The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

By Diana E. H. Russell | Go to book overview

17
Explaining the Differences Between Biological Father and Stepfather Incest

In order to explain why child sexual abuse occurs, David Finkelhor ( 1984) suggests that the following four questions have to be answered. First, what predisposes a person to want to sexually abuse a child? Second, what undermines his or her internal inhibitions against acting out this desire? Third, what undermines the social inhibitions against sexually abusing a child? And fourth, what undermines the child's ability to avoid or resist such sexual abuse? Since this fourth question suggests that the child can avoid or resist the sexual abuse if his or her capacity is not undermined, it will be rephrased as follows: What increases the child's vulnerability to sexual abuse?

This four-factor theoretical model provides an excellent framework for discussing some of the differences found in our survey between incestuous abuse by biological fathers and stepfathers.

Researchers are often prone to search for a single theory to account for phenomena, and to see theories as competing with, rather than complementing, each other. One of the advantages of Finkelhor's model is that it discourages such a singular search and highlights the fact that different theories address different levels of explanation.

The discussion to follow will focus on theories that might explain the

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