Children in New Religious Movements

Charlotte E. Hardman

in The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780195369649
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Children in New Religious Movements


This article outlines the main issues and debates surrounding “kids in cults”. It demonstrates how the vast majority of the literature upon which most people's understanding of children in new religious movements (NRMs) has been constructed remains focused on three key themes, which have preoccupied the public and academics alike. The first part of the article puts the understanding of children in NRMs in perspective, pointing out the historical and cross-cultural relativity of the concept of the child. The second part looks at the research and media interest in children in NRMs, which have concentrated on child abuse, including mental and sexual abuse and neglect; child socialization and education; child custody cases and “the best interests of the child.” It outlines the key arguments in each of these three areas. In conclusion, the article argues that, the focus on the scandals involving children in NRMs draws attention away from developing wider research on the ways in which children develop spiritually, how they gain meaning and order from the religious and cultural patterns in which they live, and what they think about religion and spirituality, whether growing up in new religious movements or the mainstream.

Keywords: sexual abuse; child abuse; child socialization; child custody; spirituality; neglect

Article.  14471 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Alternative Belief Systems

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