How common is sibling attraction?

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In this article we will explore how common sibling attraction is. We will also briefly discuss how prevalent sibling incest is and how it is viewed in present day society. 

How common is sibling attraction?

Sibling to Sibling attraction has been found to be fairly common and has most often resulted to child sexual abuse or abuse in case of non-consensual sibling incest. 

There has been a recent development in the field of research that studies human relationships including incest, that sibling incest is the second most common type of incest following Father-daughter incest. 

In this study that looks into the social and demographic characteristics of incest in cases documented in a University hosptal in turkey found that,

“…Father-daughter incest is reported to be the most common incest type followed by the other types like brother-sister, sister-sister and mother-son incest.”

One study on child-to-child sexual abuse, found that 51% of these cases involved sibling incest, while another study that explored agression among siblings also involved sexual behavior from kissing to attempted intercourse. 

Interestingly around 80% of these participants reported that the behaviour was consenqual but researchers believe that they might not have been aware of the social and psychological ramifications of sibling sexual behavior. 

In other recent studies, older brother- younger sister is the most common form of sibling incest where the sexual relations is non-consesual and deemed as child sexual abuse. 

In other studies, sibling incest has been reocrded to be occurring more frequently than other forms of incest but rarely reported. 

A study by the UK’s National Council for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that Siblings child sexual abuse was more common with a prevalcne of 14% while fathers reportedly committed about 1% of child sex abuse.

In an article by BBC news where the myths of childabuse was shattered, the article explored some studies that suggested that child abused involved older brothers and not necessarily parents. 

The article also highlighted that Sibling-sibling incest was rather child on child sexual abuse as a result of coercison and the was deemed to be the most common form of intrafamilial abuse. 

Even when there is consensual sibling to sibling attraction or cnsensual sibling inscent it is viewed poorly and with disdain due to the relationships and the phenomenon viewed as taboo. However, there are some cultures that tolerate incestual relationships in various parts of the world. 

What is Sibling incest?

Sibling Incest refers to the sexual relations practised between siblings who share a direct blood relationship. 

While consensual sibling incest is rare, sibling incest is commonly seen in the cases of child to child secual abuse here the perpetrators is often the older sibling. 

Incest, inclduing sibling incest, as a phenomneon that is a culturally rejected and forbidden in almost all civilizations, since exogamy (sexual relations with individuals outside the family group) is preferred to inbreeding as a way of species survival by those that came before us. 

What are the charactersitisc of sibling incest?

The major characteristics of sibling incest is as follows:

  • The perpetrator is more commonly older than the younger victims- the perpetrator usually being an adolescent. 
  • Sibling to sibling non-consesual incest and abuse tends to last for a longer period of time with more violence and huger serveity than adult to child abuse. 
  • Sibling incest and abuse also have higher rate of penetration than parent-child icnest and abuse.
  • A large populations of victims of incest and abuse by a siblng had distored or distubed beliefs about their own expeirnece and about sexual abused as a while such as “sexual abuse is normal”
  • Sibling incest and abuse has been found to be most prevalent in families where parents are physically and emotionally absent- particularly with an abusent father.
  • It has also been observed that with sibling abuse and incest, it was a way for the abuser to assert power over their siblings. 
  • The damaging impact of sibling incest includes both pscyosocial development and later adult symptoms of substance abuse, depression, suicidality, and eating disorders.

Why does sibling incest or attraction occur?

Here are possible explanation and theories surrounding the question of why incest occurs:

Social explanation of incest

Considering that we are a gregarious species, that is, that tends to constitute groups, it is natural for a family nucleus to seek to expand its economic, political or social capacity by uniting rival clans through exogamous marriage, instead of withdrawing into itself with the inbred.

This was seen in the case of Royal ancient egyptions , who in a bid to keep power within the family reported to incest to keep the bloodline “pure”.

Family dysfunction

In recent studies of family functioning, incest has been understood as a result of family dysfunction. Disturbed family relationships lead to a shift in roles and expectations that can lead to children taking on the role of parents leading to incest. 

One particular example is the fictional story of “Flowers in the attic” where the older siblings take on the role of parents and engage in incest. 

Dysfucntional couples where there is a lack of spousal sexual activity is a common preceding factor to incest. Oftentimes, the destruction or dysfuntion of the family is present before incest occurs.

Genetic Sexual Attraction

Genetic sexual attraction is a term used to describe the phenomenon where adults who are related to each other and who meet for the first time are attracted to each other.

For instance, a brother who has never met his sister may find himself physically attracted to her as an adult after meeting her for the first time. 

