Duggar Deviance: Why Is This Family All Scandal, All The Time?


What is going on with the Duggar family? Eldest son Josh is at the center of scandal, after news reports from 2006 surfaced, revealing that in 2002 and 2003 (at least), the then-teenager, now Christian role model and political activist, molested five young girls. This isn’t the first time the family has come under scrutiny, though. What exactly makes a Duggar go so far off the rails?

It’s not just this molestation — or just these five molestations and Jim Bob’s efforts in covering it up. (According to In Touch, contrary to what Jim Bob has publicly claimed, Michelle Duggar admitted Josh wasn’t sent to counseling, and the police reports show that the parents kept the case from authorities for a year, then only taking Josh to a police friend for a firm scolding, not any official action. Official action only took place in 2006, when someone outside the family found out by accident.)

It’s a series of events — Derrick Dillard aiming his sled at a cat, and the entire family laughing at the animal’s fear, Michelle Duggar performing for a robocall in which she lies about transgender people in order to prevent them from obtaining the basic right to safely use a bathroom in public (Washington Post has the audio), Jessa posting a rant that blamed the holocaust on a belief in evolution, and later a long-winded explanation of how God granted her the special right to judge people.

This still covers a bare fraction of the times the Duggars have been in the news for doing or saying awful things. Let’s be clear: blaming the holocaust on science and claiming a special right to feel superior to other people isn’t on the same level of harm as molesting five pre-teen girls, or covering it up. However, it’s a symptom of the same disease.

Surely this demands, then, that we answer the question: what exactly is the disease?

It’s a determination to stamp out humanity in young humans. It’s funny how the crew that campaigns hardest for ‘personhood’ of the unborn works so hard to deny personhood in the post-born.

How do the Duggars deny their children’s personhood, you might ask?

1. In the most obvious way, these children live great chunks of their lives on camera. They smile and do what the director tells them. Sadly, they likely do very much the same thing off-camera, except with Jim Bob in the role of director.

2. The Duggar children are taught that sexuality is bad and immoral. Their bodies must be covered, lest a glimpse of skin cause a lustful sin, they mustn’t dance, because that’s too close to sexual movement, and ‘courting’ mustn’t include any sort of touching or kissing. The first kiss is expected to be postponed until the wedding day, as is the first front-facing hug.

3. The Duggar children are likely required to put on a happy face, regardless of true emotion. A pseudonymous blogger at No Longer Quivering tells of being raised in a similar household — specifically, a household following two parenting models the Duggars have promoted.

One of the creepiest things about Gothard and the Pearls is that they teach that happy is the only acceptable emotion. If you do not have a joyful countenance, you are publicly shaming your authorities. In other words, if the kid looks unhappy, it is a personal offense against the parents. Pearl also has nauseating quotes and anecdotes about how any time his kids expressed unhappiness or anger they were hit even harder and longer until they were cheerful. How twisted is that? Children are taught from babyhood to always be cheerful, or else they deserve a spanking. As they grow older, it is not just the fear of a spanking that causes them to keep smiling. It is the sincere belief that they are sinning with ingratitude, rebellion and more if they don’t present a happy face.

Most of us have faked a smile from time to time. We all know smiling on the outside can be a mask for crying on the inside. Imagine making that a lifestyle, rather than a way to get through a few bad hours at a necessary meeting or event.

4. Speaking of the Pearls, their parenting book has been named as a contributing facot in multiple child abuse cases. They start teaching obedience at birth. An infant who cries when put in his crib is, in their worldview, a misbehaving sinner. A crawling infant is taught obedience by being placed in the center of a blanket. He is not allowed to move, despite the array of bright and interesting toys his parents place around him. If he attempts to move toward one of those toys, he is spanked. From the age of a toddler, he learns that he must completely deny all desires, and merely obey.

What do the Pearls recommend you spank a 6-month old baby with?

…light wooden spoon, rubber spatula, flexible tubing less than a quarter inch in diameter, or any instrument that will cause an unpleasant sting without leaving any marks.

Hit your infant with a plastic piece of tubing, for exploring his world — is it any wonder kids raised by people who follow these teachings appear to be so obedient and controlled?

5. Social interaction is controlled. These kids do not have an opportunity to escape their parents and learn about other ways of life. They are homeschooled (note: homeschooling isn’t necessarily a problem, but it provides the opportunity for isolation — an opportunity this family has taken) and home-churched with families who share their extreme beliefs. These kids don’t have the opportunity to hear how evolution works, even from a teacher who says, “You don’t have to believe it, just memorize it so you can pass the test.” Thus they get to make no judgement — only accept that evolution is false, because their parents say so. They don’t have the opportunity to learn how other people believe, because they don’t get to tag along to church with a friend of a different belief system. Though the family has made a few exceptions, they, in general, do not support higher education.

To put it simply, these kids are isolated to an extent that they can never learn what exists outside the narrow worldview with which they are indoctrinated.

Josh Duggar is fully responsible for his actions, and in no way do I mean to absolve him of them, but it must be understood that this is a toxic environment in which to raise children. There is no question that it significantly contributed to Josh’s (hopefully brief) career as a child molester. While it’s impossible to declare definitively that the Duggars have or will produce more child molesters, there is no denying that sexual abuse is encouraged and inucbated in their style of teaching.

If the Duggar girls are to be safe and protected, the entire family should undergo counseling — real counseling, from a licensed counselor, not a carpenter friend. Furthermore, if TLC has any sense of social responsibility, the show will be pulled from the air in short order. (If you agree, you can add your voice to thousands of others on TLC’s Facebook page here, calling for an end to the show.)

Steph Bazzle
Steph Bazzle is a homeschooling mom who likes to write about justice, equality, and religious issues.

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