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WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors

Cultic Groups and Children: What Does the Literature Tell Us?

Outline for a Talk Given by Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.

 

I.                  Introduction

 

         Why cultic groups and children?  Why not Presbyterians and children?

 

         Characteristics of cults place children at risk (constellation, not individual characteristics � not all new or unorthodox groups are cults)

 

         Absolutist ideology.  Black-white. We-they.

         Closed, often physically isolated groups

         Dissent not tolerated

         Power centralized in leader

         Use of extreme discipline

         Rearing of children by others in group

         Parents placed in position of middle management re child rearing

         Lack of adequate medical, dental, nutritional care

 

         Important to keep in mind that many situations besides membership in cultic groups can put children at risk

 

         Parental alcoholism

         Poverty

         Social violence

 

         Also important to keep in mind that not all cultic groups have all of the negative characteristics associated with the stereotype.  Not all children are harmed.

 

         Moreover, some children are more resilient than others (�invulnerables�)

 

         I express these caveats because reports of abuse can sometimes be horrific and we often have automatic emotional reactions that can cloud our objectivity.  Likely to hear such stories today.  Important to analyze each case individually and not overgeneralize from the dramatic cases.

 

         Nevertheless, if we don�t understand how kids in cults are put at risk of abuse and neglect, we can�t help them effectively or prevent others from being harmed.  Therefore, the topic of this conference warrants study and careful thought.

 

         Useful to reflect upon Dr. Bruce Perry�s research to understand why it is important to understand causes and effects of child abuse.  Early childhood trauma can affect the physical development of the brain and cause longstanding psychological problems.  Research on heart rate (a potentially promising tool for study of kids in cultic groups).  Branch Davidian children.

 

II.               What does the literature tell us

 

A.                 Journalistic, clinical, legal literature

 

         A great deal of anecdotal evidence demonstrating types of harm (Langone & Eisenberg; Singer & Lalich; Pediatrics)

 

         Medical neglect (Skolnick)

         Psychological abuse � Singer on Jonestown

         Physical abuse � Helfer quote

         Sexual abuse

         Death (exorcisms; beatings)

 

         What this literature doesn�t tell us

 

         Whether or not such reports are concentrated in a small number of cultic groups or are common among a range of cultic groups

         The prevalence of such harm in cultic groups

         Whether or not the prevalence is greater than the baseline for the general population (reasoning suggests that it is; but we don�t have good data)� some statistics (Finkelhor, American Psychologist March 1994) � much divergence and variation in quality of data

 

         Physical abuse:  23.5/1000

         Neglect: 20.2/1000

         Sexual abuse: 6.3/1000

         Homicide: 0.035/1000 (35/1,000,000)

         Physical punishment:  498.6/1000 (not same as physical abuse)

 

Interesting to consider relatively small percentage of physical abuse compared to physical punishment (1:25).  Parents exercise restraint. The power dynamics of cultic groups and frustrations parents may feel in these groups may very well lead to a decrease in restraint.  Seems reasonable and suggested by clinical evidence, but not demonstrated through formal scientific studies.

 

B.                 The Scientific Literature

 

         Gaines et al. (p 330)

 

         Lilliston

 

         52 children between ages of 6 and 12 in 3 Family Homes

         Participant observation field research

         Intelligence test; achievement test; a child behavior checklist; semi-structured interview

         Results: p 19; p 20; p 21;

         Similar study on CUT

 

         What do we make of these findings, especially given the negative picture given by other research (e.g., Gasde)?

 

         Although there is reason to question Lilliston�s findings, they deserve respect.  These are the kinds of studies that need to be done.  But there are problems with his particular studies.

 

         Judge�s quote: p 222

         Balch�s paper on how not to discover malfeasance; Zablocki blacklisting paper; Beit-Hallahmi

         Ex-member reports of misleading researchers (refractory sample issue)

 

         The disparity between positive and negative reports is not necessarily irreconcilable � consider these findings from research

 

         Elitism & dissent not tolerated highest ranking characteristics

         MacDonald�s notion of bicameral normative system

         It appears that about 10% of group members are ejected � leader does what he/she has to in order to maintain control and keep an equilibrium that favors him/her.

         Suggests that quiet conformists can continue to receive carrot of elitism.  Singer & Lalich say:  �submit, surrender, and obey is the theme and yardstick of successful adaptation in the cult.� From our social vantage point, the cost of this adaptation is an affront to human dignity, but it cannot be denied that some people adapt, even though they may have to stifle themselves to do so.  Those who don�t stifle themselves get attacked.  Perhaps these are the persons who are most likely to leave and to seek help.  The same could be true with kids.  Helfer�s findings, for example, found that boys were more likely to be abused, perhaps because they were more likely to resist.

 

III.           Research needs

 

         Better theory

 

         Case studies (Dole) � illuminate dynamics

 

         Surveys (child care workers; former group members; current group members) � compare to population baselines

 

         Psychological and educational testing of children in groups and children who have left groups � examine the distribution of responses

 

         Psychologically sensitive participant observation

 

         Longitudinal studies of children taken into or born into a cultic group

 

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Our E-Library contains full text articles and other resources related to the information below.  Click here.

WHY WE USE SYMBOLS/ICONS IN OUR LISTS.

Please note:

ICSA does NOT maintain a list of "bad" groups or "cults."  We nonjudgmentally list groups on which we have information.

Groups listed, described, or referred to on ICSA's Web sites may be mainstream or nonmainstream, controversial or noncontroversial, religious or nonreligious, cult or not cult, harmful or benign.

We encourage inquirers to consider a variety of opinions, negative and positive, so that inquirers can make independent and informed judgments pertinent to their particular concerns.

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

See:  Definitional Issues Collection; Understanding Groups Collection
 

Views expressed on our Web sites are those of the document's author(s) and are not necessarily shared, endorsed, or recommended by ICSA or any of its directors, staff, or advisors.

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