Dec 24, 2016

ICSA: On Being Born and Raised in a High-Demand Group


Jill Mytton

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to stimulate awareness and discussion of the impact on child development of being raised in a high-demand group. Background: Influences from parents, teachers and other sources that promote and facilitate normal childhood development are important aspects of the early years of an individual’s life. Despite an increase in research in the cultic studies field there is still relatively little literature regarding the impact on a child’s development of being born and raised in a cultic group. Using a specific example of such a group, namely the Exclusive Brethren, this paper will explore the experiences of and impact on children being raised in high-demand groups Key points: The paper is based on an informal thematic analysis of descriptions and stories provided by former members via email and social media. Like many similar groups, the brethren exert considerable control over their members based on their doctrine of “separation from evil,” a doctrine many consider to be taken to extremes. Now that their children only attend Brethren schools, all influence from sources outside the group that could offer alternative perspectives or narratives are absent. A number of important themes have emerged including the experience of fear and guilt, the impact of such a closed separate life on social development, the lack of life skills that inhibits them if they leave, and the common experience of dissonance as the child seeks to resolve the messages from different environments and narratives. The paper will also present findings from a quantitative study that suggests that control imposed in childhood might resonate in adult life through long term psychological sequelae Conclusions: I will argue that control imposed in childhood may affect various aspects of child development and may later impact on adult mental health.

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