‘Counting On’: Why Haven’t Jim Bob and Michelle Cut Josh Out?

It has been more than two years since Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have publicly acknowledged their third-born child, Jill Duggar. Critics of the Duggar family believe that Jill has been effectively cut out because her husband, Derick Dillard, has been speaking out against the family. Derick seems like he isn’t willing to play by the Duggar family rules, and that means Jill is out too. While Jill has been effectively excommunicated, Jim Bob and Michelle continue to welcome their eldest son, Josh Duggar, with open arms. Josh, who molested several of his siblings as a teen, was also caught cheating on his wife, and may now be at the center of a federal investigation. So, why do the Duggars make allowance for Josh, while Jill hasn’t been given the same level of unconditional affection?

Josh was positioned as the leader early on

Josh was clearly troubled from pretty early on. He molested several of his siblings while he was a teenager. While the news didn’t hit the mainstream media until 2015, it was apparently a poorly kept secret around the family’s hometown of Springdale, Arkansas. Regardless, Jim Bob and Michelle both decided to position Josh as a leader of his siblings. He served as a “spokesperson” of sorts of the kids during the family’s first TV specials and was pushed into the public eye.

Josh Duggar speaks during the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference
Josh Duggar | Kris Connor/Getty Images

It’s possible that both Jim Bob and Michelle believed extra attention would right Josh’s wrong or, at the very least, make him more accountable for how he behaved going forward. That clearly backfired. Now a father of six, Josh engaged in some seriously risky behavior, even as an adult. Not only was he caught up in the Ashley Madison data breach, but he was accused of frequenting strip clubs, messaging women via a fake OkCupid profile, and of engaging in sex with at least one woman who was not his wife.

Parental favoritism is real

Parents playing favorites is mostly frowned upon in modern society, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, Psychology Today notes that the vast majority of parents “play favorites” at some point in their children’s lives. Some forms of favoritism are considered acceptable. For example, a newborn receiving more attention than an older child is simply a necessity. The same is true if a child is sick or disabled and requires more attention and care than others.

Recent studies, however, have found that eldest children and the youngest child in a family are generally favored over middle children. Research studies have found that the family’s oldest child gets the most privileges, while the family’s youngest child benefits from the most quality time with their parents. Parents may favor one child over others if the child is particularly troubled, too.

Josh, being the eldest born, may have benefited from serious favoritism. To many followers of the family, that favoritism seems to have carried through to adulthood. Not only have Jim Bob and Michelle protect their oldest son despite his deviant behavior, but they’ve also publicly praised him. In fact, Michelle took to the family blog to pen a long letter to her eldest child on his birthday; it is something she hasn’t done for any of her other 18 children.

The Duggar family doesn’t appear to value women

The Duggar family may preach a pro-family stance in political arenas, but most viewers have surmised the family is more “anti-woman” than anything else. While believing that women are utterly incapable of adult tasks, like attending college, handling money, and holding a job, they place an unimaginably damaging responsibility on their shoulders from a very young age. The ladies of the Duggar family are considered responsible for helping men both within their family and total strangers avoid temptation. They don’t wear traditional bathing suits because it could cause a man to “stumble.” They avoid shorts and skirts with a hemline too far above the knee because it’s akin to nakedness.

Philadelphia points to Josh’s molestation of his siblings as proof that the family is anti-woman. The publication notes that at no time were the young ladies who were molested given an apology, and the massive emotional mark left by the incident on the victims was considered a footnote. Josh, however, spoke earnestly about how his behavior could ruin his life. His parents backed up the sentiment.

Perhaps that’s the reason Jill has been shunned, while Josh has been given chance after chance. Jill, as a woman, is dispensable. She was handed off to her husband, and now under his headship, neither Jim Bob nor Michelle have a say. Josh, on the other hand, is financially tied to his father, and can still be controlled, at least in a sense.