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Marital Relations in Incest Offenders Reuben A. Lang , Ron Langevin , Virginia Van Santen , David Billingsley & Percy Wright To cite this article: Reuben A. Lang , Ron Langevin , Virginia Van Santen , David Billingsley & Percy Wright (1990) Marital Relations in Incest Offenders, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 16:4, 214-229, DOI: 10.1080/00926239008405459 To link to this article:

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Marital Relations in Incest Offenders

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The study conipared 92 incest perpetrators to 40 (noncriminal) rnarried males on two marital inzwiitories, the Clarke Maritad Relations Questionnaire (CMRQJ, and the Sexual Behavior and Marital Satisfaction Qurstionnaire (SBMSQ). Kesirlts .showed that marital dishnrmoriy, in the form of niistrwtfullness, lack of mutual friends and time together, emotional instability (in both partriers), but not sexual relations, were predominant factors in incest Perpetrators’ profiles. A discriminant function analysis correctly classif‘ied 91.3% of incest offenders, hut only 30.0% of controls, into their u priori gi-oup. Incest perpetrators reported less mut ual gziwaiid-take in disagr‘ements 702th their spowes, a trend to confide IQSS in their wives, and beirig inow lonely in their marriage. incest oflenders t-eported they k n e w their spouses less well prior to marringe, despite the lack of any betiocen-g~o.updifferences in length of nmrriage or nu.mber of prior marriages. No differences em.erged with respect to the range of .rexunl behm~iorsexperienced or the d e < e e of satifkction with them. There were no group differences in the frequency of coitus nor in sexual dysfunction. i n general, the lack of a satisfying emotional relationship between the incest offenders and thei?-wives appeared as the most prominent factor in their ‘marital relationships. The prominent aspects of their inarital disharmony and sexual relations identified in the study reflecl, in part, the inherent treatment goals rieeded f o r the incest perpetrator. Marital discord, and distorted family dynamics, are often espoused as a precursor to incestuous relations.’-6 Incest has been defined as “overt sexual intercourse occurring between members of a group who are not permitted to marry,”’ as “sexual contact with a person who would be considered an ineligible partner because of his blood and/or social ties Reuben A. Lang, Ph.D., is Consultant Psychologist at the Institute of Psychology and Law, Edn ~ o n t o n ,Alberta. Canada. Ron Langevin. Ph.D.. is Associate Professor at the Clarke Institute of Psvchiatry. Toronto, Ontario. Canada. Vir-ginia \ a n Santen. Ph.D.. and David Billingsley. R . A . . are ,idolescent and familv therapists at the Institute o f Psychology and Law. Percy Wright, M.A., is a

resexrcher at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatrv. Toronto. Ontario, Canada. Address reprint requests A. Lang. Ph.D., lnstitute of Psvchologv and Law, #770 First Edmonton Place, 10665 j;ispc.i Avenue. Edmonton, Alberta. (:anada. 1’5.J3S9.

t o : Reuben

Journal of Sex 8c Marital Therapy, Vol. 16, No. 4, Winter 1990 0 BrunnedMazel, Inc. 214

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Marital Relations in Incest Offenders


(i.e., kin) to the subject and her family,"8and as "father-daughter rape."!' Overt incestuous acts between father and daughter, siblings, o r mother and son (least common) and, more recently, involving a stepfather who may be defined as having a nonconsanguineal relationship with a stepchild, occur in large and small families at all levels of society. I n the case of a stepfather or father surrogate, with a lack of early parent-child bonding, the sexual acts that are perpetrated on the child are usually more intrusive (involving more oral, anal, and coital penetration) and include overtones of v i o l e n ~ e . ~ . ~ ~ , ' ~ Earlier work has established an association between intrafamilial sexual abuse and alcohol consumption,'~"''-14unhappy marital (and sexual) relationships,5~6~J' blurred role boundaries,J2J5I * and a dependent mother and rigid domineering father with excessive power.18.19Role reversal, though still an inferential concept, often occurs when gratification and fulfillment of the abusers' unmet dependency needs are sought primarily from children. Family dysfunction, in general, whether due to emotional immaturity, a weak and ineffectual parent, illness, faulty attitudes, the offender's narcissism, prior victimization of offender or spouse, a traumatic childhood, or fear of intimacy, usually in some combination, permits incest to occur unchecked until detected or disclosed by the abused child. Unfortunately, few studies have directly assessed spouse interaction or marital conflict in incest families. A common theme, that of a sick or frequently absent mother, and aversion to sexual relations so that normal conjugal intercourse is unavailable to the offending parent, has been popularized in the incest l i t e r a t ~ r e .Russell,'6 ~.~ in citing Katz and Mazur,3 points out that fathers who broke the incest taboo were presumably copulating with both daughter and spouse simultaneously. In their summary of risk factors, Finkelhor and Baron2 report that mother's employment outside the home, an ill or infirm mother, a poor relationship with either parent (often mother), parental conflict (e.g.% fighting over money, lack of intimacy), and a blended family with a stepfather bears the strongest and most consistent relationship to child sexual abuse. Notably, the mother who is sick, without power, away from home a lot, and fairly alienated from her children, especially her daughters, is living in a situation that gives rise to father-daughter incest.",'" In this scenario, the all-powerful, exploitive father, with little childrearing responsibility, tends to facilitate sexual (and other types of family) abuse of children. T h e present study examined the marital relations, including marital and sexual satisfaction, in a group of incest offenders compared to noncriminal community controls.


