A study of father-daughter incest in the Harris County Child Welfare Unit


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Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the factors that are common to cases of father-daughter incest, and do not occur in neglect child welfare cases. This information might aid a caseworker in identification of family symptoms which, if not corrected, may produce a climate conductive to incest. The main importance of this study was to examine incest and neglect and to determine whether or not the factors that significantly differentiate the incest from the neglect cases can be used to plan differential treatment. Methods: All cases of father-daughter, step-father-daughter incest referred to the Harris County Child Welfare Unit for a time period of ten years were studied. The total population of father-daughter incest for the time period January 1960 through December 1970 was thirty-four. Of these thirty-four cases, four were rejected because of lack of information, and lack of verification of the incest occurrence. Seven of these cases were father-stepdaughter cases. Sixteen of these cases were closed and fourteen were active cases. A random sample of neglect cases was also selected from the Harris County Child Welfare Unit. Two hundred fourteen active neglect cases contained both father and mother. Only neglect cases which included both a mother and father were selected, in order to obtain characteristics of both parents involved in the case. Seventy of the neglect cases were selected, using a table of random numbers. Each case was examined and notes were made throughout the reading. After careful reading, a questionnaire containing seventy-six items was completed. When needed information was omitted from the case record, the caseworker was contacted regarding missing information. After all data were collected these were key-punched on IBM cards at the Sam Houston University Data Processing Center. A frequency distribution was run on the 360 IBM Computer. After receiving a print-out on frequency distribution, the data were analyzed by the chi-square test for the significance of the difference. Findings: 1. Mothers in incest families tend to be older than mothers in neglect families. This finding may be explained by the fact that incest children tend to be older and thus incest mothers tend to be older. Both incest families and neglect families have a high religious unaffiliation rate which is related to the poverty of interaction in community activities. These findings indicate also that both groups are under-employed because their level of education indicates that more might be skilled if given the opportunity. There were proportionately more incest fathers than neglect fathers who were employed in skilled and semi-skilled occupations. 2. Home conditions.– Both incest and neglect families live in overcrowded conditions. Both types of families are likely to have one or more family members sleeping in a room other than the bedroom. 3. Alcoholism.– Incest fathers show a significantly higher rate of drinking than do the neglect fathers. Seventy-three percent of the total sample fathers drink either constantly or sometimes. More than ninety per cent of incest and neglect fathers, however, were not fired from job because of drinking. The neglect mothers are more apt to drink constantly or sometimes than did the incest mothers, and were less likely to “never drink� than the incest mothers. 4. Physical Abuse.- Incest fathers were more apt to physically abuse their children than neglect fathers. The physical abuse in the incest cases was usually in connection to the incest act. 5. Denial of normally accepted social activities.- Almost twice as many incest families as neglect families constantly did not allow their children to have a continuing relationship with others outside the family. Three times as many incest as neglect parents constantly did not allow their children to participate in neighborhood groups. 6. Involvement in Family Life.- The incest fathers were more involved in family life than the neglect fathers. Incest fathers made more decisions and were more consistent in planning the family’s money. 7. Employment.- Twice as many neglect fathers as incest fathers constantly lost their jobs. More incest fathers missed work constantly than neglect fathers. Incest and neglect fathers were alike in that they seldom talked about dislike for their job or changing jobs. 8. Social Factors.- Lack of cleanliness, inadequate clothing, leaving children alone for hours and inadequate feeding were significantly more of a problem in neglect families than the incest families. The incest families were more apt to have problems with the father’s aggression, the mother’s role as the restraining agent of protecting them and nagging and scolding of their children. Physical deprivation is a problem for the neglect family and the father’s aggression a problem for the incest family. 9. Incest Victim.- Incest acts are more likely to occur in the child’s own home. These acts are usually detected by the mother and reported by the mother. Pregnancy was seldom the reason for reporting the incest act and none of the incest victims ever reported an abortion. 10. Law enforcement agencies are involved in every case of reported incest. The Child Welfare Agency has a working agreement with the Sheriff’s and Police Departments and all cases of incest are referred to them. The reason most given for agency intrusion was sexual victimization. This finding indicates that most cases of incest are reported to the Child Welfare Agency specifically because of the incest.



Incest, father-daughter, common factors