically Abusive Parents: Efficacy for Reducing Future Abuse Reports. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Published online June 2004:500-510. doi:10.1037/0022-006x.72.3.500

  12. 13.

    Denham SA, Zoller D, Couchoud EA. Socialization of preschoolers’ emotion understanding. Developmental Psychology. Published online 1994:928-936. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.30.6.928

    (Video) Coercion and Cooperation

  13. 14.

    Lopes PN, Salovey P, Côté S, Beers M. Emotion Regulation Abilities and the Quality of Social Interaction. Petty RE, ed. Emotion. Published online 2005:113-118. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.5.1.113

  14. 15.

    Dodge KA, Coie JD, Pettit GS, Price JM. Peer Status and Aggression in Boys’ Groups: Developmental and Contextual Analyses. Child Development. Published online October 1990:1289. doi:10.2307/1130743

  15. 16.

    Murray J, Irving B, Farrington DP, Colman I, Bloxsom CAJ. Very early predictors of conduct problems and crime: results from a national cohort study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Published online July 13, 2010:1198-1207. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02287.x

  16. 17.

    Patterson GR. Performance models for antisocial boys. American Psychologist. Published online April 1986:432-444. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.41.4.432

  17. 18.

    Patterson GR. Coercion as a basis for early age of onset for arrest. In: Coercion and Punishment in Long-Term Perspectives. Cambridge University Press; 1995:81-105. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511527906.005

  18. 19.

    Dishion TJ, Patterson GR, Kavanagh KA. An experimental test of the coercion model: Linking theory, measurement, and intervention. In: Preventing Antisocial Behavior: Interventions from Birth through Adolescence. Guilford Press; 1992:253-282.

FAQs

What is Patterson's coercion theory? ›

Coercion theory (Patterson, 1982) describes a process of mutual reinforcement during which caregivers inadvertently reinforce children's difficult behaviors, which in turn elicits caregiver negativity, and so on, until the interaction is discontinued when one of the participants “wins.” These cycles may begin when the ...

What does Patterson's coercive family interaction patterns suggest? ›

Parent-child coercive cycle in early childhood can have a major impact on a child's development of social relationships and behavior1. Patterson's Coercive Theory suggests how early conduct problems and harsh parenting can lead to a child's adjustment difficulties later in life2.

How do I break my coercive cycle? ›

Breaking the Parent-Child Coercive Cycle

Parent stops talking, leaves, removes a reinforcer (e.g., turns off videogame), or removes child from reinforcement (e.g., moves away from cookie aisle, puts child in Time Out). Once child begins to comply, parent gives positive attention or provides some other reinforcement.

What does coercive cycle refer to? ›

For example, a coercive cycle typically begins by a child misbehaving, followed by the parent scolding the child, which results in the child's exacerbation of the misbehavior. If the parent disengages to stop the child's aversive behavior, both participants are shaped by this response.

Who is known for coercion theory? ›

Definition. Coercion Theory [1–3], developed by Gerald Patterson and colleagues at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC), describes how aggressive and antisocial behaviors develop in children.

What is coercion in parenting? ›

Coercive parenting is using harsh parental behavior such as hitting, yelling, scolding, threatening, rejection and psychological control to enforce compliance of the child. These parents also use frequent negative commands, name calling, overt expressions of anger and physical aggression.

What is coercive pain control? ›

Tough kids practice something called “coercive pain control.” Coercive pain control happens when you try to reach your tough kid, only to have them ignore, delay, or respond aggressively until you give up on the process, and unfortunately the kid, entirely.

What is Hickey's most likely explanation for serial murder? ›

According to Hickey (2002), there are multiple paths to becoming a serial killer. The predispositions to serial killing can be biological, psychological, sociological, or any combination thereof.

Which of the following classifications describe children who are murdered by their parent's or legal guardians? ›

Often, filicide refers to any murder of a child up to the age of 18 years committed by his or her parent(s) or parental figure(s), including guardians and stepparents.

What is dismissive parenting? ›

The Dismissing Parent

Treats child's feelings as unimportant, trivial. Disengages from or ignores the child's feelings. Wants the child's negative emotions to disappear quickly. Sees the child's emotions as a demand to fix things. Minimizes the child's feelings, downplaying the events that led to the emotion.