Subjects A total of 92 incest perpetrators who were seen either for a pretrial forensic evaluation or under sentence were included in the study. A total

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of‘ 87.4% of the incest offenders admitted to thcir offenses a n d were cooperative to the testing procedure. Eighty percent of the victims were females with a mean age of 8.54 years. Forty percent of the incest perpetrators had more than one victim. Most incest perpetrators were biological fathers (49.8%)or stepfathers (36.5%). Forty community volunteers, all married, served as a control group. T h e latter were carefully screened to ensure none had any history of mental illness, criminal background, or sexual anomaly. All participants were assured of complete confidentiality.

’I’wo self-report marital inventories. the Clarke Marital Relations Questionnaire (CMRQ)” and the Sexual Behavior a n d Marital Satisf‘action Questionnaire (SBMSQ),22.2:’ were administered. T h e CMRQ is a 60-item index of marital satisfaction, lvhich enquires about a broad range of difficulties, o r absence thereof, that make for a happy or unhappy marriage. I t consists of 12 items of the Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test“’ plus 48 additional (new) items. T h e SBMSQ contains 58 items relating to sexual behavior and complementary needs that make for marital success. T h e C M R Q and SBMSQ were administered as part of a larger assessment battery that examines sexual history a n d erotic preference among other pertinent factors in scx c r i m e s t 4


D e m og mph ic Feat ures I’he groups were contrasted o n a nuniber of variables. T h e r e were differences in education and marital status but not in age (Table 1). incest offenders were significantly less educated than controls. At the time of assessment, 46.4% of the incest offenders were divorced or separated from their wives, compared to 17.2% of controls. Nevertheless, almost half (43.3% were married, 6.270 were common-law) remained in a relationship with their spouses (versus 82.9% of controls).

Clarke iblarital Relations Qucstionnciire (CMRQ, ‘I’he items o n the Clarke Marital Relations Questionnaire were factor analysed to examine its structure. Principal axes factor analysis produced 12 factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 .O. T h e largest factor accounted for 19.2% o f t h e variance, and thc remaining factors only explained 5.6% o r less of the variance. ‘I’hus a single factor appears to emerge from this marital scale, but other factors may be of interest and were examined as scales. Factor 1 had largest loadings on “Less amount of time spent together” and tended to reflect a lack of sharing of common interests, particularly related t o recreation. This factor was labeled “Time Apart.” Factor 2 loaded highest on “Excessive criticism” a n d tended to relate to argu-

Maiilal Relations in Incest Offenders


TABLE 1 Demographic and Sexual History Features of Victims and Incest Perpetrators ~



Controls Variable

( N = 35)

Incest (N




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Mean SD Education Mean SD Marital Status (%) Married Divorced1 Separated Common-Law Widowed

37.42 7.98


7.96 12.69 2.32

10.18 2.54


48.6 17.2

43.30 46.39


34.3 -



6.19 ~

*p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < .001.

