Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Home Economics

First Advisor

Jay R. Richardson


Incest is a human behavior recorded in past and recent history. Behaviors labeled as incestuous vary greatly, ranging from sexual intercourse to intimate touching to display of sexual organs to verbal expression of sexual interest. For the purpose of this study, incest is defined as sexual activity among family members. More specifically, sexual activity is defined as either intercourse / or intimate touching or petting. Family members are either blood relatives or relatives through marriage or adoption (i.e. stepfathers or stepmothers). Throughout history, incest has typically been considered a taboo behavior. The taboo appears to be universal, yet various cultures may abide by different rules, allowing for certain relationships or behaviors that others do not. For example, brother-sister marriages took place in ancient Egypt. Some cultures allow incestuous relationships ceremonially. In the past, reasons given for the occurrence of incest were usually associated with personal characteristics such as a mental or physical illness. Through the passage of time and as a result of further study, it has become evident that along with personal characteristics, family circumstances must also be considered. The purpose of this paper is to review literature related to incest, apply a theoretical framework to incest and design a questionnaire/interview schedule which is a synthesis of indicators of incest in families as found in research literature. The theoretical basis for the paper is Crisis Theory as developed by Reuben Hill. A literature review is included concerning a theoretical background and an overview of incest-related research. The questionnaire/interview schedule is designed in response to family and individual variables associated with incest throughout the literature. Three different forms were developed. Form I, when validated, is for use with clients in a retrospective sense, in that they are no longer in the incestuous relationship. Form II - Children, when validated, is for use by professionals working with children in identifying the likelihood of incestuous behavior being present in their families. Form III - Adults, when validated, is for use by professionals with parents or guardians in identifying the likelihood of incestuous behavior being present in their families. A pre-test was conducted on all forms to test the readability of the questionnaire/interview schedule. Validation of the questionnaire/ interview schedule will be conducted in future research.

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South Dakota State University