Keeping it in the family: incest v. inbreeding

For the adoptee, incest is of double-concern because it's not just a matter of psychological trauma caused by inappropriate contact and close proximity.   A double-whammie of confusion, shame and guilt develops all because we don't know where the lines of family are drawn.  What happends when Biology takes -over and rules of attraction no longer follow rules of social order and acceptance?  In cases of unknown origins, and hidden family secrets, what happens when reunion takes place where it shouldn't?  What happens to the person whose innocent interest is shattered by broken boundaries and biology?  For the adult who has no idea he/she has siblings, sexual-contact can become a catastrophe.

Yes, adoption gives new-meaning to "keep it in the family".

Incest needs to be discussed with adoptees, especially if they are in Search and Reunion with their biologic roots.  Why?   Genetic harm to future generations can be caused by inbreeding.

Inbreeding is the mating of related individuals. In some senses every animal is the result of some level of inbreeding as all members of a species are related, if only very distantly. However, inbreeding is usually defined as matings between fairly closely related individuals. The most extreme inbreeding being that between a father and daughter, or mother and son, followed closely by full sibs mating, then half-sibs, grandparent-grandchild, and first cousins, or uncle-niece and aunt-nephew.(http://cc.ysu.edu/~helorime/inbred1.html)

Inbreeding may result in a far higher expression of deleterious recessive genes within a population than would normally be expected. As a result, first-generation inbred individuals are more likely to show physical and health defects, including:

    • reduced fertility both in litter size and sperm viability
    • increased genetic disorders
    • fluctuating facial asymmetry
    • lower birth rate
    • higher infant mortality
    • slower growth rate
    • smaller adult size
    • loss of immune system function.

Think it can't or doesn't happen?  Below are responses to an article written about Birth Records.

As a birthmother who has found her son I find it appalling that birth records are sealed to adoptees. The matter of him falling in love and marrying my daughter was a concern, but not what bothered me the most. I was never told that my records were to be sealed to him back in 1961, and this is the very thing that the laws to close records are based on. Opening birth records for adoptees is best for everyone.

Lynn Gipson - Apr 29, 2007 07:02:44 AM


In helping to reunite birth families, I have found many adoptees have from 2 to sometimes 10 siblings living within miles of each other. I reunited one family where the birthmom had eleven children and only one of the siblings was relinquished. His comment to me was, I could have dated, married and had children with my own sister. Maybe this could explains the rise in medical issues we face with our children today. If the birthmother does not seek contact, the least we can do for these children is to make sure we do everything we can to keep them from committing incest with a sibling. Finding out later, could cause great mental anquish for both parties. Many birthmothers relinquish children at a very young age, because they are forced by parents and society to do so. Later on in life they struggle with that decision. At a young age most of the time, they are made to make an adult decision that could affect them for life. Not knowing where this child or where the birth parents are, is devasting to one who grows into a caring mature individual.

Susan Stevenson - Apr 29, 2007 06:01:56 AM


Among the rights being denied to American citizens who happen to have been adopted is that of choosing a mate without risk of committing incest. Every state has laws against marrying siblings and parents and first cousins. Yet all but the states with equal birth certificate access laws effectively tell adoptees it is none of their business who their siblings or parents or cousins are! How inconscionable is this? What kind of society forces a subgroup of its citizens to play this kind of Russian roulette?

Jo Anne Swanson - Apr 28, 2007 12:58:35 PM

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