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Affects of Incest

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A review of the research on the affects of incest demonstrates first, that there are limited studies on male incest survivors and second, that the impact of incestuous assault in childhood generates the most frequent and identifiable affects on future development.  The research examined also revealed that preconceived assumptions concerning the affects of incestuous assault were not always confirmed and that the pursuit of therapy for incest survivors was a strong indication of the age at which assault occurred, the severity of the assault and the length of time that is was experienced. 

Affects of Incest

Symptoms of Incest

According to authors , “there is no single symptom that characterizes the majority of sexually abused children [and that] one-third of abused children demonstrate no symptoms at all”.  Although the researchers contend that most problematic manifestations of sexual abuse on the child’s development will abate over the lifetime, they argue that there is still insufficient research on how the abuse of incest in particular can affect survivors over their life span.

The research that is available on the development of personality from childhood to adulthood demonstrates that there are identifiable personality characteristics in survivors of childhood incest, particularly in women.  Conclusions on the results of a recent study on female survivors indicated that they are more hostile, pessimistic and demonstrate a clear tendency to mistrust other individuals. 

Incest and Personality Characteristics

The study attempted to prove several hypotheses including the assumptions that female childhood incest survivors would score higher on hostility levels, would demonstrate characteristics of sadness or unhappiness and would lack the capabilities of competence and leadership.  In the context of understanding perception of self and others, a common element of the research examined was the evaluation of the childhood incest survivor’s perception of self and the subsequent interactions and relationships with the male and female figures in their lives. According to Survivors of Incest, data was generally collected through a response rating system, where study participants were asked to rate their perceptions on their own Incest including:

  • Mastery
  • Competence
  • Leadership
  • Hostility
  • Trust

Although the researchers concede that the results were mixed on how children develop incest-related personality characteristics, there was clear evidence that female survivors of incest are more likely to demonstrate negative personality traits, incompetence and mistrust than are non-assaulted females.  Even more, those survivors that had experienced incestuous assault in early childhood demonstrated the strongest characteristics of negativity, leading the researchers to conclude that incestuous assault in early life has a profound effect on personality development.

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