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Characteristics of Incestuous Fathers

NCJ Number
L M Williams; D Finkelhor
Date Published
72 pages
A sample of 118 recently identified incestuous fathers and a matched comparison group of 116 nonabusive fathers were interviewed to determine distinctive characteristics of incestuous fathers.
The men were interviewed about their childhood experiences, family life, and sexual and social histories. The incestuous fathers also provided information on the sexual contacts with their daughters. The comparison fathers were asked about their relationship with their daughters. The study concluded that incestuous fathers are a heterogenous group that consists of five distinct types. The "sexually preoccupied" group manifested clear and conscious sexual interest in their daughters, often from an early age. The group composed of "adolescent regressives" also had a conscious sexual interest in their daughters, but the interest did not begin until the daughter approached or reached puberty. The group that consisted of "instrumental sexual gratifiers" apparently did not experience sexual arousal specifically for their daughters, but rather used the daughter for gratification while fantasizing about some other partner. The "emotionally dependent" group of incestuous fathers consisted of lonely and depressed men for whom the abuse satisfied urgent needs for closeness and comforting. The group of "angry retaliators" showed little sexual arousal toward their daughters, but used the incest to express anger toward their wives for perceived neglect, abandonment, or infidelity. Generally, the incestuous fathers were more likely than the nonabusive fathers to have been rejected by their parents, physically abused, or sexually abused when they themselves were children. They were more likely to have been sexually preoccupied or inept as a teenager, to have a high frequency of masturbation, or to have committed adolescent offenses. They tended to be more anxious, poorly adjusted, and avoidant of leadership as adults. They also tended to be socially isolated and have more difficulties in their marriages. Chapter references, tables, and figures