How Common Is Incest? Meta-study on Prevalence, Variety, Effects, and Demographics

Across 292 different published and peer-reviewed articles we have gathered meta-data on incest.

Collectively the dataset includes data points from more than 11,311,428 participants and survey respondents.

The historical data spans from 1980 to 2023. This makes it the most comprehensive meta-study of incest ever assembled and published.

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

Key Statistics

  • 15% of US families have had incest events in the family.
  • 32 million Americans report to have been the victims of incest as a child (12.7% of all adults in the US).
  • 1 in 5 girls have been victims of incest (compared to 1 in 14 boys).
  • 20% of incest victims report the crime to law enforcement.
  • 46% of all children under 18 who are raped, have been raped by someone in their own family.
  • 74.4% of incest cases happen within the biological family.
  • 25.6% of incest cases with someone related, e.g. step-father (without consanguinity)
  • The most frequent type of incest is father-daughter incest (34.8% of all incest cases is father-daughter; 23.1% is brother-sister; 6.1% is mother-son).
  • 15% of the females and 10% of the males reported some type of sexual experience involving a sibling.
  • 70.8% of all who experienced incest were under 18 when it happened the first time (29.2% were 11 or younger, and 43.3% were 12 or younger).
  • Over 50% of pornvideos on pornhub have an incestuous angle (title, video theme, or ‘characters played’).
Incest statistics - How common is incest in families infographic

Prevalence of incest

  • It is estimated that 10-15% of US families have had incest happen in their family.
  • More than 32 million Americans report that they have had a parent rape them as a child.
  • 12.7% of all adults self-report to have experienced sexual abuse from a family member as a child.
  • Only 20% of victims of incest report the crime committed against them.
  • 43-46% of children who are raped are raped by members of their own family.
  • 90% of sexual abuse against children under 18 is perpetrated by members of the victims family.

Types of incest

There are many different types of incest, and in the following sections we discuss some of these types, the prevalence of them. Lastly, we compare the prevalence of them compared to each other.

  • 74.4% of all cases of incest happen between biological family members (blood-related).
  • 25.6% of all cases of incest happen between adopted or step-family members (non-blood related).

Father and daughter incest

  • 34.8% of all incestuous encounters happen between a daughter and her biological father.
  • Father-daughter incest (biological) is the most common type of incest.

Step-father and step-daughter incest

  • 12% of all incestuous encounters happen between a step-daughter and step-father.
  • Step-fathers are 8 times as likely as biological fathers to sexually assault a step-daughter while living together.

Brother and sister incest

  • 23.1% of incest cases happen between a brother and a sister.
  • 81% of brother-sister incest cases are between and older brother and younger sister.

Mother and son incest

  • 25.4% of male incest victims reported it as mother-son incest.
  • 6.1% of incest events were between a mother and son (with and without consanguinity).


  • 55% of adult incest perpetrators were unemployed
  • in 79.1% of the families where incest occurred had 3 or more children.
  • 30.2% of individuals who self-reported to have had an incestual sexual encounter were over 18.
  • 83.7% of incest victims are female.
  • 16.3% of incest victims are male.
  • Parents that engage in frequent verbal or physical fighting are 5 times more at risk as a family of father-daughter incest.
  • 18.7% of girls are victims of some form of incest.
  • 7.2% of boys are victims of some form of incest.

Age of victims

  • 70.8% of incest victims were 18 or under when it happened.
  • 29.2% of incest victims were under 11 years old when it happened.
Age% of all victims (age of first incest event)%, Summative
0-2N/A (not reliable data due to non-reports) –

What happens during incest

  • In 54.5% of incest cases, respondents report that penetration was a part of the sexual encounter.
  • 33% of incest victims experienced anal penetration
  • 32.6% of incest events last for more than one year.
  • 93.1% of incest victims were not physically assaulted.

What happens after – the consequences

  • 93% of women who experience abuse from their fathers develop an eating disorder at some point in life.
  • All of the women who report having been abused by their fathers during childhood have been diagnosed with depression.
  • 55-65% of sexual offenders have been the victims of incest during childhood.
  • Sexual abuse victims are 11 times more likely to become Incestual offenders compared to people who have not.
  • Incest victims have on average 16% higher health costs (doctors, psychiatrists, medicine, etc.).
  • Incestual relationships can lead to inbreeding which can cause congenital disorders, disabilities (mental and physical), and developmental issues for the children.

