This thesis investigates the factors that contribute to the increased vulnerability to cult membership. This paper also investigates the factors commonly found in cult leaders that increase their influence over their members. Cults have gained much more public attention due to their appearance in the media, typically after a tragic event. This has brought more questions regarding the members and leaders of these cult organizations. Developments associated with youth such as a need for belonging, the search for non-traditional forms of spirituality, emergence of black-and-white and independent thinking, conflicts with the adult world, and growing sexuality can increase an individual’s vulnerability to joining a cult. Additionally, certain personality disorders and characteristics, such as Antisocial Personality Disorder and Dependent Personality Disorder, can increase one’s vulnerability to joining and staying in a cult. Certain personality disorders can increase a leader’s sphere of influence over followers. In particular, Antisocial Personality Disorder and Psychopathy are the most prominent disorders. These factors are applied to various case examples in this paper. The case examples explored in this paper are Jonestown, The Kentucky Vampire Clan, The Manson Family, and The Source Family. Awareness on the factors that make up a cult is a crucial step in the prevention of cult membership.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 2021


Matthew P. Winslow

Mentor Department Affiliation


Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level