This study is an ethnographic reconstruction of incest in natural father and stepfather families. Its primary goal is to add to the scientific knowledge base about intrafamilial sexual abuse of children within this society. The focus of the study is on the circumstances and events of the incestuous relationship, the meanings and interpretations of the activities and their linkage to historical antecedents. The study takes the symbolic interactionist position that physical and mental behavior are inextricably connected and that interacting persons continuously interpret and reinterpret their behavior and relationships. A sample of 30 natural father and 30 stepfather families will be randomly drawn from a treatment program which provides therapeutic services to over 700 incest cases annually. Expressive autobiographic interviews with the fathers, daughters and mothers of the sixty families will be conducted over a period of two years to obtain information relevant to the objectives of the investigation. These are: 1) to describe the incestuous relationship (how it was established, maintained, and ended) and the meanings and interpretations attendant to these stages; 2) to explore the meanings and perceptions of relationships in the history of the incestuous parents; 3) to examine dynamics and changes within the incestuous families prior to and during the time the sexual activity was taking place and subsequent to its discovery. The interviews will be loosely structured to trace the life history of the informants. Areas to be explored include: early childhood and family of origin; adolescence and the development of sexual relationships; transition to young adulthood including courtship, marriage and early marital relationships; extension of the family to include children; the incestuous family; and the incestuous relationship itself. The data obtained will consist of protocols derived from the interview process. Content analyses (consisting of four stages) will be used to enable the description of the incestuous relationship within the context of peoples' lives, to develop prototypic case examples, and to examine possible differences in natural father and stepfather families. The study is unique in its research orientation, in its emphasis on describing the incestuous relationship, in the size of the sample, in the inclusion of all family members as informants, and in the analysis of data by family type.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Criminal and Violent Behavior Research Review Committee (CVR)
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University of California San Francisco
Schools of Medicine
San Francisco
United States
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