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The Duggars' dirty secrets: Jinger Duggar opens up about 'terrifying and cult-like' childhood

Duggar parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, once admitted using the contentious parenting technique known as 'blanket training'
Jinger Duggar recently referred to Jim Bob and Michelle's influence over the children's lives as 'cult-like' in a bombshell new interview (duggarfam, Jinger Vuolo/ Instagram)
Jinger Duggar recently referred to Jim Bob and Michelle's influence over the children's lives as 'cult-like' in a bombshell new interview (duggarfam, Jinger Vuolo/ Instagram)

If you or anyone you know suspects child abuse, you are urged to immediately call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to All calls are toll-free and confidential and the hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.

SAN FRANSISCO, CALIFORNIA: The pristine on-screen reputation that Josh Duggar and his family had invested so much effort to establish over the course of their numerous TLC reality shows became nothing when he was arrested and found guilty of owning child pornography in 2022. 

Josh's arrest may have been the final straw for the family, leading to the cancellation of their series after more than a decade of appearances on the network, but their reputation had been eroding for years due to a number of other scandals and controversies. A shocking police report from years before the child porn allegations surfaced online claimed that Josh, now 34, had admitted to molesting four of his siblings and that his own parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, were aware of the abuse but did nothing about it, as per Daily Mail


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The family was also charged with child endangerment after a child they were babysitting was discovered wandering the streets alone, and another member of the family was charged with animal cruelty after they allegedly tried to ram into a cat while they were sledding. In addition, witnesses claimed they saw the family pretend to give someone free food before taking it back when the cameras stopped rolling. However, they kept on with their show. In 2008, the Duggar family's own reality program, '17 Kids and Counting', debuted. The series instantly captivated the nation and gained enormous popularity. It would later undergo two name changes to reflect the births of three more children. It ran for 10 seasons until coming to an end in 2015, but after that year, a spinoff called 'Counting On' debuted. It ran for an additional 11 seasons before being recently discontinued in the wake of Josh's conviction. 

'Parents' absurdly stringent list of guidelines'

Jinger Duggar recently referred to Jim and Michelle's influence over the children's lives as "cult-like" in a stunning new interview. They read their text messages, informed them what they could watch on TV, what music they could listen to, and even had a role in who they were friends with, as per Daily Mail.

As per reports, Jinger, 29, the seventh-oldest child of the Duggars, recently shocked the internet by attacking her parents' "harmful" ideas in a frank interview with PEOPLE and revealing the enduring damage they had caused on her. Another shocking admission to add to the long list of controversies was that the Duggar parents once admitted using the contentious parenting technique known as "blanket training," which involves placing a baby on a blanket on the floor and hitting it if it tries to crawl off. As Jinger speaks up about the "crippling anxiety" she experienced as a result of her parents' strict standards, the outlet shed light on the numerous scandals that have rocked the family, from Josh's immoral behavior to Jim Bob and Michelle's stringent religious requirements.

Jim, 57, and Michelle, 56, are both devoted members of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, an institution founded by shunned conservative minister Gothard and dedicated to Christian principles. Daily Mail reported that probably what got everyone's attention was the parents' absurdly stringent list of guidelines for their 19 children. The teachings mandated homeschooling, modest clothes and avoiding all contact with people of the opposite sex prior to marriage. These regulations left Jinger "crippled with anxiety" and "terrified of the outside world." She reportedly said, "[Gothard's] teachings, in a nutshell, are based on fear and superstition and leave you in a place where you feel like, 'I don't know what God expects of me.' The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world," as per Daily Mail. 

Jinger formally left IBLP after getting married to Jeremy Vuolo, 35, in 2016, but she remained a "strong Christian." Then, in a controversial move that attracted considerable media attention at the time, she began to wear pants. She wrote in her 2021 book that when she "re-examined" the Bible and learned more about the various doctrines and beliefs adhered to by Christians, her "convictions" began to "change." "I realized that biblical modesty is deeper and more profound than wearing skirts instead of pants. "Modesty isn't only about what you wear. It's about the position of your heart ... I never found a passage specifically forbidding women from wearing pants," she penned.

'Blanket training, but without the toy'

Along with their stringent rules, Jim and Michelle have drawn criticism for the contentious way they "trained" their children. In a 2012 blog post, the pair disclosed that they trained their children using a method they termed "Quiet and Still," which they compared to "blanket training, but without the toy." When a baby or toddler is being trained to stay on a blanket on the floor with a toy for a set amount of time, the parent smacks the child if they try to get off the blanket. "It's not [about] waiting until they do something wrong to correct them, but actually taking moments to train them," Michelle stated in a 2011 blog post, adding, "I'll sit [my children] in a chair, and I'll say, 'OK, Mommy's going to sit beside you, and you're going to practice being still and quiet.'"

'He has lied to my wife and I numerous times'

Jill, 31, and her husband Derick Dillard, 33, have accused her father, Jim, of lying, employing "manipulation and deceit," and even withholding money from them in recent years. "It's become clearer to us over time just how deep this man’s manipulation and deceit will go for his own gain, at the expense of others," Derick said in a Facebook post in 2021, adding, "He has lied to my wife and I numerous times."

(Derick Dillard/ Facebook)
Derick Dillard accused Jim Bob of being manipulative and deceitful (Derick Dillard/ Facebook)

Derick alleged in previous posts that his wife's siblings were "pressured" to appear on the show and told they would be "sued" if they wanted to leave. Additionally, he claimed that even as adults, they were not paid for it while Jim kept collecting the money. 

Jill further discussed her fractured relationship with her father in a deposition she gave in May 2022, which The Sun was able to get. She called him "controlling," "reactionary," and "verbally abusive." "I saw a whole new side to my dad once my husband and I started making decisions that were best for our family, but not in his best interest," she stated, adding, "Sadly, I realized he had become pretty controlling, fearful, and reactionary. He was verbally abusive. Our relationship is not good. It got pretty toxic."