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Crisis Intervention With Child Survivors of Maternal Incest


Many individuals widely recognize incest in society; however, not all forms of incest are common. For instance, maternal incest is one of the rarest incest and is not frequently reported. Maternal incest is a traumatic activity that might result in significant and lasting mental consequences for the child survivors. This paper explores the crisis intervention with child survivors of maternal incest. Child survivors are forced to be quiet and not speak out about the abuses they encounter because of the fear of being the reason for destroying their families. Proper crisis intervention techniques will be essential to enable the child victims to navigate the incest event and live better lives. Using social and community health workers, an intervention with full confidentiality can be implemented to help the victims.


Parenting is one of the critical aspects of a child’s life because it enables them to live a good life and develop. Nevertheless, sometimes parents fail and involve children in several cases of abuse, such as sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse comprises a variety of sexual behaviors to the child. It can be started by an outsider or a person with close contact with the child, including the family member. Intrafamilial sexual abuse is what is referred to as incest. Sancak et al. (2021) defined incest as any abusive or manipulative sexual activity among family members or even relatives. Therefore, incestuous actions will comprise all unacceptable sexual behavior, ranging from touching to intercourse.

Incest has a long history because it is dated back to the beginning of human civilization. For example, in the bible, it is stated that Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, married his sister Awan. Also, the Lots daughters sleep with their father. Several other occasions of incest were practiced, especially in royal families (Haliburn, 2019). For example, during the ancient Egyptian dynasties, the royal families utilized incest to maintain their descendants from the same royal lineage. Nevertheless, the problem of rape was explained around one thousand BC in the bible concerning the story of Amnon, son of King David (Koenig, 2019). Amnon raped Tamar his sister.

The initial western civilization law fighting against children sexual abuse was implemented in England in 1280 AD. Nonetheless, incest was never recognized as an issue until 1908. Children pass through significant challenges and psychological problems when exposed to sexual abuse from their family members, which causes damage to their lives that can endure until adulthood. When this incest survivors are not taken care of and get treatment early, they might experience repeated incidents of revictimization and display incapacitating signs for several years ahead. The book of Matthew 18:6 states that for individuals that offend the children that believe in God, it will be good if the millstone is hanged on their neck and then dropped to the sea (King James Bible, 2021). Although most of the crime statistics do not include sexual abuse reports of children below twelve years, there is evidence to show because of the high number of children in the child protection centers.

Several types of incest can occur. For instance, the father-daughter, one of the most forbidden acts, is becoming more common where sibling incest is recognized but ignored by many. The last one is mother and child, referred to as maternal incest, although it is not highly practiced. Several pieces of evidence indicate crises occurring from sexual abuse besides rape are more powerful and vary in terms of nature, strength, and degree than other concerns. Also, the psychological trauma of incest in children’s survivors is intense both during childhood and adulthood and can easily lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This paper will thus concentrate on maternal incest explaining the mental health challenges the child survivors experience and discussing the crisis intervention to help the survivors.

Background Information

Maternal incest is sexual abuse between the mother and the children. Therefore, maternal incest is considered among the fewest and occasional incest types. Considering that females are sexually inoffensive by the community where sexual intercourse is not more prevalent in mother and child incest, the real occurrences are reduced in statistical reports (Haliburn, 2019). Moreover, the first report on maternal incest was published in the 1960s, and more authors have reviewed this research on maternal incest since 1979. The literature concerning maternal incest still has few reports until today; most researchers concentrate on victims.

Mental Health Symptoms/ Relationship Dynamics Common in The Population of Interest

Mental health is a common concern for children survivors of maternal incest. Therefore, it is important first to understand the concept of maternal incest and the population affected by this act.

Maternal Incest

Child sexual abuse (CSA) refers to the sexual stimulation of a kid to benefit the criminal. Thus, women participate in similar sexual abuse the same way as males. Some acts include oral sex, fondling, and penetration with objects far more than men do. The mother will always develop the kid’s world from birth, making them their reality because the child’s exclusive dependency on the mother aggravates submission and stops disclosure (Sancak et al., 2021). Furthermore, maternal incest violates trust and manipulates kids’ love and reliance needs, resulting from doubling betrayal. Although some mothers abuse their children sexually and continue to do that until adulthood, incest is typically performed in secrecy.