What is coercive force in sociology? ›

Coercion is the use of force to achieve a desired end. It may be physical or non-violent. It is the ultimate means of social control when all other means fail. Physical coercion may take the form of bodily injury, imprisonment and death penalty. Physical coercion is without doubt the lowest form of social control.

What are negative reinforcement traps? ›

A Negative Reinforcement Trap is created when parents do not follow through on their commands or discipline, unintentionally reinforcing non-compliance in their children.

What does the coercive cycle refer to quizlet? ›

The Coercive Cycle is a common interactions between parents and children. When compliance does occur, parents with poor family management skills, ignore it. When the parent repeats the command, there is an increase in negative affect for the child and the parents, usually taking the form of frustration.

What is political coercion? ›

In international relations, coercion refers to the imposition of costs by a state on other states and non-state actors to prevent them from taking an action (deterrence) or to compel them to take an action (compellence). Coercion frequently takes the form of threats or the use of limited military force.

What is child directed interaction? ›

PCIT is a two-phase treatment. The first phase is called Child-Directed Interaction (CDI) which is our chance to help parents become incredibly good reinforcers – learning the best ways to pay attention to desired behaviors to reinforce good behaviors when they happen.

What are the two types of coercion? ›

The two main categories of coercion — deterrence and compellence — are distinct in their nature and requirements.

What is coercion explain? ›

"Coercion" is the committing, or threatening to commit, any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or the unlawful detaining, or threatening to detain, any property, to the prejudice of any person whatever, with the intention of causing any person to enter into an agreement. Explanation.

What is coercion model in conflict? ›

coercion, threat and brute force. coercion is defined here as the actual or threatened use of force by one actor against another for the purpose of influencing the other actorГs preferences and behaviour (schelling 1966, 2Y3; byman and waxman 2002, 1).

What is an example of coercion? ›

These actions may include extortion, blackmail, or even torture and sexual assault. For example, a bully may demand lunch money from a student where refusal results in the student getting beaten. In common law systems, the act of violating a law while under coercion is codified as a duress crime.

How do you prove coercion? ›

Elements of Proof of Coercive Practices
  1. Impairing or harming, or threatening to impair or harm.
  2. Directly or indirectly.
  3. Any party or the property of the party.
  4. To influence improperly the actions of a party.

What are examples of coercive tactics? ›

Common coercion tactics include:
  • guilt-tripping.
  • making threats.
  • emotional blackmail.
  • giving you drugs or alcohol with a goal of lowering your inhibitions.
1 Dec 2020

How does coercive control affect people? ›

Although abusers may use physical or sexual violence as a means of control, coercive control can also include a range of non-physical behaviours, such as interfering with victim–survivors' relationships with their families, monitoring their movements, restricting their access to money, and emotionally abusive ...

What causes coercive behaviour? ›

Coercive control is a form of psychological abuse whereby the perpetrator carries out a pattern of controlling and manipulative behaviours within a relationship and exerts power over a victim, often through intimidation or humiliation, which tends to be more subtle and harder to spot.

Which model of violent behavior describes in effect the cyclical experience of serial murderers? ›

The trauma-control model of violent behavior describes, in effect, the cyclical experience of serial offenders.

What is the primary difference between violence and aggression? ›

Aggression and violence are terms often used interchangeably; however, the two differ. Violence can be defined as the use of physical force with the intent to injure another person or destroy property, while aggression is generally defined as angry or violent feelings or behavior.

Do you have to be a psychopath to be a serial killer? ›

The relationship between psychopathy and serial killers is particularly interesting. All psychopaths do not become serial murderers. Rather, serial murderers may possess some or many of the traits consistent with psychopathy.

What are the 4 different types of serial killers? ›

Four types of serial murderers are identified: the 'visionary,' the 'mission-oriented,' 'hedonistic,' and 'power/control-oriented.

How does childhood trauma affect serial killers? ›

Many serial killers experience childhood trauma or early separation from their mothers. As a consequence of that trauma or separation, scientists believe, they learned to suppress empathy or suffered damage to the areas of the brain that control emotional impulses.

