A House Divided: Suspicions of Mother-Daughter Incest

Paul R. Abramson, Author, Steven D. Pinkerton, Joint Author
Paul R. Abramson, Author, Steven D. Pinkerton, Joint Author W. W. Norton & Company $23 (225p) ISBN 978-0-393-97635-9
Reviewed on: 09/18/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Sex experts and coauthors (With Pleasure; Sexual Nature/Sexual Culture) Abramson (UCLA) and Pinkerton (Medical College of Wisconsin) present a riveting true story about a mother accused of sexually molesting her five-year-old daughter. What intrigues Abramson is that, if the incest did occur, the case presents the opportunity to study the pathology of the extremely rare phenomenon of mother-daughter incest; if no incest occurred, then by testifying on behalf of the mother he could prevent a miscarriage of justice. Abramson's narration of how, using both candid interviews and standard psychological tests, he determines that the mother was wrongly accused is meticulous and engaging, as are his descriptions of the other major players--a concerned teacher, two driven child welfare counselors and the singleminded doctors who testify on behalf of the prosecution. As the drama unfolds in court, the reader quickly learns just how personal and political agendas can overshadow truth and justice. Abramson informs his account with dispassionate psychological expertise, pointing out critical inconsistencies every step of the way. In the epilogue, he and Pinkerton offer a utilitarian procedure for diagnosing, with greater accuracy, instances of mother-daughter incest. Their argument appears crisp and concise, but the discussion is rather narrow and technical for the lay reader, who might benefit more from a broader discussion of the phenomenon of mother-daughter incest and what is being done to prevent it. (Sept.)
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