Genetic Sexual Attraction and Adoptees: Can We Legislate Morality?

Marcie A. Griffin, M.S., L.P.C.
January - February 1998 Issue, Adoption Triad Forum

Recently a brother and sister were convicted of incest and sentenced to prison. Apparently there was no consideration given to the fact that they were not raised as brother and sister and did not even know each other until she was 18 years of age, which has great relevance to the case. Not to mention the fact that legally they are not brother and sister.

Of course, how many brothers and sisters who grow up with each other, learning to love and hate each other day to day, and grossing each other out, would have the least interest in marrying each other?

Not any that I know about and not because it is "wrong" but because it is a disgusting thought to most of us. If we look at some biblical background, we find Adam and Eve at the beginning of the story of the human race as told by Christians. Well, explain to me how they managed to have offspring who did not have to procreate with each other for humans to survive. Apparently, it was all right then because it was necessary to create an entire human population.

What if you had grown up perhaps not even knowing that you had a brother or sister and then you met? Would it not be an overwhelming feeling to see someone, maybe for the first time, who is biologically connected to you?

"Falling in love" does not just occur between two adults. It happens between mothers and fathers with their children when they are born. They are a part of us and us them. This romantic love tends to then give way to a deeper form of love between parent and child that is more long lasting and nurturing. Romantic love is rarely a permanent feeling. The case of a brother and sister marrying after meeting as adults presents only one problem to society that is obvious. Children of siblings can have a higher rate of birth defects, because if both parents have a mutant gene, the child will develop that characteristic (ie. Down's syndrome). However, I under-stand that women over 40 have a higher risk for children born with Down's syndrome. There are no laws (thank goodness) against women attempting to become pregnant after the age of 40 or 50 for that matter.

I'm not sure I see a significant difference between the two in legal terms. With either there is a significantly higher rate of birth defects in offspring, yet one is forbidden and the other is not.

Our state and federal legislators seem dangerously inclined to legislate morality for us. Gays and lesbians have been dealing with this issue for a very long time; being unable to marry and have families with all the same legal protections. Sorry, but there are just some people who are not allowed to love each other and legalize their union! Sometimes I wonder if we really do live in a democracy where everyone is equal and where we are allowed to pursue happiness as long as we don't infringe on the rights of others.

As far as the emotional impact incest can have, it is far reaching. Most family members would react in shock and disbelief that these two adults would make such a decision: To marry and have children.

Likely, a brother and sister in this position can forget about family support. Not only that, but they can bet that their children will receive more than their share of abuse from society.

Somehow it is socially appropriate for adults and other children to make fun of children who are different or whose parents are different. And this will happen. Because, unfortunately, we are a society which is rather unforgiving of those who behave differently from the norm.

In my post adoption practice, I worked with two brother/sister couples in counseling. In one situation, the siblings were well into adulthood when they met. The sister, in her twenties, wanted to end the sexual relationship she was having with her brother, who was in his thirties. He had encouraged the sexual part of their relationship, but it appeared that she more wanted a close brother/sister relationship, which she never had growing up.

The brother she grew up with in adoption had attempted to have sex with her as a young teenager, so she was desperately wanting a brother she could lean on and trust to have her best interest at heart. The last I heard, the sister wasn't speaking to the biological brother.

In the other situation, the brother and sister were in their fifties. They didn't meet until they were over fifty. Both had been married to their respective spouses for approximately 30 years and both had two children. They had no desire to procreate.

They wanted to get a divorce from their respective spouses, with whom they had lived just because that was the way it had always been, not because they loved them. Their meeting was the catalyst which prompted them to get the divorce they had wanted for so long. They wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. They had fallen in love. They both had this overwhelming feeling that they had looked for each other all their lives even though they didn't know it. But now that they were together, nothing was going to tear them apart. They were concerned about how their children would feel, but they were determined it would work.

I have no idea how it worked out for them, but I had a hard time saying to them that they shouldn't have this relationship. I thought, Who am I to tell them they shouldn't? All I could do was point out the consequences of their behavior and let them decide if it was important enough to them to accept those consequences.

Clinically speaking, I fully believe that both couples will feel this overwhelming feeling of romantic love for each other less and less as they spend more and more time together. Their relationship will likely become deeper, but not as intense. So it goes with most relationships.

Hopefully, this will give them the distance they need to consider, in a more objective way, their relationship and the impact it has had on others who love them.

Some clinicians would believe that their relation-ship was a result of the inability to form relationships with others who are different from them. Professionally, I don't share this view. I do believe there is a phenomenon known as "genetic sexual attraction." Seeing it in action for myself, I am unable to find a psychological reason why those involved in this type of relationship should bow to the power of the masses.

Let's hope that, in the future of the coming millennium, our society will evolve to the point where we can accept others as they are, and we can all be more responsible when making decisions which affect our children and their futures.

About The Author:

Marcie A. Griffin, M.S, L.P.C. has published numerous articles on adoption issues nationwide and is currently Triage Manager for Hunt County Family Services in Greenville Tx. She holds a Master's degree in counseling, is a licensed professional counselor, and has worked in child protective services; in residential child care; and as a post adoption counselor for an adoption agency.

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