mentativeness and mutual criticism among the marital partners. Factor 3 had its largest loading on what might be described as “Less emotional stability of the marital partners,” with largest loadings on item 56, “Often feeling just miserable.” Factor 4 loaded on six items and reflected “Different amusement interests” of the marital partners. Factor 5 had loadings on miscellaneous factors but included “Being easily influenced by others,” “Not staying at home enough,”and “Squandering money,” which added to whatever family conflict was already present. I n contrast, Factor 6 had its largest loadings on items depicting “Mistrustfulness” and included “Adultery” as a problematic item in the marriage. Of interest, Factor 7 loaded most on “Sloppiness” (i.e., o n the dissatisfaction with the personal qualities of the marital partner). Factor 8 only loaded o n four items; the highest one being “Religious differences between the partners,” and the second one, also reflecting religion. item 40, “Taking religion too seriously.” Factor 9 also loaded on only four items, with all items loading less than .70 on this factor. T h e largest was “Attempting to control my spending money,” with close loadings on a similar item, “Controlling money,” and “Disagreement between the partners.” Factor 10 loaded o n five items; the largest were “Table manners,” “Handling family finances,” and “Bringing u p the children,” suggesting common versus disparate approaches to these matters. Factor 11 had its highest loadings o n the following items: “Not caring for the partner’s friends,” and “Being selfish.” Factor 12, the final factor, only loaded on two items: “Running around with other women” and “Partner’s choice of friends.”


j o u r n a l of SPY 3 lMai-ttul Thrrupy, Vol. 16, No. 4 , Winter 1990

TABLE 2 Mean Factor Scale Scores of Clarke Marital Relations Questionnaire Comparing Incest Offenders and Controls # Items

Controls Incest = 40) ( N = 92)


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I 'Time Apart





2 Excessive Criticism



2 1.74





6.6 1 *





5 Family Harmony




6 Mistrustfulness




'7 Sloppiness




3 I.ess Emotional Stability

4 Shared Amusement 1n tcrests

X Religious Conflict


13. 3 3



9 (:ontrolling My/Our Money




0.7 I

10 Disparate Parenting Style




0.1 1

1 1 Selfish/Uncaring for Mate





12 Infidelity/Lack of Common Friends





*p < .05; **p < .u1.

T h e incest offenders and controls werc compared on the factor score scales, using stepwise discriminant analysis. Overall, as shown in Table 2, the incest offenders were significantly different from their counterparts on four factors. Incest offenders compared to controls reported: 1) spending less time with their spouses; 2) werc more emotionally unstable: 3) but were more trusting of their spouses; even though 4)family harmony was significantly lower. T h e items from the 12 factors of the CMRQ were subjected to SPSSX program Reliability to determine if they had satisfactory alpha reliability to be used as scales. Only Factors 1 , 2, 3 , 5, 7, and 8 had alpha above 0.50. Alpha ranged from 0.53 (for Factor 1) through 0.72 (for Factor 2). Factors 1 , 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8 were subjected to a stepwise discriminant


Marztnl Relntzons 171 Incest Ofrenders

TABLE 3 Stepwise Discriminant Function Analysis of the Clarke Marital Relations Questionnaire for Incest Offenders and Controls Order of Entry Univariate F

Factor Label

Family Harmony Emotional Stability 7 Sloppiness 12 Time Apart

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5 3

7.33*” 6.62* 0.63 3.18+

1 2 3 4 ~

- p < . l o ; *p < .05; **p < .01. Note: \$‘ilk’s Lambda


0.8540, approximate F


5.43, (If



4, 127. p < .001.

function analysis in order to see if any cluster of items reliably predicted group membership. Four factors entered into the prediction equation that correctly classified 72.7% of the cases. While 91.3% of incest offenders were correctly assigned to their a priori group, only 30.0% of control cases were correctly classified. Thus the false negative “hit” rate was low, whilst the false positive classification rate was high. In order of predictive power, the “Family Harmony” factor entered first, followed by the “Emotional Stability” factor. T h e “Time Apart” and “Sloppiness” factors also entered, but added little predictive power (see Tables 3 and

4). When individual items of the CMRQ were examined, the incest offenders more often reported they were unhappy in their marriage (50.0% vs. 20.5% of controls; Table 5). Incest offenders were split on whether they wished they had not married, with 19.8%frequently wishing so (vs. 10.5% of controls having some regret), and only 31.9% never wishing they had not married (vs. 10.5%of controls). There was a nonsignificant trend for fewer incestuous men, as opposed to controls, to share outside interests together (very few: incest, 29%;controls, 15%). TABLE 4 Diagnostic Classification by Discriminant Function Analysis for Incest Offenders and Controls

Factor Scales 5 , 3 , 7 and 1

Predicted Group Membership Control Incest Actual Group (N = 40) (N = 92) Control Incest

12 (30.0) 8 ( 8.7)

28 (70.0) 84 (91.3),

Note: Numbers in parentheses are percentages; 72.73% of the total cases were correctly classified.

