CULT MEMBERSHIP IN RELATION TO FAMILY, SOCIAL, AND RELIGIOUS FACTORS

GERRIE GOLDFARB, Fordham University

Abstract

Within the design of a field study, this research compared the familial and social backgrounds of members of the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, and Cult Disaffiliates with a control group of Students, from the social psychological perspective of Fromm and the research on the authoritarian personality of Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswick, Levinson, and Sanford (1950). Fromm recognized the character structure common to members of a group was molded primarily by the family, but also by religion, customs, and society. Therefore, relating the theory to members of a cult group, it was expected that a particular background and ideology would predominate. Specifically, it was hypothesized that the backgrounds and beliefs of cult affiliates would be similar to those of the authoritarian personality.^ A Structured Interview, developed for this study, compared the specific familial, social, and religious backgrounds of the subjects in each of the groups. In addition to the interview, the Family Environment Scale (Moos, 1981) and the Gladding, Lewis, Adkins Scale of Religiosity (1979) were administered.^ Comparison of the interview responses of the four groups indicated that they differed significantly only in the are of religious conceptualizations. Cult Affiliates reported more authoritarian religious ideologies than the other two groups.^ The data obtained from the 10 subscales of the Family Environment Scale indicated that members of the Unification Church and Cult Disaffiliates, as compared with the Students, perceived their families to have been less cohesive. Moreover, the scores of the Students indicated that they had perceived their families to have been more achievement oriented than did either of the Cult Groups. Finally, the Hare Krishnas scored significantly higher on the Intellectual-Cultural subscale than did the Disaffiliates.^ The results of the Gladding, Lewis, and Adkins Scale of Religiosity indicated that the Cult Groups, compared with the Disaffiliates and Students, had different religious conceptualizations.^ This study also includes a qualitative discussion of the responses of the four groups, as compared with comments made by highly authoritarian scorers of the Adorno et al. (1950) research. Thematic similarities between the interviews of the Cultists and the authoritarian personalities were evident in their comments regarding interfamilial and social relationships. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

GOLDFARB, GERRIE, "CULT MEMBERSHIP IN RELATION TO FAMILY, SOCIAL, AND RELIGIOUS FACTORS" (1987). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8725677.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8725677

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