Recognizing the threat posed by an incestuous parent to the victim's siblings: Part I: Appraising the risk

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Despite unmistakable evidence that incest offenders rarely stop with one child, courts routinely fail to protect an incest victim's siblings. Many courts simple deny that a parent's sex act with one child signals risk to others. Nevertheless, even those courts that acknowledge a sibling's risk reach wildly different results when confronting similar cases. Courts are split over whether a parent who molests his stepchild is equally likely to victimize biological offspring or whether a father who violates a daughter will also victimize sons. There is a substantial body of research about incest that can aid courts to better gauge a sibling's risk. Because the first act of incest creates a corresponding risk to some-but not necessarily all-children in the family, Part I of this 2 part series argues in favor of a presumption of risk that offenders may rebut. Part II examines whether a sibling's gender, genetic ties to the offender, or the offender's treatment mitigate the threat and, consequently, should serve as a basis for rebutting the presumption. Ultimately, this article concludes that the law can safeguard children only if guided by substantial evidence of how abusive families function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-162
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Child protection
  • Incest
  • Judicial decision making
  • State intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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