Tragic Details About The Duggar Family

Content warning: This article contains references to sexual assault and child sex abuse images.

The name Duggar is widely recognized by most people who are familiar with pop culture and/or reality television. The famous Duggar family, led by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, introduced viewers to their large brood, schooled fans on their conservative ways with TLC shows like "19 Kids and Counting" and later, "Counting On," and showed viewers that there was undoubtedly more than one way to go about life with kids. 

The infamous reality television gang, comprised today of the Duggar parents, their 19 biological children, and a smattering of in-laws and third generation littles, is known for being controversial. Their parenting practices and lifestyle choices are often thought of as being outside the normative box. While some praise their beliefs and ways, finding them wholesome and religiously rooted, others find the family sad and quite tragic. There is certainly an argument for either perspective, depending on your personal attitudes, but regardless of one's ideas, there is no mistaking that more than a few devastating details exist when it comes to the Duggar clan.

Josh Duggar inappropriately touched his sisters

In 2015, the good Duggar name took a massive hit when news broke that the eldest Duggar son, Josh Duggar, had molested several of his sisters and a babysitter many years ago. Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar quietly sent their son to receive professional care for his disturbing actions and provided counseling to their underage daughters in hopes of helping them cope with any trauma. Years after Josh's transgressions, the whole story saw the light of day, which is never a good thing for people living their lives out on screen.

Following the shocking news, the elder Duggars spoke out. In an interview on The Kelly File, Jim Bob Duggar told anchor Megyn Kelly that his son "was just curious about girls, and he had gone in and just basically touched them over their clothes while they were sleeping; they didn't even know he had done it." Josh and his wife, Anna Duggar, made public statements, attempting to do significant damage control. Their efforts were futile, and apologies were of little use once the truth was fully exposed. Josh ended up resigning from his role with the Family Research Council, and the family's television show, "19 Kids and Counting," was pulled from the air in 2021, reruns and all. 

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Anna and Josh tragically lost an in-law

One of the most tragic things that can occur to a human being is losing a loved one. The Duggar family has had to suffer and endure the pain of death more than once. Josh and Anna Duggar lost a family member in 2019 suddenly and tragically. Rebecca Waller, age 22, was driving in her native Minnesota when her car was hit by two other cars. Waller died as a result of her sustained injuries. While the deceased wasn't a direct Duggar relative, she was related to the large family through Anna Duggar, who is wed to Josh Duggar. 

Anna's sister, Pricilla Waller, is married to David Waller, and Rebecca was his younger sister. Her death was announced by her mourning family on Instagram. Anna, along with other family members, tweeted her sorrow along with the family of the deceased's, also on various social media channels.

Matriarch Mary Duggar drowned

Fans of the Duggar family's TLC series likely recall times when the gang's beloved Grandma Duggar popped in for a visit. Mary Duggar, Jim Bob Duggar's mother, was a constant character in the show's early seasons. She was adored by her children and grandchildren, and her sudden and tragic death stunned and devastated the large family. According to reports, Mary slipped and fell into a pool at her Arkansas home, where she drowned. She was 78 years old at the time of her passing. 

Her famous grandkids took to social media to express their love for their grandmother and their sadness surrounding her death. "My heart breaks. My grandma died suddenly today! She was an amazing woman of God and such a great example to so many! She was a feisty, incredible woman who always took the time to talk about Jesus with everyone she knew," penned Jill Duggar Dillard on Instagram. Jana Duggar shared her thoughts on Grandma Mary's passing as well. "On her last morning spent here on earth, I drove Grandma to church where she worshiped her Savior. Later that afternoon, she went to meet Him face to face! I'd say that's probably how she would've chosen to finish out the day if she got to pick," she wrote on Instagram

Many Duggar miscarriages

The Duggar family loves themselves some babies! Michelle and Jim Bob's children grew up surrounded by droves of little ones, and now that many of those kids are grown, Duggar grandkids are coming fast and furiously! With so many welcome additions to the big family, there have also been a few pregnancies that didn't make it full term, and the loss of those pregnancies was devastating to the parents who endured them. Mama Michelle Duggar lost a pregnancy prior to birthing her firstborn child. She also had a stillbirth in 2011. That pregnancy, had it continued and resulted in a live birth, would have been Michelle and her husband Jim Bob's 20th biological child.

Some of Michelle's daughters have also suffered miscarriages. Anna Duggar, the wife of Josh Duggar, suffered a miscarriage before becoming pregnant with her son Michael. Jessa Seewald, Jill DillardJinger Vuolo, and Joy-Anna Forsyth also endured miscarriages in their childbearing years, as did at least one of Michelle Duggar's daughters-in-law

Miscarriage is common in the first trimester, occurring in roughly 10%-15% of pregnancies. Most women who experience a pregnancy loss go on to have healthy babies. All the Duggar ladies who experienced a miscarriage currently have living children to date.

Daughter Jill calls father Jim Bob toxic

Some children grow up to vehemently disagree with how their parents raised them, and Jill (Duggar) Dillard can count herself among that population. While television viewers saw father Jim Bob Duggar lovingly guide his children on a religious path to betterment, Dillard claims what fans of the show saw was far from the reality of growing up Duggar. Dillard revealed her feelings about her father, who she claims is more toxic than people know, in an interview with People she gave with her husband, Derek Dillard. 

Once the Dillards began to express a desire to make decisions for their family independently of Jim Bob, the rifts widened, causing tension within the family. "Our control to choose what jobs we were allowed to accept and even where we were allowed to live was taken away from us," claimed Jill. Her husband, Derrick, elaborated on his wife's sentiment, saying, "The first few years of our marriage, we spent time and money working towards opportunities only to hit a dead end when we'd be told, 'Well, you're not allowed to do that.'"