Women utilize more force than men when performing incest with their children, for example, Haliburn (2019) stated that maternal incest is accompanied by increased levels of physical abuse of the victims. Also, another study by Apter (2018) found that twenty-three percent of the women kid molesters tried to kill their victims through suffocation but stopped because of the kid’s losing consciousness. Again, women have a different inspiration to sexually abuse children, which includes sexual arousal that is mostly interlaced with anger.

Women are poorly identified when gathering information about sex criminals since it is not easy to believe that women can have the capacity to abuse their children. The mother and the kid always have a strong bond, regarded as a quintessential association that offers the foundation for healthy individual relations. Therefore, when the criminal is the mother, more acute effects may comprise substantial challenges in developing self-separate sense. This enmeshment can be dangerous and results in psychosis. Also, the extreme wants to return to the mother to confirm their existence (DiPlacidi, 2018). Psychosis comprises a loss of contact with the actual life, with unnecessary issues about adjustment of self-including perceptual variations, reasoning disorder, and changing experiences of living in the same environment with other people.

Similarly, mothers can also be involved in incest with their daughters. The daughters that have been sexually abused always face significant challenges regarding motherhood. Uncertainty concerning getting kids, a fear of the same incest occurring again, insufficient information about being a mother as well as an active quest for help and directions in parenting (DiPlacidi, 2018). On the other hand, sons that their mothers have sexually molested have a different experience than their daughters. For example, they always experience a sense of specialness because they feel they are unique and live in a fantasy world, believing they are kings.

The male children’s psychological growth is affected because it is exiled due to the openly sexualized behavior of their mothers (Runke et al., 2018). Women are not required to forget their children and take them as spouses or sex toys and thus are affected by the acts because they seem incapable of interpreting societal signs in other people and cannot experience sympathy and neglect their kids’ emotions. Therefore, this type of incest makes the child have significant long-term impacts that can intensely affect their self-working, and they are assumed to be others.

How Can New Interventionists Identify This Population?

Interventionists find it difficult to recognize the child survivors of maternal incest because of several barricades. First, the problem of maternal incest is generally not given sufficient attention by mental health researchers and the media (de Peyer, 2022). This makes it challenging to identify the crisis in the population. Furthermore, most researchers minimized the harm performed to the victims of maternal incest. Other reasons make it challenging to identify this population: the process of reporting maternal incest. There are several participants involved in the reporting of maternal incest.

For instance, the informant is also referred to as the victim who is required to report the abuse. Then the victim will report the issue to other participants who might be social workers or other assisting professionals such as teachers. They should recognize and confirm the claim and report it to the Child Protective Service (CPS). Lastly, the CPS should then discuss with attorneys to investigate the case. Similarly, in the in-built outlooks of male criminals and female victims, there is a thin line between mother love and maternal incest. These intricate changing aspects between mothers and children all work as barricades to reporting maternal incest; hence interventionists could not easily identify the population.

There is an intense public misconception that maternal incest does not occur, which is always because of the persistent socio-cultural notions that firmly explain the nature and responsibilities of women and mothers. Runke et al. (2018) stated that mothers are always warm and cultivating; they have an absolute love for their kids and consider their roles of caregiving, thus, placing their children’s needs before their own. Therefore, for the new interventionist to recognize this population, they must identify the individuals’ appearances exhibited by the victim’s children of maternal incest.

For example, since the abusive mothers will always isolate themselves, the feelings of solitude and estrangement will emerge having the inability to create extrafamilial associations (Runke et al., 2018). Also, the mothers involved with sexual abuse with their children will continuously feel disadvantaged and rejected due to not having other external attachments and the absence of socially corroborative experiences. Finally, abusive mothers can be recognized because they always believe that sex is essential and can be used to connect with others (de Peyer, 2022). The mothers have a notion that sex is the only best method of sustaining associations and closeness with men.

Type of Mental Health Issues Typically Arise?

Child survivors of maternal incest face significant mental health challenges because of the experiences they face. Mothers play a substantial role in the child’s development; therefore, they must provide a peaceful and conducive environment that will not interfere with their mental health. However, when maternal incest occurs, children’s survivors will experience mental health problems that may last until adulthood. Sancak et al. (2021) stated that CSA is associated with several psychiatric disorders during adulthood, such as anxiety, PTSD, psychosis, and substance dependence. The same source added that the most recognized conventions are that abuse of a child at an early age is linked with high psychological dysfunction during adulthood.

