Sanctuary for the Abused

Monday, December 17, 2012

Covert Incest



When Parents Make Their Children Partners

Covert incest occurs when a child plays the role of a surrogate husband or wife to a lonely, needy parent. The parent's need for companionship is met through the child. The child is bound to the parent by excessive feelings of responsibility for the welfare of the parent. As adults, these children struggle with commitment, intimacy and expressions of healthy sexuality.

There is no physical, sexual contact in this form of incest. Yet, inherent in the relationship is an archetype of feelings and dynamics more comparable to young love than a nurturing parent-child alliance. They become psychological or emotional lovers.

Many books and movies depict these children as heroes and saviors. Surrogate partnerships are romanticized by the culture and seen as a noble journey. Mom's little man, daddy's little girl, the golden boy and princess are a few of the names given to this role. However, there is a tremendous tragedy that befalls these children: the demand for loyalty to the lonely and needy parent overwhelms the child and becomes the major organizing experience in the development of the child's life.

It has also been labeled emotional or psychological incest, but these labels mislead by implying an absence of sexual damage. In fact, the developing sexuality is the major casualty of covert incest. Sexuality is the battlefield where the demand for loyalty to the parent and, the wishes of the developing self, clash.

Feelings of entrapment and guilt weave themselves into the developing sexuality. Erotic urges toward a love object other than the parent are experienced as disloyal. Forced to declare loyalty to the needy parent, the developing sexuality is shrouded in feelings of overstimulation, danger, engulfment, rage, ambivalence and shame. In order to survive and function, the child splits-off their sexuality from the developing self.

Many problems arise from the feeling of disloyalty caused by covert incest. Common consequences include:

* difficulty with attaching and separating in relationships
* avoiding relationships
* difficulty making commitments
* premature ending of relationships
* sexual addiction or compulsivity
* sexual dysfunction
* confusion regarding sexual orientation
* absence of sexual feelings or desires
* difficulty identifying personal needs
* being loyal in situations or relationships which are chronically difficult, neglectful or traumatic
* difficulty ending relationships.

Sexually addicted families and other dysfunctional families create a vacuum in functioning that leaves a child vulnerable to being in the role of a surrogate spouse to a lonely, needy parent. Covert incest is an important link in understanding the generational patterns of sexual addiction and incest occurring in families.

For more information on covert incest, refer to the book Silently Seduced: When Parents Make their Children Partners, Understanding Covert Incest, by Kenneth M. Adams, Ph.D., Health Commuications, Deerfield Beach, FL (1991).

ORIGINAL

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shared by Barbara at 12:50 AM


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3 Comments:

I'm just starting to research and understand this phenomena, and your post was very helpful - thank you. I also love the image of Rhoda and Christine Penmark from "The Bad Seed" at the top!

9:21 PM  

I'm in the beginning stages of a divorce in which my wife & her mother are guilty of: covertly emotional, psychological & sexual abuse. They have text & email evidence they're successfully using against me to make me look unstable. I have temporary supervised visitation with my 8 yr old son who desperately needs me & the judge after only the preliminary hearing seems to already be siding with them! I'm no angel & I made some mistakes during our marriage but nothing close to what my wife & mother-in-law have done to totally emasculate, cause severe self loathing, no self esteem at all in the boys they abused & a host of other things & I don't know how to prove this or approach this in court. Can anyone help me out? These power mad people must be brought to justice, but how do I prove it to a judge? Any help is greatly appreciated. Eric

8:23 PM  

Google "parental alienation" and read everything - take it all to your lawyer, they need to step up for you and handle bringing this forward in court.

And be SURE to keep a log, diary and copies of any emails, texts, calls, etc with date/time and all the details. This will be vital in court.

12:28 AM  

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