TABLE 5. Features of incest Offenders and Controls o n the Clarke Marital Relations Questionnaire Percent (htrols Incest

I tein

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# 5


Disagrees on choice of friends




LW # 6 1.w

Disagrees o n sexual behavior



15.7 1**

# 13 LW

When disagreements arise: Husband gives in Mutual give and take Wife gives in

13.8 81.6 2.6

34.3 43.3

i 8.73****





Confide in my wife: almost never rarely in most things in everything

2.6 5.1 76.9 15.4

4.3 19.6 55.4 20.7


Ever wish had not married: frequently occasionally rarely never

10.5 47.4 31.6 10.5

19.8 23.1 25.3 31.9


Happyiunhappy in your marriage: very unhappy




# 14 1,w


# 19

#2 1 LW

During leisure time: hotti home o r “on the go” one home, other “on the go”

Problems causing serio


22.2 4.87*

difficulty in your marriage (% t-ue):






# 2.5

Narrow minded ness





Untruth fulriess




Marital Relalions in 1ri.cest Offenders

22 1


Attention to another





Easily influenced by others





Lack of mutual friends





I11 health



2.79 +



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Kate yourself on the following dimensions: #54

Lonesome uncertain no

30.0 7.5 62.5

Lonely often Yes uncertain no

40.0 12.5 47.5




Self confident yes uncertain no

85.0 15.0 0.0 ~~




20.0 37.8 60.9 8.7

4.92 +




20.7 16.3


LW = Items extracted from the Locke-Wallace Marital Inventory. All nonsignificant items were omitted. + p < . l o ; * p < .05; **p < .01; ***p < ,001; ****p < .0001.

T h e r e were disagreements over the choice of friends, with incest offenders in less agreement than controls (57.3% vs. 43.7%; p < .05), a n d over sexual behavior (51.7% vs. 30.8%;p < . O l ) , and over their lifestyle with o n e partner staying at home vs. the other “being on the go” (48.9% vs. 27.8% for controls; p < .05). T h e incest offenders reported less mutual give-and-take in their personal disagreements, with incestuous husbands reporting that they give in more to their spouses (34.3% vs. 15.8% for controls) a n d wives, in turn, giving in more to their husbands (22.2% vs. 2.6% of controls; p < .0001). T h e r e was a trend ( p < .lo) for incest offenders to less often confide in their spouses than controls did (23.9% vs. 7.7% rarely o r almost never confided). Incest offenders reported being less often self-confident about their abilities (16.3% vs. 0.0%;p < .01). It was noteworthy that adultery was not a crucial issue with incestuous males despite the lack of emotional intimacy in their marital relationships. Although 32.6% of incestuous fathers reported adultery as a n issue, 22.5% of controls had also experienced adultery: a nonsignificant difference.


J o i i r t i r i l if


3 Mni-rtnl Therapy, Vol. 16, No. 4 ? Winter 1990

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Sixteen items of the CMRQ ask about problems causing serious difficulties in the marriage. Of these 16 items, between-group differences emerged on only six. T h e two groups were distinguishable o n thc following critical items: insincerity (56.0% vs. 30.0% for controls; p < .01); narrowmindedness (45.6% vs. 25.0%: p < .05); untruthfulness (46.7% vs. 217.5%; p < .05); paying attention to another person (44.6% vs. 22.5%; p < .05); being easily influenced by others (43.5% vs. 20.0%; p < .W); And lack of mutual friends (47.8% vs. 2'1.5%; p < .05). Finally, 42.2% of incestuous men (versus 30.0% ofcontrols) expressed they often felt lonely ( p < .05).