Silence and threats are very common in maternal incest, which has substantial mental health effects on the child. Although there are other ways that children can move out of these attachments, survival can comprise of disconnection from themselves and others; it can also result in categorizing the traumatic experience, called dissociative experience. While several individuals tend to daydream occasionally, individuals with dissociation problems and their sense of disconnect from the world are often more intricate than daydreaming. Lawson & Akay-Sullivan (2020) emphasized that dissociation makes children feel disconnected from their thoughts, emotions, reasoning, and environment, which can interfere with their sense of identity and perception of time.

Moreover, for the victim of children with dissociative disorders, their overall length of maternal incest is between twelve to fifteen years, and those children abused for at least ten years is about eleven to thirty-two percent (Khatiwada et al., 2022). The same source claimed that the more intense the relationship between the mother and the child, the higher the delay in disclosing the abuse. Similarly, another research by Sancak et al. (2021) stated that maternal incest is both overt and subtle because it makes the victims suffer from serious issues later in life than the victims of paternal incest. Several psychosocial problems comprise family issues, depression, anxiety, sexual abuse, and violence; female children’s survivors have a high chance of experiencing violence, and male survivors deal with aggression challenges.

According to the research by Buchbinder & Sinay (2020), female survivors had a high chance of being diagnosed with somatoform conditions and major depression. Male victims were diagnosed with dysthymia, thought disorder, and substance abuse. Somatoform disease refers to a group of psychological disorders where an individual experiences physical symptoms which cannot be described by the neurological diagnosis (Buchbinder & Sinay, 2020). The disease has several symptoms ranging from serious to mild and chronic and are not in a person’s awareness control. There are different ways to identify somatoform disorder, including concentrating on physical illnesses like tiredness and pain. Most children that experience maternal incest are involved in several physical diseases, which can result in severe mental distress and substantial impairment in their daily operations. Individuals with a somatoform condition will continuously be obsessed with their symptoms and hysterically look for a valid account.

Mental health illnesses can also be enhanced in maternal incest survivors because of various factors (Shaked et al., 2021). This factor comprises a longer duration before the incest is identified, regular abuses by the mother, increased level of force and intimidation, intimacy with the criminal, willing involvement, shame, transgenerational abuse, self-blame, and when relevant institutions fail to respond. Furthermore, when the onset of abuse begins early, several forms of abuse occur, and there are high incidences of serious impairment (Lawson & Akay-Sullivan, 2020). Child survivors of maternal incest also suffer from betrayal trauma which can substantially damage the mental health of the victims than the trauma induced by the non-caregiver. The victims of maternal incest can not easily experience one episode of abuse. In about a third of the cases, excessive use of energy and violence results in increased exposure to complex trauma leading to ongoing challenges associated with self-regulation, memory, self-injury, and cognitive distortions.

What Type of Relationship Issues Typically Occur?

Victim of maternal incest is involved with several related issues because of the experiences they experience. According to the interview by Buchbinder & Sinay (2020), the survivors could not support close associations with women and experienced issues with sexual impotence. Similarly, Goldberg & Pollack (2013) was involved in a strong interview with the survivors of maternal incest and realized that six of the seven victims struggled to maintain good associations with women. Five victims had experienced divorce, and one had never gotten engaged or married. Nevertheless, all the six men credited the doubts of intimacy in their past maternal incest.

Similarly, another research by DiPlacidi (2018) attempted to illustrate the related challenges faced by the victims of maternal incest. They stated that intimacy challenges occur from a misrepresentation of the initial and most essential figure of female interaction when the kid develops a realization of love and associations with women. Nonetheless, men are considered to have emotional and sexual intimacy issues, depression, and other substance dependencies when they pass through maternal intimacy during their early years. Since the mother is the initial and primary means of interaction with the kid, the impacts of the alteration and damage of this bond will be detrimental to their future relationships because the child expects the mother to be protective and show unconditional love and connection.

Best Practices in Crisis Intervention

Crisis intervention plays a critical role in society because it offers a chance for change, especially to individuals who face psychological imbalance and are stunned by their present situation. Bartlett & Schuker (2020) stated that crisis intervention comprises three elements which include the crisis, involving the viewpoint of an impossible situation, for example, in this case, the concern is maternal incest. Another element is the people involved in the problem; in this case, the mothers are the perpetrators of the incest, and the children are the victims. The last element is the individual or professionals that provide help or support. In most cases are, the mental health workers or crisis workers, such as community health workers involved in helping children come out of the situation from their mothers.

