Minority religions that differ from the mainstream are often perceived as controversial and as a threat to the individual and to society. During the 1970s and 80s, there were intense discussions about whether conversion to these groups was voluntary or an effect of brainwashing or manipulation. In recent years, however, the situation of children in these groups has taken over the public debate regarding minority religions. Many believe that childhoods in cults involve physical and psychological abuse, and that severe punishment, starvation, sexual abuse, manipulation, forced obedience, lack of medical care and demonization of the outside world is part of everyday life.
This book presents four years of research. Its purpose is to highlight children's upbringing in certain minority religions with a high degree of "sectarian" criteria in a sociological sense including high tension with society/world, unique legitimacy and high level of commitment. The study examines mainly, but not exclusively, seven minority religious communities: The Hare Krishna movement, The Family International (formerly Children of God), The Church of Scientology, The Family Federation (formerly The Unification Church), Knutby Filadelfia (a Pentecostal group), The Exclusive Brethren, and Jehovah's Witnesses.
The fieldwork was conducted in Sweden, but the situation of the children and the findings are relevant to other countries. Most of the minority groups discussed have an international character with a presence in many countries, with only minor differences depending on local circumstances. The study is based on literature from the religions and observations of children and parents in religious rituals and daily life. However, the most important material for the book are eighteen in-depth interviews with children between the ages of 8 and 17 living in these groups and seventy-five in-depth interviews with adults who grew up in minority religions and who are still involved, who grew up in minority religions, but are not now engaged, and who raised children in the minority religions.