T h e SBhIKQ asks how the niarital partners first met, and there was n o statistically ~ignificantdifference in the frequency of how partners met. T h e controls first met through a neighborhood friendship (17%), or the home of a friend (17%). T h e incest offenders were more likely to meet their spouse at a church or social organization (17.1% for incest, 7.3% for controls). As Table ti sho\.vs. the groups did not differ o n mean age at first marriage (24.4 years for incestuous men, 25.9 years for controls), niean length of marriage ( 1 2 . 0 years for incestuous men, 8.2 years for controls). o r mean number of times married (75% once only, a n d 22% twice, with 3 % . or 3 incestuous men, presently in their third marriage). J'hirty-two percent of controls, a s opposed to 25% of incestuous men, TABLE 6 Sexual Behavior and Marital Satisfaction Questionnaire for Incest Offenders and Controls 1tern

CO n t 1-01s



I.ength of relationship before engagement (years)


0.8 1


'I'ime f'roni engagement t o marriage (years)




Mean age when niarried How well k n e w spouse before marriage (%) ve ry well moderately well only slightly well

Length o f marriage (years)


53.8 30.8


0.9 1



65.5 24.1






Marital Relations in Inresl Offenders

Number of' times married (%) once twice three more

78.1 18.8 0.0 3.1

75.0 21.9 3.1 0.0


31.8 68.2

25.0 75.0


How many times d o you have coitus per month?




Do you refuse coitus when partner wishes it? (%) very frequently frequently sometimes rarely never

0.0 0.0 20.8 39.6 39.6

2.8 5.6 16.7 52.8 22.2

8.06 +




70.8 29.2 0.0 0.0

51.4 45.9 2.7 0.0


43.8 50.0 6.3 0.0 0.0 0.0

27.8 38.9 27.8 2.8 0.0 2.8

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Were either parents divorced? (%) Yes 110

How long does single intercourse usually last? (minutes) Do you ever experience impotence? (%) never sometimes usually always

How much satisfaction do you get from partner? (%) entirely complete fairly complete moderate little none am left nervous and unsatisfied

1 1.68*

+ p < .lo; *p < .05; **p < .01. Note:

Some inbignificant items omitted. Numbers may not equal 100 due to rounding error

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01 Sex &? Mnritnl Thunpy, Vol. 16, No. 4 , Winler 1990

came from divorced families themselves. T h e groups, however, did differ in how well they knew their future wives before marriage. Only 10.3% of incest offenders compared to 53.8% of controls said they knew h e r “very well” prior to marriage ( p < . O i ) . This is also reflected in how long the marital partners knew each other before marriage. T h e incest of-fenders averaged less than a o n e year relationship prior to engagement, compared to almost three years for controls. T h e r e was a trend for the two groups to differ o n the item, “Refusing intercourse when the partner desires it.” Incest offenders were less likely to do so compared to controls, with 22.5% of them saying they never refuse their spouse compared to 39.6% of controls. However, 8.4% of incest offenders vs. 0.0% of controls “frequently” or “very frequently” refused coitus. T h e groups differed, also, on item 27, “ T h e degree of release or satisfaction you obtain from sexual intercourse.” T h e data reveal that significantly more controls (93.8%) were entirely or fairly satisfied compared t o the incest offenders (66.7%). N o other significant differences emerged between the groups with respect to marital sexual satisfaction. Because the incest offender engages in sexual behavior with a daughter or son a n d , in 40% of cases, also with extrafamilial victim(s), it might be expected that their- sexual needs a r e high and/or their sexual needs a r e not being met in the marital relationship. Of the first 10 items o n the SBMRQ dealing with preferred sexual acts, including intercourse, none were significant (Table 7). However, the incest offenders showed trends to greater dislike of mutual oral-genital sex (25.6% vs. 8.6%; p < .lo) a n d sexual intercourse in unusual positions (23.6% vs. 6.3%;p < . l o ) than controls did. Respondents in both groups were asked about problems surrounding coital activity. including lack of vaginal lubrication, anorgasmia, premat u r e ejaculation, frequency of intercourse, inadequate foreplay, a n d frequency of climax. O f the 15 SBMRQ items sampled, there were n o significant between-group differences on these aspects of sexual activity.

