According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, the wheel is a diagram that depicts the various tactics and strategies an abusive person uses to dominate their partner, children, and their relationships.
It states “While the inside of the wheel is comprised of subtle, continual behaviors, the outer ring represents physical, visible violence. These are the abusive acts that are more overt and forceful, and often the intense acts that reinforce the regular use of other subtler methods of abuse.
The wheel for child abuse explains certain behaviors and represents them as the primary components which result in domestic violence. According to The Hotline, “the center is surrounded by different sets of behaviors that an abusive partner uses in order to maintain this power and control.”
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Child abuse behaviors & strategies
The Mighty reports that the inner circle of the power and control wheel includes 7 parts that involve common behaviors related to child abuse inflicted by “psychological violence abusive caregivers.” It adds “All seven of these power and control tactics can fly under the radar, leaving children feeling confused and powerless to prevent the abuse they experience.
Most of these behaviors are usually subtle and even may appear normal on the outside. Hence, most of these behaviors and tactics go unnoticed. This is where the wheel comes in. The power and control wheel for child abuse helps us to identify these behaviors and realize when a child is being abused. “Many of these can be happening at any one time, all as a way to enforce power within the relationship,” added The Hotline.
The 7 different tactics mentioned in the power and control wheel for child abuse are:
- Using Institutions
- Emotional Abuse
- Economic Abuse
- Using Adult Privilege
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these behaviors and child abuse tactics and specified in the power and control wheel.
1. Using Institutions
According to the child abuse wheel developed by DAIP, the first segment includes the use of institutions to gain power, control, and dominate a child. Juliette Virzi, Mental Health Editor at The Mighty, writes “This could look like threatening punishment by an outside entity (example: ‘God will punish you for the sin of disobeying your parent’) or threatening punishment with an institution (example: ‘If you don’t behave, I will send you to live with your mean Aunt Hilda’).”
Most abusive parents use the following institutions to threaten their child with punishment:
- Juvenile detention
- Foster homes
- Psych wards
According to Prevent Child Abuse America, isolation is a form of emotional abuse which an abusive parent uses to cut off the child “from normal social experiences” and “prevents the child from forming friendships, and makes the child believe that he or she is alone in the world.”
As per the power and control wheel, isolation may include an abusive parent controlling the child’s access to:
- Other parent
- Other adults
- Peers & friends
3. Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse includes denying love, care, safety, security, and approval to a child by an abusive parent. It can significantly affect the child’s mental and emotional development that can damage their self-esteem even in adulthood. Mental health editor Juliette Virzi adds “Essentially, emotional abuse refers to a pattern of behavior that causes psychological harm to another person, usually involving verbal degradation and the exploitation of an unequal power dynamic.”
Emotionally abusive tactics used by parents or caregivers may include:
- Put downs & name-calling
- Using children as confidants
- Using children to receive or give information to the other parent
- Being emotionally inconsistent
- Shaming children