As if not seeing eye-to-eye with dad wasn't bad enough, the Dillards also claim they had to fight for money due to them from her father, who was the reported payee for work on the family's TLC show. With contention between Jill's family and dad Jim Bob, the Dillards have since distanced their young family from the larger core crew. 

Jana Duggar faced child endangerment charges

The family's still single, eldest sister, Jana Duggar, found herself staring down child endangerment charges in 2021 after a minor child she was babysitting was found outdoors sans adult supervision. Jana herself referred to the incident as an accident and shared her side of the things on her now-deleted Instagram story. One of her sisters took to the 'gram as well, supporting Jana and helping make it clear that the incident was a simple mistake that anyone could have made, not a  case of blatant neglect. "Bottom line, it was an innocent mistake. She was babysitting and one of the kids slipped out the door unnoticed, but it ended safely. Could've happened to anyone," shared Jessa Seewald in one of her now-deleted stories, via Us Weekly.  

At first, Jana pled not guilty to the charge, but then ultimately she changed her plea to guilty and the matter was settled outside of court. Jana was handed down an $880 fine, and the matter was put to bed, making room for a far larger charge and conviction for another Duggar offspring. Jana's child endangerment charge and brother Josh Duggar's conviction occurred only days apart from one another.

Derrick Dillard was fired for his non-inclusive speech

Derick Dillard, who is wed to Jill Duggar, expressed his views on transgender identity, and his words (which were not inclusive nor supportive of the LGTBQ+ community) resulted in his termination from the hit TLC spin-off series, "Counting On." Dillard took to Instagram to share his thoughts on the matter of sexual orientation, as it pertained to another TLC star, Jazz Jennings, and her orientation. He also spouted his opinions off on Twitter, making it clear he did not support Jennings' decision to live her life in her chosen manner or to showcase her life on television for the public eye. In one now-deleted tweet, the former reality star went as far as to refer to transgender as a myth (via People).

Dillard came hard for Jennings, but this wasn't an isolated moment of social media ranting. In his Twitter post, Dillard also expressed resentment toward reality stars Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent. In that now-removed tweet, Dillard wrote, "What a travesty of family," under a promotion for the couple's reality show, "Nate and Jeremiah By Design." "It's sad how blatant the liberal agenda is, such that it both highlights and celebrates a lifestyle so degrading to children on public television as if it should be normal" (via People).

TLC made sure to let the public know they in no way agree with or support Dillard's personal views in their own tweet

The Dillards lose a friend in El Savaldor

In 2017, Derick and Jill Dillard, along with their young son, Israel, decided to embark on a worldly adventure. The young couple packed up their belongings and headed down to El Salvador. Their intent was to put their talents and faith to use, working as missionaries in the impoverished part of the world. After three months in Central America, the family headed home following a tragic incident.

A close friend of the Dillards had been killed, and while the shaken Dillards assured well-wishers and fans back home all was well and that the family would stay the course regarding their work in El Salvador, it didn't take long for them to make the decision to head back to Arkansas. "We received a phone call on Monday from a friend here in Central America informing us that one of our other good friends (a fellow Christian) had been murdered the day before and that his family had found his body down by the river earlier that morning," read the post on the couple's blog

The Duggar family blog mentioned a second death in the area the Dillards were working in, of a 20-year-old murdered at a roadside stand, via RadarOnline. Aside from the dangers that surrounded the family, Jill's impending second birth and the wedding of her younger sister, Joy-Anna (Duggar) Forsyth, might also have helped the Dillards arrive at the decision to return home.

Josh Duggar is found guilty

Of all the tragic happenings surrounding the Duggar family, Josh Duggar's arrest, conviction, and sentencing might be the single most disturbing occurrence. The former reality star and father of seven was found guilty in December 2021 of downloading and possessing child sex abuse images. Once he was found guilty of his crimes, the question begged, just how long would Duggar remain behind bars? He faced up to 20 years in prison, and the prosecution pushed for the maximum sentence. Josh's team, in contrast, asked for a reduced sentence of only five years behind bars. On sentencing day, the judge landed somewhere in the middle of the two, handing down a 151-month sentence, which equates to roughly 12.5 years behind bars for Duggar. 

Duggar's lawyers continue to maintain their client's innocence and gave a statement to USA Today: "We're grateful the judge dismissed Count 2 and rejected the Government's request for a 240-month sentence." (The dismissed charge would have carried an additional possible 20 years, and his lawyers plan to appeal.) 

With the sentencing behind them, the Duggar family had to now sort out how to move forward, since Josh's crimes led to the cancellation of their show. More important, however, is how the victims and survivors of sexual abuse (including his sisters) and those violated through child sex abuse imagery are able to move forward with their lives in the wake of the tragic turn to their lives.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

His sentence divides the family

Josh Duggar's conviction and sentence have seemingly divided their large family on how they feel regarding him, his arrest, and everything in between. Josh's parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, and Josh's wife Anna Duggar, stand firmly by him. Michelle even went as far as to write a letter to the judge, describing her son's better qualities. Several Duggar family members were present throughout the trial, lending support to Josh and Anna. 

Then there are family members who seem to sit in the other camp, one which is less supportive of Josh Duggar. Jinger and husband Jeremy Vuolo put out a statement on Instagram writing, "We are disturbed to hear of the charges against Josh. While this case must go through the legal system, we want to make it clear that we absolutely condemn any form of child abuse and fully support the authorities and judicial process in their pursuit of justice." Cousin Amy King also expressed her disdain for Josh Duggar in a tweet, writing, "This is the day that smug gross smile slowly fades as he gets locked away."

Sister Jill and her husband Derick Dillard stood somewhere in the middle of the two warring opinions, supporting the law while expressing love for their brother and hoping that he gets help.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).