The term was first used in the 1980s to describe the attraction that was observed between adoptees and their newly discovered relatives, however there has not been much research done in this particular field due to which not many know what GSA happens to be.

Genetic sexual attraction has been considered a pseudoscience by experts however it has been observed in many cases- up to 50% of reunion cases according to the Post-Adoption centre in London.

How is incest viewed by society?

Incest is a culturally rejected and even persecuted practice, which in some countries is even illegal, while in others it is tolerated but without any legal recognition of the union through marriage.

In almost all religious codes it is viewed as an immoral, forbidden union and it often curses the offspring. 

The rejection of incest can be understood as a result of human being’s preferences of exogamny over inbreeding as a way to help the species survive and flourish- as a result of biological and social concerns. 

Given that individuals belonging to the same family share a high percentage of their genetic material, incest was considered a union that impoverishes and reduces the genetic variability available for future generations, thus increasing the incidence of hereditary diseases and defects. 

Thus, the preference of exogamy. This particular preference must have been made by observation which then became a cultural custom that later became a question of morality as religious text and beliefs were developed. 

What are the dangerous consequences of Incest?

The consequences of incest are mainly based on social rejection, the emotional or psychological problems they may produce, such as feelings of guilt, etc.

If the relationship between the siblings is non-consensual, there are expectations of psychological distress in the victim. 

It has been observed that most of these sibling incest relationships have one sibling that is 4 years younger and considered the victim who has been groomed by the older sibling. 

The victim in these cases experience negative consequences such as somatic problems, depression, nightmares and anxiety, and depression.

In the case of relations with offspring where it is consensual and there is an offspring involved, there is a risk of mutations and diseases related to it. 

Some of the genetic diseases and medical complications that can arise include:

  • Down syndrome and other delays. Although this is not the only and exclusive cause of mental retardation, a higher rate of this type of disease has been seen in the offspring of very genetically close individuals.
  • Malformations. Similarly, children born with deformations or with dysfunctional bodies are often the result of incest.
  • Haemophilia. This disease that prevents or hinders the correct blood coagulation has been known as “the disease of the kings” because it was frequent among Spanish kings descendants of noble houses of marked inbreeding tendency.
  • Harlequin disease. Called Harlequin Ichthyosis, it is a very rare genetic skin disease that resembles a harlequin costume in newborns: thick, large scales from around the body and are born with the red-eyed, inverted eyelids.

Other than these medical conditions, a person who is in an incestual relationship can struggle with guilt, shame, and face social ostracisation and even persecution if incest is considered illegal in their state.


In this article we have explored how common sibling attraction is. We will also briefly discuss how prevalent sibling incest is and how it is viewed in present day society. 

In the article we will also briefly discuss the causes of sibling incest, and the dangerosu consequeses of it. 

FAQ related to How common is sibling attraction

Can siblings be attracted to each other?

It is possible for siblings to become attracted to each other if there has been a long duration of separation between them during their formative years.- this phenomenon is called Genetic Sexual Attraction. 

Do siblings get intimate?

Siblings are often emotionally intimate because they have a common history through their years of shared family experiences and environments.

This frequent companionship can lead to both intense conflict and result in intimacy provided that there is healthy communication and role models to help them develop healthy boundaries. 

What is a toxic sibling relationship?

Toxic sibling relationships are when there is no healthy boundary between siblings that allow them privacy, individuality, and the right to live a dignified life. 

Toxic relationships can develop if parents are unavailable, depressed, aggressive, narcissistic, controlling, or favour one child over the others. 

When the parents do not set boundaries or manage the siblings’ relationship healthily, these relationship dynamics can become detrimental to the children’s development and can even lead to abuse. 

Can siblings get married?

Siblings cannot legally get married in most places around the world. Countries like the UK, Australia, India, and most states in America considered incest illehal and pinoshable by law. 

When siblings engage in romanic and sexual relatioship with each other it is understood as sibling incest. Incest generally refers to sexual relations between close family members, and has been viewed as a taboo in most societies.


Child abuse ‘myths’ shattered. BBCNews. Retrieved on 7th Dec 2021.

Shaw, Jon & Lewis, John & Loeb, Andrea & Rosado, James & Rodriguez, Rosemarie. (2001). Child on child sexual abuse: Psychological perspectives. Child abuse & neglect. 24. 1591-600. 10.1016/S0145-2134(00)00212-X.

Yildirim A, Ozer E, Bozkurt H, et al. Evaluation of social and demographic characteristics of incest cases in a university hospital in Turkey. Med Sci Monit. 2014;20:693-697. Published 2014 Apr 26. doi:10.12659/MSM.890361

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