by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

Incest and psychoanalysis

27 Apr, 2019

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

It’s a known fact that, ever since the beginning of time, attraction between relatives has been present within our society. In most cases, attraction occurs between siblings, cousins or between children and parents and, without a doubt, most people frown upon it. But why does it occur at all?


The Oedipus Complex and disorders

From a Freudian standpoint, the first group in which the human being is included is the family. Because small children don’t yet have moral or social values that would make them repress anything that isn’t considered “normal”, their first feelings of attraction are directed towards one of the parents. This is known as the Oedipus complex. Subsequently, they repress this attraction and find a substitute in society, one that usually resembles the parent. However, Freud found a link between incestuous repressed feelings and certain disorders, and he was not the only one - a 1992 study published in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis states that incestuous experiences are usually previous to borderline disorders, especially in women.
In his paper, The Dissolution of the Oedipus Complex, Freud couldn’t give a certain answer regarding what ends the Oedipal stage – it could end from its lack of success, or maybe because time has come for it to cease. For the last argument, he uses the example of milk-teeth that fall out when the permanent ones start growing, assuming that it is like an innate program, which is linked to both ontogenesis (the development of an individual organism from its earliest stage to maturity) and phylogenesis (the evolutionary development of a species).
In Totem and Taboo, he discovers an ambivalent human nature when it comes to incest, where taboos are used as a defense towards this ambivalence. According to Badcock, 1994, if it were for us to apply this theory, inbreeding has both genetic costs and social advantages that vary from case to case, which means that we can’t find any optimal solution.


Biology studies and conclusions

In addition to this, a study on Inbreeding and Genetic Disorder published in 2011 concluded that inbreds (children who are the result of consanguineous couples) are much more likely to be affected by human genetic disorders, as a result of inheriting the same chromosomal segment through both parents. It also presents consanguineous marriages as common in areas like Asia (excepting the north) and north and sub-Saharan Africa, where most of them occur among cousins – this happens because of the social advantages, such as maintaining a certain family stability and property, or simply because of specific religious views.
Sadly, there aren’t enough data to conduct thorough studies when it comes to inbreds or incest, so we’re still working on getting a bigger picture. Right now, opinions vary widely – according to psychoanalysis, incest seems to be a natural, instinctual feeling, yet the way it should (and if it should) come to an end remains unclear. This is important to know, as it could really make a difference when it comes to the root of some disorders. On the other hand, in terms of biology, the current conclusion is that it is a disadvantage to have a child in a consanguineous relationship, as they could be exposed to great health risks.