Incest

incest, sexual relations between persons to whom marriage is prohibited by custom or law because of their close kinship. Ideas of kinship, however, vary widely from group to group, hence the definition of incest also varies. Customs prescribing whom a person may and may not marry are found among all human groups, and these apparently antedated knowledge of the genetic effects of the intermarriage of close relatives. Even modern prohibitions of incest are based only in part on the observed fact that inherited defects tend to be transmitted in intensified form when both parents possess the same genes. In many societies, the marriage of parents and offspring, or brothers and sisters, is prohibited and abhorred—this is the incest taboo, much discussed in the anthropological literature. Only in some royal families, as in ancient Egypt and among the Inca, were such marriages customary, perhaps with the goal of conserving royal prerogatives and property; such marriages may have been largely symbolic. Theories concerning the incest taboo include sociological and psychological interpretations. In anthropology, it is often considered in relation to rules of exogamy, by which marriage serves as a means of social alliance between groups who might otherwise be disposed to fight one another. Incest is a recurrent theme in mythology and literature across the world, and it has played an important role in psychoanalytical speculation and theory (see Oedipus complex). For the contemporary legal aspects of incest, see consanguinity.

See J. Shepher, Incest: A Biosocial View (1983); J. B. Twitchell, Forbidden Partners: The Incest Taboo in Modern Culture (1986).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Sexual Abuse of the Child: A Treatment Model for the Incestuous Family
Mohl, Allan.
The Journal of Psychohistory, Vol. 38, No. 2, Fall 2010
Incest Avoidance and the Incest Taboos: Two Aspects of Human Nature
Arthur P. Wolf.
Stanford Briefs, 2014
Incest as Child Abuse: Research and Applications
Brenda J. Vander Mey; Ronald L. Neff.
Praeger, 1986
When Cousins Do More Than Kiss
Layng, Anthony.
USA TODAY, Vol. 138, No. 2772, September 2009
The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women
Diana E. H. Russell.
Basic Books, 1999 (Revised edition)
Male Survivors' Perspectives of Incest/Sexual Abuse
Ray, Susan L.
Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Vol. 37, No. 2, April-June 2001
We Shared Something Special: The Moral Discourse of Incest Perpetrators
Gilgun, Jane F.
Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 57, No. 2, May 1995
Inbreeding, Incest, and the Incest Taboo: The State of Knowledge at the Turn of the Century
Arthur P. Wolf; William H. Durham.
Stanford University Press, 2005
The Psychology of Sexual Victimization: A Handbook
Michele Antoinette Paludi.
Greenwood Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Resilience of the Human Psyche: Recognition and Treatment of the Adult Survivor of Incest"
The Psychology of Sexual Orientation, Behavior, and Identity: A Handbook
Louis Diamant; Richard D. McAnulty.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Perpetrators of Incest"
Violence and the Prevention of Violence
Leonore Loeb Adler; Florence L. Denmark.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Incest: the Most Personal Violence
Sibling Incest: Treatment of the Family and the Offender
DiGiorgio-Miller, Janet.
Child Welfare, Vol. 77, No. 3, May/June 1998
Treating Sibling Incest Using a Family Systems Approach
Haskins, Cora.
Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Vol. 25, No. 4, October 2003
Inbred Obscurity: Improving Incest Laws in the Shadow of the "Sexual Family"
.
Harvard Law Review, Vol. 119, No. 8, June 2006
Telling, Re-Telling and Talking about Telling: Disclosure And/as Surviving Incest
Ford, Leigh Arden; Crabtree, Robbin D.
Women's Studies in Communication, Vol. 25, No. 1, Spring 2002
Odyssey of the Heart: Close Relationships in the 21st Century
John H. Harvey; Ann L. Weber.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Incest" begins on p. 159
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