Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 219–228 | Cite as

An exploration of incest in the childhood development of serial rapists

  • Arlene McCormack
  • Frances E. Rokous
  • Robert R. Hazelwood
  • Ann W. Burgess


This paper explores the phenomenon of male incest in a sample of 41 incarcerated serial rapists. Of 31 men who reported childhood sexual abuse (penetration, exploitation, and/or witnessing), just over half were victims of incest. All incestuous experiences occurred before puberty, and the majority of the experiences were protracted in nature. When compared to nonincest victims of sexual abuse, incest victims were more likely to report parental physical abuse and to describe their childhood family structure at 16 years of age as reconstituted (step-parent present). In all cases in which the step-father was implicated in the abuse, the abuse was of the witnessing variety (i.e., the boy witnessed sexual activity that he found disturbing). Incest victims were significantly more likely than non-incest victims to re-enact sexually abusive behavior within the family. This finding suggests that clinical discoveries of sibling sexual activity should alert clinicians that other incestuous activities may be occurring or have taken place.

Key words

male incest serial rapists child sexual abuse 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arlene McCormack
    • 1
  • Frances E. Rokous
    • 2
  • Robert R. Hazelwood
    • 3
  • Ann W. Burgess
    • 4
  1. 1.University of MassachusettsLowell
  2. 2.Department of Clinical PsychologyYale UniversityNew Haven
  3. 3.F.B.I. AcademyBehavioral Sciences UnitQuantico
  4. 4.Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing University of Pennsylvania School of NursingPhiladelphia

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