Managing Familial and Religious Ostracism

Challenges and Coping Skills for Former Jehovah's Witnesses

A Project In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Social Work by Sandra Kieler, June 2020


When an individual attempts to leave a high control religious group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are often disfellowshipped or disassociated, and met with complete ostracism from their families as well as members of the religion. Currently, there is limited research available about the effects of these disfellowshipping practices used by Jehovah’s Witnesses on those experiencing them. This research project attempted to explore the challenges faced by baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses and their transition as disfellowshipped individuals facing familial and religious ostracism. This project examined the coping strategies utilized by disfellowshipped members to combat this ostracism and its effects. This study is exploratory and qualitative in design utilizing a demographic data questionnaire and semi-structured interviews from eleven former disfellowshipped or disassociated Jehovah’s Witnesses. Descriptive statistics were utilized to compare responses for demographic data. The constant comparative analysis method was also used to analyze the interview data into themes. Themes that were revealed through the analysis included ostracism, challenges, coping skills, and spirituality. The findings of this study revealed the majority of participants experienced ostracism from their families and social systems. The study also found that participants faced a number of different challenges due to their disfellowshipping including mental health challenges, developing new social systems, and finding competent mental health therapists. Another finding from the study were the participant’s different coping skills and ways they overcame the challenges as a result of their disfellowshipping or disassociation. The findings of this study are significant due to the lack of research available on this topic. This study improves resources for social workers to better provide services for this population at a micro level. Implications for social work practice include expanding upon the lack of research to improve resources, assessment, and intake forms.
There are currently over 8.4 million actively preaching Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide as reported by the Watchtower and Bible Tract Society (2017). 
This chapter includes an exploration of current literature surrounding ostracism and the religious practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The purpose of this study is to determine the challenges and coping strategies among disfellowshipped or disassociated former members of the Jehovah’s Witness faith.
This chapter presents the results of the data obtained from the demographic data questionnaire and the semi-structured interview questions. 
This final chapter will discuss the results of chapter four and expand upon the significance of the themes presented which included ostracism, challenges, coping skills and overcoming, and spirituality. 
Demographic Survey, Interview Guide, Participant Recruitment Announcement, Debriefing Statement, Informed Consent, Approval Letter, and References.

Comments are closed.