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Family Dynamics

"...no two children, even within the same family, have identically the same parents. 
That is because the personality and gender of each child 
brings out different things in the same parents." 
~ recently quoted by Shari Howerton, author of Breaking the Chains

I think about this concept often. It's especially interesting when looking at the dynamics of a Quiverfull family, where the number of children are often greater than most. Why do some experience shame and grief, while others within the same household have nothing but uplifting memories, and no apparent aftereffects? Does birth order play a role? Why do some struggle with depression, while others within the same household seem absolutely fine? What is your experience?


  1. The family I grew up in (in the 70s) was not QF nor explicitly patriocentric, but pretty standard issue patriarchal evangelical--dad a minister, mom a housewife, three kids. Still, all the ideas that have become part of the Patriocentric rhetoric were not a big stretch from what we believed and felt we should practice--even if we didn't actually practice them.

    I'm the oldest and left religion altogether in my twenties--despite huge theological doubts for a decade it was finally the hypocrisy of it all that ran me out. In the last year, largely through the work of this blog, I recognized the dynamics of my family to have been spiritually abusive (and occasionally emotionally abusive).

    My brother became a non-practicing Christian for about a few years after high school while he pursued a very secular entertainment career. But he quickly abandoned secular work for fundy college and church ministry where he has remained for over 20 years. He acknowledges that some of what our family dynamics were could be labeled abuse, maybe, but he certainly wouldn't put any of the responsibility on Christianity or institutionalized religion. He has refused to discuss anything related to the idea that religion can be used as addictively as alcohol or drugs to hide/escape from pain and as a result create more pain.

    My sister is several years younger than we are and is a housewife with young children. She flirts on the fringes (or more, I can't tell because we rarely talk) of QF and patriarchy. She has confessed to having no understanding of my perspective of spiritual abuse in our family--although she bears all the hallmarks listed by Fr Leo Booth in "When God Becomes a Drug" as a second generation adult daughter of religion addiction.

    All of us have experienced depression, anxiety, and/or other neurological disorders; we are all severely overweight. I am the only one to consider that our hyper-religious family might have had causal significance.

    Long story, short: Since we all developed what I consider abusive sequelae, I don't know whether our experiences of our family religiosity were that significantly different from each other, although by the time my sister was old enough to be self-reflective, my father was not in full-time public ministry, he'd gone into private missions administration, and my mother worked for pay for all of my sister's memory. Mostly I tend to think that my siblings simply haven't "seen the light" about things.

    But maybe I'm wrong. I do know that I'm going to post this pseudonymously because I want deniability in case either of them ever find this blog. --A Heretic

  2. Thank you for sharing this, A Heretic. It's fascinating to me ~ both the differences, as well as the similarities, especially in regards to the body. Cindy Kunsman, who wrote the afterword for my book, is a nurse who writes about spiritual abuse and we've both (she professionally and me, through first-hand accounts) have observed so many connections between high-demand environments and their effects on the body and mind (heart and spirit, too, of course).

    I wish you grace for your continued journey.

  3. I don't have personal experience in a patrio family, but know so many fellow homeschoolers who live in this lifestyle.

    I think it would be interesting to see how many of the woman who grew up as daughters negatively impacted by patrio living are the oldest or among the oldest of the silbing group. It seems to me that these eldest daughters are so burdened, physically and emotionally, by having to "parent" their siblings. A younger daughter who had no such (or, at least, less) responsibility might not see the family dynamics nearly as negatively as her older sister(s).

    It would also be interesting to know how many men come out of such families with negative stories. Are there any?

  4. TC, I am also very curious about the men's side. I've heard from one or two, but not nearly as many as girls ~ perhaps because, obviously, this site is tailored to women. It would be an interesting study ~ also about the birth order effects on the daughters. I wish there was a way to get official statistics.

  5. It would make a great sociology project for someone working on a master's or PhD. (*hint* to a college student who might be reading this blog... :))

  6. There are so many variables that make each person's perception of a shared experience completely different. Our family endured a lot at the hands of legalistic patriarchists but, and I think God for this, the kids have turned out really well. They are unique individuals but I'll try to weave what I perceive as common threads and things that seem to help make them different from one another as well.

    First, I have listened to them and I have apologized for my contribution to some really unhealthy dynamics in the past.

    Also, the shot across my bow, so to speak, was my oldest daughter turning 13 and going throuogh normal questioning and mild (very mild) rebellion that my husband wanted to beat out of her. I remember thinking she will either spend the rest of her childhood being disciplined (physically or grounded/punished,) or she would end up like me and, although i put up with killing my own personality, I didn't want my girls to go through the same thing and I ended up putting my foot down, going through hell on earth because the people in church, wheen they heard about anything, would side with dh.

    We got out of legalism but my older kiddos love God but want nothing to do with religious systems and I can't blame them. The younger kids love God and are comfortible in our current, grace-based church. This is the biggest differenc I see in my children. Sorry this is long.

  7. There seems to be a difference, yes, in how siblings deal with things - being raised by the same parents, experiencing different feelings and things. My husband comes from a family like you often describe. He is the oldest. There are four. The two oldest now see things so clearly for what they are. The two youngest, though now in their 30's, will defend their parents teachings and parenting with their lives! Even though the two oldest are quite articulate and can very clearly through Scripture point out where things are very very wrong and abusive.

    always amazing to me. Some siblings end up more brainwashed then others and know nothing of precult experiences and therefore will back it up 100% - while some others experience perhaps that which is not abusive/cultic and are awakened to the truth.

  8. I believe birth order can perhaps play a role and it's interesting to know that Satan wants "the firstborn" because God also wants the firstborn. So if you are firstborn, beware that Satan might be working extra hard on you!!

    Oldest daughters need to especially be careful to not jump off the deep end and let Satan lead them astray to where they completely lose their own souls. I've seen it happen.
    And even with the oldest child who didn't come from a large family at all. Rebellion is most common in the oldest kids it seems.

    If there is just one sibling making a fuss? Hmm, maybe that sibling is being deceived by Satan (and this could be in any situation-entirely unrelated to patriarchy).
    Or perhaps there is actually sin that needs to be addressed?
    Parents are how they are; regardless of the personalities of the children. They have the same strengths and weaknesses.
    Communication can be a huge issue.
    Is the child and parents aren't communicating well, it can lead to a whole host of problems completely unrelated to whatever background a family might have.
    There are solutions to these common problems. Running away is never a solution unless TRUE abuse is happening.


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