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Title: A qualitative study of the experiences of former Bible-based cult members
Author: Mallett, Simone Jill
ISNI:       0000 0001 3617 6022
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2000
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The aim of this study was to contribute to the understanding of cult membership, by examining the "before, during, and after" experiences of former members. Five male and five female former long-term members of bible-based religious cults were interviewed. The transcripts of these interviews were then analysed using procedures based on Strauss and Corbin's (1990) Grounded Theory methodology. Three models were constructed from the data analysed, which was explored using a variety of psychological and sociological conceptualisations. The study found that experiences of cult membership were too complex to be explained by a single theory or model. However Social Identity Theory proved useful in synthesising theories across a range of disciplines. The main predicators of joining were a searching/idealistic disposition, pre-existing religious convictions, and active cult recruitment tactics. The dynamics of membership were best conceptualised as an active process, involving a "switch" from individual to group identity. A belief that God was the constant audience was fundamentally important in determining the behaviour of members. A number of those interviewed had left involuntarily due to pressure from within the group rather than outside influence, which had not been widely reported before. Individuals appeared to suffer a grief/bereavement reaction after exiting, and treating them as such may provide a useful initial mode of intervention by mental health professionals. Former members themselves stressed the importance of understanding the context of their involvement, as opposed to any clinical approach based on individual pathology. The study was de facto a pilot, as no previous record of grounded theory research into religious cults was found in the existing literature. The study therefore dentified significant scope for further research into this field, and recommends the grounded theory approach as a useful means to do so.
Supervisor: Madill, Anna ; Latchford, Gary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Cults; Membership; Recruitment; Behaviour; Religious; Mind control