The coercive survey takes off … Have you done it yet?!

Have you done this survey yet? Have you “Shared” it in your social media yet?! It’s here:

To encourage you, this is to feedback some early results. 53 people have enjoyed filling it in so far. Many have added their own  ideas for improvements and links to similar thinking. It’s all been constructive so far. Thanks for that. Please keep it coming.

Sticking to just the overall shape of the ticked boxes, the diagram below shows what you’ve put in so far:

Early reflections

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 14.36.39

This is very unscientific data. It is designed for other purposes like awareness-raising. But we can reflect more generally on it.

The main thing is that people have done the survey and they have found it fits their experience well enough to tick some boxes.  They have added helpful suggestions.

The opening item – “highly controlling people” – is likely to be ticked (100% even) because it defines the experience we’re asking about. That’s what you’d think is likely to attract people to do it.

But actually 8 out of 53 didn’t tick that box. That’s interesting. Maybe the wording was too strong. Maybe in their case it wasn’t such a “highly” controlling person.

For these 8 surveys, given that other boxes have been ticked, it means that some of the pattern may happen even when there is not a tickably highly controlling person doing it. It is not surprising that we are dealing with a long gradual spectrum, not some black and white category.

If everyone was somehow persuaded – but not coercively of course!! – to tick a different question than the first one, how many people would say they have no experience at all to report of any controlling people during their lives?

A completely successful prevention programme would hope to show 100% – everyone in the world! – reporting no experience of coercion. That’ll be the day!

The overall pattern feeds back about the experiences of the kinds of people in Nick Child’s social media networks. These are mostly people interested or experienced with families and family coercive persuasion. For example, see Myrna Gower’s comments under Learning about a common enemy.

But – as I did myself (see that same blogpost)  – some people have applied it to work and other non-family situations.

The survey was adapted from what people who have been in cults describe – that is, typically non-family coercive experiences. That those who start from family experiences have taken to the survey is some confirmation that the survey fits across the different contexts of coercive patterns. That was a main aim: Developing a description that applies across the board.

This is too simple a survey to answer many questions reliably. For example: Relatively few people have ticked either of the options to do with a follower’s outer obedience versus inner conversion to the cause. Is that because it’s a new unfamiliar question – people just don’t know the answer either way?

It is hard to know or say whether a child in a coercive family situation, or a person in a cult, is “really” convinced or just being fearfully obedient, isn’t it? We know that what a child says they will do in a situation anyway may not match how that child actually behaves when they come to that actual situation … and may not match what they say years later when they can safely retrieve their innermost feelings from the past.

These are not such simple questions as they look. They’re just meant to get us thinking.


Anyway, this post brings you some very preliminary results of the survey, and some very preliminary reflections on it. You are invited to do more of that too encouraged by these ideas – e.g. comment below. And please do share it and talk about it with your family, friends and colleagues maybe! The direct link is:

Nick Child, Edinburgh

Your one-click feedback please …

About Nick Child

Retired child and family shrink and family therapist living, working and playing in Edinburgh.

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