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NCJ Number
Date Published
13 pages
After defining incest, this booklet examines the dynamics and causes of incest; profiles the incestuous father, the child victim, and the wife of the offender; and proposes a general strategy for treatment of the incestuous family.
Incest is inappropriate sexual activity within the family. It includes relationships between the father and children, the mother and children, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren, and uncles and aunts with nephews and nieces. The average age of incest victims is approximately 11 years old, with the majority of victims experiencing their first encounter between the ages of 5 and 8. Incest is rarely a one-time incident. It evolves over time into various types of sexual activity. Incestuous families typically lack social skills and are often isolated from contact with community organizations and other families. The parents are usually not happy with themselves or with each other. The incestuous father has emotional needs he cannot meet in interaction with adults, and so he seeks more accessible and controllable intimate contact with his child. His life is dominated by his own needs, and any guilt is resolved by blaming others. The child victim initially assumes that whatever the parent does is acceptable and proper. Negative value judgments on the behavior emerge through familiarity with values of nonincestuous family members and persons outside the home. Victims remain silent about the incest out of fear of the consequences of disclosure. Adult survivors of incest experience psychological and relational consequences from the incest unless they receive treatment and address what has happened. The most effective intervention should involve the entire family, including the perpetrator, if it is to build positive family interaction.