Apologetics Index
What you should know about Growing Families International

Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Growing Families International

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Controversial, for-profit "parenting ministry" with cultic characteristics. Headed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, it promotes a foolish approach to childcare, which the Ezzos wrongly insists is based on Scripture.

An article in the April-June, 1998 issue of the Christian Research Journal is summarized as follows:

Parenting programs authored by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo and promoted by Growing Families International (GFI), including Preparation for Parenting and Growing Kids God's Way, are both wildly popular and highly controversial. The programs mix sound parenting advice with highly disputable ideas, but this does not fully account for the controversy. GFI has provoked unprecedented public censure from Christian leaders because, although it is not a cult, it has consistently exhibited a pattern of cultic behavior, including Scripture twisting, authoritarianism, exclusivism, isolationism, and physical and emotional endangerment.
More Than A Parenting Ministry: The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Families International, Christian Research Journal, April-June, 1998.

Salon Magazine reports:

In 1997, approximately 100 health-care providers, including nationally known experts and 20 fellows of the American Academy of Pediatrics, sent a "letter of concern" to the AAP regarding Ezzo's child-care advice. In February, the Wall Street Journal reported on the growing controversy, and in April, the AAP's own District IV Chapter Convention passed a resolution calling on the AAP to investigate "Babywise" and its effects on infant health. In the same month's issue of the AAP News, Dr. Matt Aney, a California pediatrician, wrote an editorial in which he discussed having personally reviewed dozens of medical records of infants with health problems ranging from low weight gain to dehydration to symptoms of depression that developed after parents had followed the feeding advice contained in "Babywise". The nation's largest professional organization for lactation professionals, the International Lactation Consultant Association, has become so alarmed by growing numbers of parents using Ezzo's "infant management program" with poor results that, at its recent international conference in July, the group offered a presentation to a standing-room-only audience on how to deal with "rigid approaches to care giving" in the clients that they see.
Getting Wise to "Babywise", Salon, Aug. 1998

Cult or Cultic?

Oddly enough, the author's of CRJ's exposé - CRI research associate Kathleen Terner, and Elliot Miller, the Christian Research Journal's Editor-in-Chief - do not consider GFI a cult. They note:

While some are using the term cult to categorize GFI, in our estimation this is clearly not warranted. Unfortunately, however, GFI's behavior does parallel the characteristics of cults in significant ways...
More Than A Parenting Ministry: The Cultic Characteristics of Growing Families International, Christian Research Journal, April-June, 1998.

The articles than goes on to list those ways, expounding on each point:
  1. Scripture twisting and de facto assertion of extrabiblical revelation
  2. Authoritarianism
  3. Exclusivism
  4. Isolationism
  5. Physical and emotional endangerment

Naturally, as their article also says, "Countless parents have described feeling like outsiders in their own churches, being rejected by people who used to be friends, and being made to feel less spiritual, all because they were not part of the GIF "community"."

See these articles on the characteristics of cults.

Apologetics Index advises parents and others to run - not walk - from GFI and its methods.

- Articles -
Christian Concerns about the Ezzos' Preparation for Parenting Class Well-documented overview of the problem associated with GFI.
Secular Critiques and Commentaries of Concern Regarding Growing Families Internationalpdf Lengthy bibliography. Note: in .pdf format.
Secular Getting Wise to "Babywise" August, 1998, Salon Magazine article alerting parents to the "conservative Christian agenda" behind the book, and warning of the program's dangers.
Secular In God's hands?: Religious-based parenting program may endanger some infants 1997 Brandenton Herald newspaper article. See also this Q & A with Gary Ezzo.
Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox GFI's Response to the CRI Exposé Clearly demonstrates GFI's un-Christian approach to criticism of its viewpoints. CRI's in it's follow-up article, concluded, "...At some point, readers need to consider how much evidence must be dismissed or explained away, and how many respectable critics must be doubted, in order to believe GFI."
Christian Grace Community Church Explains Why They No Longer Use Any GFI Materials From the church where the Ezzo's material originated.
Christian More Than A Parenting Ministry? CRI's original article on GFI. See also information about a follow-up article after GFI's response.
Christian Some Concerns About the Ezzo Method of Parenting by Rebecca Prewett

- Message Boards -
Secular The Ezzo Debate Provided by Parensplace.com, with the following disclaimer: "ParentsPlace.com as an organization does not condone, accept, practice or recommend the Ezzo method of parenting.". See also this archive.

- Sites -
Secular Gentleparenting.com Like many Parenting sites on the web, this one has a section devoted to criticism of the Ezzo's methods.
Aberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Growing Families International Official site.
Secular Parenting As Ministry (PAM) This site, which essential provides information about the PAM mailing list, includes a section on the Ezzo situation, as well as a page listing lots of resources