What is coercive force in sociology? ›

Coercion is the use of force to achieve a desired end. It may be physical or non-violent. It is the ultimate means of social control when all other means fail. Physical coercion may take the form of bodily injury, imprisonment and death penalty. Physical coercion is without doubt the lowest form of social control.

What is political coercion? ›

In international relations, coercion refers to the imposition of costs by a state on other states and non-state actors to prevent them from taking an action (deterrence) or to compel them to take an action (compellence). Coercion frequently takes the form of threats or the use of limited military force.

What is coercive pain control? ›

Tough kids practice something called “coercive pain control.” Coercive pain control happens when you try to reach your tough kid, only to have them ignore, delay, or respond aggressively until you give up on the process, and unfortunately the kid, entirely.

What is authoritarian parenting style? ›

Authoritarian parenting is an extremely strict parenting style. It places high expectations on children with little responsiveness. As an authoritarian parent, you focus more on obedience, discipline, control rather than nurturing your child.

What are the two types of coercion? ›

The two main categories of coercion — deterrence and compellence — are distinct in their nature and requirements.

What is an example of coercion in sociology? ›

These actions may include extortion, blackmail, or even torture and sexual assault. For example, a bully may demand lunch money from a student where refusal results in the student getting beaten. In common law systems, the act of violating a law while under coercion is codified as a duress crime.

What is coercive example? ›

Coercive power: This type of power gets you to comply with something you don't want to do through the use of force or punishment. Coercion is a type of authoritarian power used to prevent insubordination; for example, your boss threatens to fire you if you don't complete a project on time.

What are the characteristics of coercion? ›

"Coercion" is the committing, or threatening to commit, any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) or the unlawful detaining, or threatening to detain, any property, to the prejudice of any person whatever, with the intention of causing any person to enter into an agreement.

What do we mean by coercive? ›

/koʊˈɝː.sɪv/ using force to persuade people to do things that they are unwilling to do: The president relied on the coercive powers of the military. coercive measures/tactics. Causing somebody to act.

What is the main objective of coercion as a power? ›

According to some organizational managers, the goal of coercion is not to threaten or scare employees, but to ensure compliance. Holding coercive power allows managers to control how their organization operates and to instill discipline in their employees, improving efficiency and productivity.

What evidence is needed for coercive control? ›

Medical records. Witness testimony, for example the family and friends of the victim may be able to give evidence about the effect and impact of isolation of the victim from them. Local enquiries: neighbours, regular deliveries, postal, window cleaner etc. Bank records to show financial control.

What are examples of coercive tactics? ›

Common coercion tactics include:
  • guilt-tripping.
  • making threats.
  • emotional blackmail.
  • giving you drugs or alcohol with a goal of lowering your inhibitions.
1 Dec 2020

How does coercive control affect people? ›

Although abusers may use physical or sexual violence as a means of control, coercive control can also include a range of non-physical behaviours, such as interfering with victim–survivors' relationships with their families, monitoring their movements, restricting their access to money, and emotionally abusive ...

Which parenting style is most effective? ›

Why experts agree authoritative parenting is the most effective style. Studies have found that authoritative parents are more likely to raise confident kids who achieve academic success, have better social skills and are more capable at problem-solving.

What are the 4 types of parenting styles? ›

Psychologists tend to focus on the four key parenting styles:
  • Authoritarian.
  • Authoritative.
  • Permissive.
  • Uninvolved/neglectful.
25 Feb 2021

What is a neglectful mother? ›

Uninvolved parenting — also called neglectful parenting, which obviously carries more negative connotations — is a style of parenting where parents don't respond to their child's needs or desires beyond the basics of food, clothing, and shelter.

Videos

1. ADHD and Coercion Theory
(ADHD Done Differently)
2. 513 Presentation on Coercion Theory
(Katie Doyle)
3. S8 E2 | Unspoken Aspects of Discipline
(Human Sciences Extension and Outreach)
4. Oral Argument Before the New York State Court of Appeals, Tape 1 of 2, March 18, 1988
(New York State Archives)
5. Tracy Prout, PhD - How to Keep Your Cool Around Disruptive Behaviors
(AXYS)
6. Culture and Social Movements - Election 2020: UC Berkeley Big Ideas
(University of California Television (UCTV))
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated: 09/05/2022

Views: 5952

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.