Incest can be defined as sexual relations between very close relatives (people of the same family whose degree of kinship or alliance does not allow marriage, civil or religious).
It is now banned in all societies where it represents one of the major foundations (see in particular the principle of exogamy ).
It is rather an eroticized relationship of dependence between an often omnipresent parent and his child, which is accompanied by a confusion of places and can lead to a denial of otherness for the child (an “identity murder” , that is to say difficulties in its individuation).
Through the incestual climate that he establishes, the incestual parent tries to fight against the difficulty of facing anxieties of loss. Within a family dynamic behind closed doors, it can help to avoid the separation of subjects (parents-children), generations, to maintain for the parent a fantasy of self-extension (form of self-generation) by putting the psyche and the body of the child at its service.
The Oedipus complex which deals with a child’s love for its opposite-sex parent can only be resolved if the parent helps their child in their development without “seducing” them and without “assaulting” them (without relation incestuous). The incestual constitutes a figure of antioedipus because the sexual seduction by the parent is put at the service of a narcissistic seduction which aims to prevent the psychic empowerment of the child and to expect him to respond to his only lacks. .
Early affective deficiencies
The functioning of incestual or incestuous families may be favored by the existence of early affective deficiencies in one or both parents, a history of sexual abuse in childhood (one third of cases), by the occurrence of traumatic event, emotional separation, etc.
We often find family disturbances where the difference between generations is abolished at the emotional and sexual level, where there may be a form of porosity, of confusion between what is possible or not between adults and children.
There is probably a great heterogeneity in the profiles of incestuous parents. We describe parents who often did not succeed in “structuring” themselves sufficiently (“immature” parents), who can remain passive, submissive, dependent, inhibited in their relational life, having had difficulty finding a partner to which they remain very attached.
These profiles can be compared to incestuous acts committed against children after periods of marital tension or separation (for example a father who “substitutes” his daughter for his wife in a request that is both emotional and sexual).
Despotic incestuous parents (sometimes only in an intra-family situation) are also described who will use manipulation, threats or resort to violence to impose incestuous acts (for example a father who considers that he has rights over his daughter whose he could take advantage as he sees fit). These forms of authoritarianism can be compatible with lacks (the subject’s “powerlessness” being turned over in all power towards the victim).
If losses and aversive situations (mourning for parents, death of a child, marital “crisis”, break-up, unemployment or serious accident) can favor the occurrence or the maintenance and repetition of incestuous acts, they do not. are not the cause. Alcohol can also promote acts by the disinhibition it allows, but also the fact of helping to support the guilt or remorse of the incestuous parent.
Incest and pedophilia
The interest in the child’s body can manifest itself through ambiguous games, touching during the toilet or baths, dressing that can evolve into sexual assault or rape (by fellatio, finger penetration or by an object, sodomy and coitus).
The fact of opposing sexual violence against underage victims in an intra-family situation (speaking of incest) and extra-family (speaking of pedophilia) is schematic and undoubtedly erroneous. Certain incestuous acts may be of pedophilic interests ( paraphilia or paraphilic disorder ). It may be a “discovery” of these interests during incestuous acts or strategies for establishing incestuous relationships (especially with children of a spouse in the event of a blended couple) to meet paraphilic interests.
The intra-family aggressors (incestuous) have more history of difficulty in childhood (deficiency abuse) with a weak attachment to parental figures.
Extra-family abusers exhibit more arousal in front of children (due to greater deviant sexual interests), greater difficulty in regulating sexuality, more denial and cognitive distortions. They more often attack underage boys or both sexes. They have more antisocial traits (even if they are capable of a form of empathy towards children which allows them to be able to “seduce” them) and they more often have to deal with the justice system.
The pedophiles incestuous (intrafamily) represent 20% of pedophiles knowing that two-thirds of them also have assaulted a child outside the family. For the classifications distinguishing the intra or extrafamily categories of aggressors, it would probably be preferable to substitute a single category of general pedophilia including incest.
Consequences of incest
Incest is a taboo subject. There would be 1 to 2 million victims in France and all socio-cultural circles are concerned. The victims are most often girls and the perpetrators are men, but women can be concerned, as accomplices and as perpetrators (this remains rare).
The question of the complicity of acts by the maternal figure is a complex subject (between partial knowledge of the facts, denial, participation in pathological family dynamics, etc.). Victims can experience incestuous sex throughout their childhood and adolescence (especially around the ages of 4 to 9 and 12 to 15). Victims with a disability are often more at risk.
The revelation of incestuous acts is still rare (10% only) and very late. Several factors can contribute to this: the feeling of guilt and shame of the victims, the fear of not being believed, the fact that the incestuous relationship may have evolved over several months or several years, the silence of the other members of the family. family and family dynamics (incestual climate, family behind closed doors, trivialization of acts, promises of silence demanded by the aggressor, fear of reprisals, of being rejected, etc.).
Victims of incest have psychological, physical and sexual repercussions that are all the more serious as they are exposed to multiple offenses and more serious assaults over time.
These consequences are multiple: experience of suffering with depressive disorders, high risk of suicide attempts, manifestations of anxiety (anxiety disorders including states of post-traumatic stress ), addictions, eating disorders, disturbance of sexuality (including risky sexual behavior and entry into prostitution), loss of self-esteem, etc.
Author Bio: Robert Courtois is a Part-time psychiatrist at the University Hospital of Tours and Senior Lecturer – HDR in psychology at the University of Tours