Should the Duggar Family Really Be 'Stunned' by Josh's Cheating Scandal?

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Jennifer O'Neill
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Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are reportedly “absolutely baffled” over their son Josh Duggar’s confession that he’s addicted to pornography and has had affairs, but an expert tells Yahoo Parenting that it’s unfair to assume they could have had any idea what was going on. (Photo: Getty Images)

Since Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar discovered that their son Josh Duggar was a member of the hacked Ashley Madison website, on which 37 million users pursued extramarital affairs, the former reality stars admit they have been devastated. “When we learned of this late last night,” the couple wrote on the Duggar Family blog Thursday, “our hearts were broken.”

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After his parents posted their note, Josh issued a public apology on the family’s site and also confessed to having an addiction to porn, which has since been edited out. “I have been the biggest hypocrite ever,” the 27-year-old originally wrote. Duggar has been wed for the past seven years to Anna Duggar, 27, with whom he welcomed daughter, Meredith, last month, joining Marcus, 2, Michael, 4, and Mackynzie, 5. “While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living. …”

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Josh and Anna Duggar with two of their children. (Photo: TLC)

Josh’s secret life was apparently so convincing that even though his parents had been aware of his past as a sexual abuser — revealed to the public three months ago when news broke that he’d molested five underage girls, including two of his sisters, as a teen — his cheating and porn addiction has “absolutely stunned” them. “This wasn’t something they ever imagined was possible,” a source told People. “They so strictly limit their exposure to these sorts of outside influences — from websites to even the sort of television they watch, if they turn on the TV at all — that they were absolutely baffled by how this could have been possible. They just don’t know who this person is who could have done this.”

The former lobbyist for the conservative Christian Family Research Council is like “a completely different person from who they thought he was,” explains the source, “and they’re still trying to reconcile all that they know is good about Josh, whom they will always love and adore, with what they’ve learned now.”

But the fact is, parents are often in the dark when it comes to their kids and sex and abuse, Child Abuse Research Education and Service (CARES) Institute co-founder and co-director Dr. Esther Deblinger tells Yahoo Parenting. The Duggars are no different. “They care about him and love him and want to see the best in him, as most want to see in their children,” says Deblinger. “It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve been blindsided. They love their son and obviously didn’t raise him to engage in this kind of behavior.”

All of Josh’s offenses are things “done in secrecy,” she adds. “Parents can’t see through walls, and they don’t know what their children don’t tell them. It’s unfair to expect that even the most loving parents would necessarily be aware of them. These activities are not necessarily reflected in the person’s other behaviors.”

Josh’s strict Christian upbringing isn’t necessarily a contributing factor to his problems now, either. As for the possibility Josh may be acting out now in rebellion of his conservative upbringing, Deblinger says, “There is no evidence that would suggest that.”

Besides, sexual abuse, pornography addiction, and cheating don’t always go hand in hand, she adds. “They’re all different problems that we haven’t found all the answers to in terms of treatment and prevention — and parents haven’t either.”

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