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Psychol Rep. 1993 Oct;73(2):451-60.

Factors related to susceptibility and recruitment by cults.

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Glendale Family Service Association, California School of Professional Psychology.


Unprecedented escalation of secular and religious cults has necessitated further inquiry into more precise conditions under which individuals develop vulnerability and become converted by these groups. The present discussion focuses on a number of factors which seem to influence individuals' susceptibility and recruitment by cults. These variables include (a) generalized ego-weakness and emotional vulnerability, (b) propensities toward dissociative states, (c) tenuous, deteriorated, or nonexistent family relations and support systems, (d) inadequate means of dealing with exigencies of survival, (e) history of severe child abuse or neglect, (f) exposure to idiosyncratic or eccentric family patterns, (g) proclivities toward or abuse of controlled substances, (h) unmanageable and debilitating situational stress and crises, and (i) intolerable socioeconomic conditions. Also presented are methods utilized by cults, e.g., intimidation, coercion, and indoctrination, for systematically recruiting, initiating, and influencing inductees. More careful attention to these factors might help health care providers, educators, clergy, and concerned family and friends determine more precisely individuals at greater risk for recruitment into cults.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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