DISCC‘SSION it has been suggested that role reversal (or role confusion) in a dysfunctional family structure a n d a conflictual marriage a r e key ingredients in precipitating incest. An alternative explanation might be that the children a r e the victims of a n inadequate, lonely, but pseudodominant male in a dysfunctional marriage. T h e present data suggest that the mother a n d father spend little time together, isolating the child(ren) from either parent, a n d providing the father with ample opportunity to victimize his children sexually. Emotional instability in offenders emerged as a primary factor when the data were subjected to a discriminant function analysis. Using this statistic. four factors were entered into the prediction equation that correctly classified 7276 of all cases. While 9 1.3% of incest offenders were correctly assigned to their respective group, the “hit” rate was fairly low

“ -


Marital Relations in Incest Offenders

TABLE 7 Analyses of Sexual Behavior and Marital Satisfaction (SBMS) Questionnaire

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Coded: 1 = “Done this and enjoyed it.” 2 = “Done this and didn’t like it.” 3 = “Never done this but would like to.” Percent of Group Incest Controls ( N = 36) ( N = 48)





0.0 94.4





0.0 88.2






0.0 97.2




4. Vaginal intercourse, man behind woman








5. Kissing, biting female nipples








6. Mutual handling of genitals



0.0 94.4




7. Mutual kissing, sucking of genitals



4.3 74.3




8. Sexual intercourse in unusual positions



4.2 76.5




9. Groupsex






1. Sexual intercourse, man above woman



2. Genitals, kissed/ sucked by mate


3. Fondling woman’s naked breast

10. Wife swapping ~




15.0 ~~

f p < .lo. Numbers may not equal


17.9 46.4 33.3 33.3 33.3 5.0 80.0 ~

0.0 20.0


1.20 2.22


100 due to rounding error.

for controls (30.3%).T h e constellation of factors shown in Table 4 adds credibility to the argument that, contrary to the popularized incest literature, sexual inadequacy o r sexual dysfunction did not emerge as a paramount problem in the incestuous family. Both incest offenders and

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controls had experimented with a wide rang-e of sexual behaviors in their marriage and did not differ in the degree otsexual (as opposed to marital) satisfaction in their reported behaviors, similar to results found by Parker a n d Parker." They did, however, express dissatisfaction with the quality of sexual outlets in their marriage. Only 66%,of incestuous fathers experience a n entirely o r fairly complete level of sexual gratification with their spouses compared to 94% of' nonoffenders. This dissatisfaction does not relate t o the frequency o r duration of coital activity, but to other factors. Bickering, distrust, lack of time together, few mutual friends, a n d lack of shared interests created a nega6ve atmosphere in which pleasurable sexual outlets were less likely to occur. I t is still possible that subtle aspects o f marital sexual behavior were not tapped by the questionnaires used in this study. For example, incest offenders may have a greater need for sexual outlets than controls. Although the t w o groups did not differ in the frequency of' coital activity Ivith their wives, the incest offenders were concurrently experiencing sexual release with their own a n d , in 40% of cases, with other children. ~ I h u stheir , overall frequency of sexual release may have been greater than the control group. Xlt hough no systematic data were collected, some men said they were not trulv "in love" when thev married, which is the most commonly expressed motive for marriage in o u r society. T h u s the quality of sexual ;t n d e nio t ion a1 ni a r i t a 1 sat i s fac t io n t hat i n ces t uo u s offenders ex per ie nced in their marriages may be lower than normal, consistent with an earlier tinding."' As one incest offender's wife remarked, " H e hiis n o problem \\-hent: conies t o sex. I think it was a niismke for u s to get married. I was 'in love' but he was 'in lust'.'' Given that these men, then, are not abstaining from conjugal intercourse, nor a r e their wives disinterested in sex, infirm, or undesirable, the question arises as t o why they are erotically attracted to children. We know from a related publication on this population'" that only 1 in 10 incestuous f'athers showed a n erotic preference for children over adults based on phallometric (penile plethysmographic) testing. T h u s , pedophilia is an unlikely explanation for the behavior of most incest offenders. Some of the offenders were sexually abused as children, others had sibling incest experiences, a n d still others engaged in exploratory sex play with peers at a prepubertal age. Some data"i suggest that sex offenders who were sexually abused as children have a higher frequency a n d broader range o f sexual outlets throughout their lives. T h u s , the early sexualization o f incest of'fenders may have contributed to their high level of erotic gratification a n d diversity of sexual experiences, including incest. Hence, earlv negative, exploitive, o r sexualized family-of-origin experiences may be instrumental in predicting whether a child becomes a sexual abuse perpetrator in later life. Possibly the lack of trust a n d intimacy seen in incestuous families has its origin in men who, as children, felt isolated, unloved. o r deprived of intimate rapport within their own nuclear fam i 1v .L'i Ins'incerity, narrowmindedness, untruthfulness, a n d failure to confide