Maternal incest is a crisis that needs intervention using the best practices. Child survivors struggle to deal with reality, and the effects progress until adulthood. Therefore, relevant institutions must participate in efficient techniques to assist the survivors. One of the best practices for this maternal incest crisis intervention is confidentiality. Bartlett & Schuker (2020) highlighted that most educational and social work institutions seek to offer services or advocacy for victims of sexual abuse. Therefore, survivors require a confidential space to disclose their fears regarding a crisis. Sancak et al. (2021) stated that most of the victims of incest do not report or reveal their experiences to relevant support providers because only around two to six percent report to law enforcement. And around 4 percent report to institution authorities because they fear that other individuals might realize about the incest and want to ensure it is private.

Another important practice for the intervention is institution crisis response. Most children between 12-15 years old are involved in maternal incest; therefore, they are all at school at this age. Therefore, school crisis response will be essential if it offers advocacy services 24/7 for instant answers. Bartlett & Schuker (2020) claimed that most sexual assault survivors found community crisis center services useful because the advocates are accommodating and supportive, respect their decisions and offer relevant information, including legal cases.

Another best practice is community response, where individuals unite and develop collaborative associations among various institutional offices and community partners that react to sexual abuse. Since most maternal incest victims take a long time to report or the situation is identified because of fear, Bartlett & Schuker (2020) emphasized that rape survivors have obtained harmonized responses in the community, which is linked with improved survivors’ outcomes. Also, there is a need to create community standards that will ensure they promote and support awareness of resources to ensure children recognize the relevant facilities they can get help in case of abuse or incest attempt.

Spiritual Applications/Interventions

Incest is a very critical concept in the bible because it is highly prohibited with severe consequences. Although there are several instances of incest, such as in the book of Genesis concerning the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, Abraham, who married his half-sister Sarah and Lot and his daughters comes in (King James Bible, 2021). Also, 2nd Samuel 13 talks about the incest of David’s son Amnon and his half-sister Tamar. Nevertheless, it is vital to recognize and differentiate the incestuous associations before God’s directions against those after God’s directions were revealed.

The illustrations above indicate that God had allowed incest to occur in the early centuries because Adam and Eve had to marry each other and reproduce for humanity to progress. Close relatives intermarried with each other. However, God commanded incest to be wrong later, as stated in Leviticus 18:6-7 that no one should make love with any of their close relatives or uncover their nakedness; individuals should not uncover the nakedness of their mother or father (King James Bible, 2021). Therefore, Christians should not be involved in any incest now because it is considered a sin, and even that which God commanded had the main intention; for instance, the main objective of Abraham and Sarah’s marriage was to develop a family.

Cultural Considerations

Marriage and family are essential aspects in many cultures. Therefore, most cultures respect the family and consider the father as the visible face representing the family to the world. On the other hand, women are viewed as inferior and will need to be cared for. The issue of incest seems to have almost similar considerations in different cultures because it is a cultural construct based on abhorred sexual behavior (Wilson, 2021), although most cultures have some agreement on the primary aspect comprising incest, which is sexual attachment within the nuclear family. Nevertheless, researchers have continuously altered the concept of maternal incest and blamed it on a forced male or mental conditions, then loneliness and previous victimization, and not the mother’s sexual needs. Most cultures assume the mother’s main focus is on nurturing, ignoring the chances that they also have requirements.


Incest is one of the forbidden acts in many societies and cultures because it refers to the individual’s sexual activity among family members or relatives. The incestuous activity comprises all forms of unacceptable sexual behavior, such as touching and copulation although it is not easy to recognize the real prevalence because most victims do not reveal the cases. There are various forms of incest, with paternal being the most common, and others include maternal incest and sibling incest. Maternal incest is considered the rarest because mothers are viewed as sexually harmless in society hence being less common.

Maternal incest can result in significant mental health challenges for the child survivors because the experience is always traumatic and can result in lasting psychological sequelae. Similarly, the survivors of maternal incest are vulnerable to disorders including depression, psychosis, personality conditions, and substance abuse. The victims also have demonstrated shame, stigma, and self-blame. Relationship problems are also linked with sexual abuse because they fear being involved and maintaining romantic attachments and experience sexual difficulties. There are several practices that crisis intervention can use to help survivors of maternal incest. The first practice is for the social workers, community health workers, and other institutions such as schools and child protective service workers to work together to ensure efficient help for the victims and confidentiality, community response is developed and supported by an institution crisis response. Very few studies have been conducted on the intervention for maternal incest. However, considerable research in recent years has focused on the effects of maternal incest on the victims. Future research should attend on intervention for mother-son incest.


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