The impact of Freudian psychoanalysis on the interpretation of father-daughter incest in courts of law, the social sciences and child-serving agencies during the postwar period was not, as has commonly been assumed, to uniformly silence discussion and prosecution. In fact, psychoanalysts themselves began to pursue case histories of incest between fathers and adolescent daughters in the 1940s. These case histories—couched as examinations of female adolescent Oedipal behavior—reinfored ideas about paternal power by focusing on girls' psychological need for paternal sexual attention. Court cases from Cook County, Illinois, dating from the same period reveal that judges often believed girls' claims of incest, even when contradicted by testimony from adult members of the fmaily. Whil psychoanalysts and pshychoanalytic social workers diminished and even dismissed the idea that father-daughter incest was damaging to adolescent girls, and concentrated instead on the importance of Oedipal desire, lawyers and judges viewed father-daughter incest as a particularly heinous crime. That psychoanalytic social workers and the legal community were so at odds with one another suggests that postwar society was conflicted about father-daughter incest, rather than uniformly invested in denial as a way to shore up paternal power and the ideological parameters of familialism.


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pp. 609-633
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