Laws against incest

  • Most Western countries have banned incest based on reasoning around inbreeding.
  • However, most countries do not categorize first-, or second-cousin relationships for incest.
    • 8-11% of relationships in South America, East Asia, and Southern Europe are between first-, or second-cousins.
    • 50% of all relationships in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia are between first-, or second cousins.

US laws

In the us, laws are on a state-by-state basis:

StatePrison sentenceFine
Alabama 1 to 10 years$15,000
Alaska 2 to 12 years$50,000
Arizona 1 to 3.75 yearsN/A
Arkansas 3 to 10 years $10,000
California max 3 years $10,000
Colorado 2 to 12 years up to $750,000
Connecticut 1 to 5 years $5,000
Delaware max 1 year $2,300
Florida max 15 years $5,000
Georgia 10 to 30 years N/A
Hawaii max 5 years N/A
Idaho maximum life sentence N/A
Illinois 2 to 10 years $25,000
Indiana 1 to 6 years N/A
Iowa max 5 years $7,500
Kansas 5 months to 11.3 yearsN/A
Kentucky 5 years to life N/A
Louisiana 5 to 30 years N/A
Maine max 5 years $5,000
Maryland 1 to 10 years N/A
Massachusetts max 20 years N/A
Michigan max 2 years $500
Minnesota max 10 years N/A
Mississippi max 10 years $500
Missouri max 7 years N/A
Montana maximum life sentence N/A
Nebraska 1 to 25 years N/A
Nevada 2 years to life $10,000
New Hampshire 10 to 20 years N/A
New Jersey  18 months to 15 years N/A
New Mexico max 3 years $5,000
New York 10 to 25 years N/A
North Carolina 10 months to 15.2 years N/A
North Dakota max 5 years $10,000
Ohio 2 to 6 years N/A
Oklahoma max 10 years N/A
Oregon max 20 years $375,000
Pennsylvania max 10 years N/A
Rhode Island No criminal prosecution for 16+ N/A
South Carolina 6 months to 5 years minimum $500
South Dakota max 15 years $30,000
Tennessee 3 to 15 years $10,000
Texas 2 to 20 years $10,000
Utah max 5 years $5,000
Vermont max 5 years $1,000
Virginia 1 to 20 yearsup to $100,000
Washington max 10 yearsup to $10,000
West Virginia 5 to 15 years$500 to $5,000
Wisconsin max 40 years$100,000
Wyoming max 15 years$10,000

Consensual incest on the rise?

Looking at data on “consensual incest” we found an interesting pattern, that it since 1970 has gained more than x190 times the interest. The question then becomes if it is more prevalent than earlier or simply more talked about.

consensual incest on the rise

A single study found that 30% reported positive reactions to incest between siblings. However, multiple studies have shown that a lot of victims of incest suffer from distorted and disturbed views about their own experiences.

That being said, there have been a lot of media stories about sibling couples. Some include:

  • Bruce McMahan and Linda McMahan – a UK couple, Father-daughter incest, married in 2004, have since separated.
  • John Deaves and Jenny Deaves – Australian couple, father-daughter incest, interviewed by 60 minutes, arrested after a child suffered a heart defect and died.
  • Danielle Heaney and Nick Cameron – half-brother-sister incest, met when they were 20 and 26 years old, from Scotland, sentenced to 9-month probation, living together.
  • Patrick Stuebing And Susan Karolewski – step-brother-sister incest, German couple, Stuebing was adopted at birth and raised in the family, work as activists to change German laws on incest.
  • Mackenzie Phillips and John Phillips – father-daughter incest, John Phillips was a part of the band “The Mamas and the Papas”, moved to Mexico and raised Mackenzie’s younger siblings as their own.
  • Allen Muth and Patricia Muth – brother-sister incest, from Wisconsin, the couple met as adults and had children together, eventually they faced 5 and 8 years in prison each.

Prevalence in porn

History and religion

We are not as concerned with these aspects – both the historical aspect of the first story e.g. mother-son incest from the roman Oedipus story. Nor the specific religious attitudes towards incest.


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