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© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Incest as Child Abuse: Research and Applications
Brenda J. Vander Mey; Ronald L. Neff.
Praeger, 1986
The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women
Diana E. H. Russell.
Basic Books, 1999 (Revised edition)
Theories of Child Abuse and Neglect: Differential Perspectives, Summaries, and Evaluations
Oliver C. S. Tzeng; Jay W. Jackson; Henry C. Karlson.
Praeger Publishers, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Part III "Theorizations of Incest and Sexual Abuse"
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"
Family Values and the New Society: Dilemmas of the 21st Century
George P. Smith II.
Praeger, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Incest and Intrafamilial Child Abuse"
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
Long-Range Effects of Child and Adolescent Sexual Experiences: Myths, Mores, and Menaces
Allie C. Kilpatrick.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Violence and the Prevention of Violence
Leonore Loeb Adler; Florence L. Denmark.
Praeger, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Incest: the Most Personal Violence
Erotic Preference, Gender Identity, and Aggression in Men: New Research Studies
Ron Langevin.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Part II "Pedophilia and Incest"
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
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