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Marital KelnlioriJ zn Inced Offenders


in one’s spouse were more common in the incest offender g r o u p than in controls. These difficulties reflect fundamental problems of intimacy in the marriage of incest offenders. This incapacity for intimacy (or love) and preoccupation with sex with his wife or child surrogate leaves t h e incestuous parent isolated and disconnected from his spouse a n d child victim. T h e aura of secrecy that surrounds the molestation itself, then, has some parallel with the general lack of trust, openness, a n d intimacy incest offenders have with their wives and family members. For incestuous fathers, their marriages were fragmented (e.g., with one spousc staying at home, the other “on the go,” lack of mutual friends a n d common interests), and emotionally distant (e.g., with the husbands hiding their “real” feelings). Of some interest, proportionately more incest perpetrators than controls only knew their wives moderately or slightly well before marriage (89.6% vs. 46.2% of controls). In fact, only 10.376 of incestuous men stated they knew their wives “very well” prior to marriage. Given this fact, it is not surprising that marital disharmony would inevitably ensue as their marriage progressed. As noted elsewhere,27fear of intimacy in adulthood, stemming from an early age, may be a contributing factor among many incestuous fathers’ preoccupied with sex. Such men, often lonely and isolated within their marriages, simply cannot develop trusting and reciprocal relationships with their spouse^,'^ a n d turn instead to gratify their needs through children. These findings support those by Parker and Parker” showing that incestuous and ordinary men d o not differ much in their self-rated level of sexual satisfaction, but run counter to the present finding that incest perpetrators a r e similar to other men in terms of marital satisfaction. Obviously, future research is needed to explicate how factors like fear of intimacy, inability to trust, impaired childrearing styles, including violence, in the family-of-origin, interact to predispose males to molest children. In later life, such individuals become maritally discordant men. I n parallel research,25 a poor spousal relationship was offered as a primary reason for starting an incestuous relationship by both institutional and community-based perpetrators under study. While this notion was certainly confirmed by the marital and sexual satisfaction data obtained, judging by the perpetrators’ verbal statements, numerous reasons dealing with devalued self-esteem, poor social skills, isolation, sexual a r dor, prior victimization, sex equated with love, implusivity, need for power and dominance, veiled or unmodulated anger, and victim naivete, among others, were also listed as motives for their offending behavior. While marital happiness, as assessed, may depend on satisfaction with intercourse a n d wife’s orgasm frequency, the data suggest that proportionately more sex offenders than controls are emotionally estranged from their wives. At present, we d o not know whether incestuous m e n were alienated from their spouses during the early stages of marriage, as might be predicted from any lack of bonding through their own disturbed child-parent relationships. Identifying the patterns of marital interaction in incestuous couples has great merit for determining the type of marital counseling they will require to modify the family pathology.

Lastly. replication with a focus on offenders' wives' perceptions of their marital relations, with added emphasis on the child-parent dynamics in the offenders' family-of-origin, seems a worthwhile endeavor.

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REFERENCES I . Browning L), Boatruan B: Incest: Ctiildreii at risk. ,Srr/J P.syhiut /34:69-72, 1Y77. 9 . Finkelhor 1). Baron L: High-risk childi-en. I n D Finkelhoi. (ed), A sourrrbook o t i c k i k l wx/ccil c16ic.\r ( p p 60-88). Beverly Hills, Sage, 1Wi. 3. Katz S . hlazur h1.4: liiidrntntidiiig [Ire rupr iJictirn; .4 .\>~rithesiisof rrsecirclr fjrdiiig.s. New York, ,John IVilev, 1979. 4. Russell 1)F.H: The .wcrd trciumn: / t t c t ~ . ~if1f Ihr / t i i p s OJ grr1.c r i t d z ~ ~ o n i c nNew . York. Basic. I Wti. 5 . hlaisch H : / w c . d . N e w York. Stein 11: Day, lY72. 6. Grubel- KJ, ,Jones KJ: Ideritif~ingdeterminants of r-isk in sexual victimization of youth: A nrultivai-iate approach. Child ,4hii.w :l'c>g ?:I 7-24, 1983. 7. 1,evi-Str;iuss (;: Ttie l'arnily. I n H Shapiro (ed!, 1Cluri. irc(lut-r

Marital relations in incest offenders.

The study compared 92 incest perpetrators to 40 (noncriminal) married males on two marital inventories, the Clarke Martial Relations Questionnaire (CM...
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