FAMILY ENVIRONMENT AS A FACTOR IN VULNERABILITY TO CULT INVOLVEMENT
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The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether a relationship exists between parental perceptions of the family environment of cult members and vulnerability to cult involvement. Thirty five families, recruited at a convention of the Citizens Freedom Foundation, a non-profit support group for parents whose offspring are/were in cults, were compared with 35 families recruited from community centers and churches in the New York Metropolitan Area. Data were collected retrospectively on self-report measures: the Moos Family Environment Scale information form and a Family Questionnaire. Univariate tests and discriminant analysis found that the families differed only in one of the ten subscales (Independence) of the Family Environment Scale, with the cult group having higher mean scale scores than the comparison group. In general, the results were consistent with Singer's (1981), Swope's (1980), Clark's (1981), and Carr's (1981) findings that the familial factor is not important in cult involvement and that members are typically recruited within twelve months of experiencing one of eight stressful events.;The findings did not support the hypothesis that family environment is an important factor in vulnerability to cult involvement, as proposed by Schwartz and Kaslow (1979, 1982) Vickers (1977) and Zerin (1982). Differences on items in the Family Questionnaire tended to support the idea that joining a cult is in some way related to pre-joining social isolation; joiners had statistically significant (.04 level) less reported romantic involvements and friendships than did the comparison group. An alternative hypothesis is that the FES is not an adequate measure of the reciprocal role relationships that constitute the predisposing "familial factors" to joining a cult. The study did not yield data that can discount this alternative hypothesis. Suggestions for future research are included in the study.
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