Joy-Anna Duggar, Married at 19: Good Idea?

Duggar family

The Duggar Family, minus 2 kids — By Jim Bob Duggar (Email from Jim Bob Duggar) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

News emerged recently that Joy-Anna Duggar, age 19, is engaged to Austin Forsyth, 22. Their courtship, which began last November, was shown on the Duggar family’s reality TV show, “Counting On,” on the season finale about a week ago.

When the Duggars first came onto the scene, over a decade ago now, I was a fan. I think I first learned about them when I read a magazine article on the family. Dad Jim Bob was running for office in their native Arkansas. I even emailed the magazine, commending them on featuring such a wholesome family. They all dressed alike! They had Christian values! All those cute kids!

19 Kids and Counting

The Duggars soon nabbed their own reality show, “19 Kids and Counting.” Of course, it wasn’t 19 kids at first. They started with maybe 14, then one by one, the family grew. I liked the show. I liked seeing how such a large family got by with a frugal lifestyle.

As the years went by, I noticed the family changing in subtle ways. They benefited greatly from the TV show, which provided much of a huge new house they built and moved in to. Companies provided many things to the family, from a grand piano to trips all over the world. They ditched the Laura Ingalls Wilder clothes and began dressing more fashionably. And the babies kept coming. Baby #19, Josie, famously was born about halfway through her gestation and had many medical issues. And baby #20, Jubilee, was stillborn.

Then, a new “season of life” began: the weddings of the kids. Oldest son Josh was first — and now in the past couple of years he has admitted to engaging in scandalous activities. Daughters Jill, Jessa, and Jinger were next — all, conveniently (?) timed to be one per season of the TV show. It began to appear that the family, specifically I’m guessing dad Jim Bob, was orchestrating family events in order to keep the show (and the income) going.

After Josh’s disgrace, “19 Kids” was taken off the air. But the show returned in a new version, ostensibly featuring the older kids. It’s called “Counting On.”

Married at 19: Good Idea?

As the older girls married, one by one, my thoughts on the family veered from happiness to skepticism, to now, sadness with Joy-Anna. She will not turn 20 until October, and if she follows the family’s typical time frame, she’ll be married by then. That’s just so … young. Is it a good idea?

I don’t know. On one hand, the Duggars raise their kids in an extremely sheltered way. They are home-schooled and, at least fairly recently, home-churched. Either they aren’t allowed to go to college, or else none of the 19 kids have ever expressed a desire to go (son Joseph did spend one semester at a Christian college). If this is one’s life, maybe teenage marriage isn’t so bad?

I just keep thinking of all life has to offer, though. If Joy-Anna marries at 19, she’ll most likely be pregnant within a few months. Then, having babies and working at her fiance’s family camp will pretty much be her life for the rest of her life. As I watch Austin explain what he likes about her (she’s diligent; she delegates well), I just feel sad. When I see her respond to him with the same adoring gaze her sisters and mom use for their men, I just feel … disillusioned. I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems life could offer these kids so much more. If you don’t know of anything you’re missing, are you really missing it? Even if they could, would these kids choose anything different? And is it wrong for parents to keep their kids so sheltered that they don’t even know what else is out there?

No answers here. These are just thoughts that occupy my mind these days when I think about the Duggars. Have you watched the show? What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Joy-Anna Duggar, Married at 19: Good Idea?

  1. With the abysmal education and totally bounded choices she’s been given, is there really any reason to debate if it is a “good” idea? I just pray he treats her decently and that when the tv show dies they use birth control. Honestly, if anyone, at this point, actually believes these girls have “choices” they need to seek help. There is no other choice for a girl. They cannot even be solo missionaries. They cannot work except in a father or husband’s business and they are not paid when they do that. The laughable notion recently put in the press that Joy Anna wanted a “political” career was just that–a joke. She is not going to do anything except pop out babies and fail to educate them. Remember “knowledge” puffs one up, it is “wisdom” you seek–and wisdom comes from Daddy and Hubby who get it from God. Sorry–I’m just so fed up with this family. They aren’t “Christian” they are in a cult. And, yes, I believe Jim-Bob is forcing a few courtship’s to keep the gravy train rolling. I’m sure by now the forgotten/lost girls (Hannie, Jenny, Jordyn) are doing all the chores and cooking and perfect St Josie, who clearly has delays, is not doing anything or getting any help. I feel even MORE sorry for the poor nephew –Mom’s a drug addict, Granny had a stroke and he’s now stuck in this zoo!!!

  2. I’ve never watched the show, but some years ago I was on a Christian women’s mailing group (before blogs and Facebook) that was made up of some of these kinds of women, only I didn’t realize it at first. Once when I innocently spoke of how going to a Christian life impacted me for the better, I met with negative reaction. When I pressed about it, just trying to understand and share how great college was, I was removed from the list for being “disruptive.” I don’t know if the Duggars are influenced by Bill Gothard, but a lot of people with similar beliefs are.

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with getting married at 19 and working in the family business – that’s the way life was for hundreds of years. But it’s wrong to insist that that’s the only right way women can live.

  3. I have a different take on this family. After all, many girls get married at 19. In fact, someone very close to you, Susan, married at 18. So to put someone down for that doesn’t fit into my mental framework. I *am* very disappointed in Josh’s sinfulness; I freely admit that. But to put someone down because she has no greater aspirations than to be a wife and mother … that’s just not how I think. In fact, I’m a bit envious of girls who enjoy being a homemaker and mother. Life would have been so different if I had had that opportunity.

  4. I have never seen this show and know little about the family. I do, however, believe that marriage before the mid-20s is way too young. A woman “grows” in so many ways from the late teen years until the mid-20s. When I remember what I was like at 19 and what I was like at age 24, it’s like remembering two different people. There are examples in my family where the marriage didn’t last when the two were so young. Of course, you can argue that some marriages don’t last when the couple is older when marrying. I guess I just like to see a young woman get some life experiences before settling down to become a wife and mother. It sounds as though the Duggars are living a “reality” life.

  5. Boy, I don’t know. This is a hard one. I appreciate the Duggar family’s adhesiveness to God’s Word. Yes, they are conservative. But they are close to God and in the end, that’s what I’m striving for. This world is temporal, only here for a short time. Compared to eternity, it’s nothing. “We’re just here to learn to love Him.” (Amy Grant) I appreciate all the opportunities today available for women. I think that whatever lifestyle women choose today, it should be to glorify God. That means fast-track executives, professional athletes, stay-at-home moms (still desirable and beneficial to children), writers, scientists, artists, and retired folks with ever-increasing opportunities, like me. I was 18 when I was married and have learned a whole lot in the last 45 years. We have weathered many storms, but have had many happinesses. In the final analysis, God is in charge.

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