Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Joseph E. Davis
Incest refers to sexual relations between closely related persons. The degrees of kinship defined as incestuous vary, but virtually every known society has prohibited father and daughter, mother and son, or brother and sister from having sexual contact or marrying. Only in recent decades, though, has society recognized incest as a social problem. Earlier, the cultural prohibition, known as the “incest taboo,” was of primary interest and a topic of considerable theoretical concern. Many leading social theorists, including Sigmund Freud, Emile Durkheim, and Claude Levi-Strauss, considered the incest taboo foundational to human social organization. Consistent with understandings of the taboo, most people long viewed the incidence of incest as extremely rare, and until the 1980s, no prevalence studies of incest occurred. The closest thing to survey data came from general studies of sexual behavior, such as those by Alfred Kinsey, but these studies did not focus on incest and did ...