Recognizing the threat posed by an incestuous parent to the victim's siblings. Part II: Improving legal responses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many courts refuse to protect the siblings of an incest victim even when faced with unmistakable evidence that they are at risk, arguing that no one can predict what will happen. For instance, some courts believe that a parent who molests his stepchild is unlikely to victimize biological offspring, while others believe that a father who violates a daughter will not also victimize sons. Although judges have relied principally on intuition, a substantial body of empirical studies can help them to better assess a sibling's risk. In Part I, I argued that once a parent establishes the first sexual relationship, other children in the family should be considered at risk. Nonetheless, not all children in the household face identical risks of molestation. In this paper, I continue this theme and argue that a legal presumption should arise that other children are endangered. Further, I maintain that offenders should have an opportunity to rebut this presumption. Without this opportunity, a child who never faced a significant risk of abuse may be removed from his home or unnecessarily lose his ties to a parent. In order to better protect children, I outline how legal decisions can better reflect what is known about child victimization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-276
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Child protection
  • Child victimization
  • Judicial decisionmaking
  • State intervention in child abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Recognizing the threat posed by an incestuous parent to the victim's siblings. Part II: Improving legal responses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this