Why don't we fancy our family?

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According to Freud we do; we just keep it on the down low, in our unconcious mind. He believed that all children go through the oedipus complex, experiencing strong sexual desires for their opposite sex parent. However, they are kept repressed due to the strains and controls of society.

However, recently in AEA Psychology we’ve been learning all about the ins and outs of Evolutionary Pyschology, which offers a very different perspective on the matter of incest.

If it is only society which holds us back from fancying our family why do fifty percent of reunited biological family members experience a strong sexual attraction? I thought that figure was rather shocking, it’s a phenomena so common it’s been given the name ‘Genetic Sexual Attraction’. It occurs because the genetic similarities between the family members make them incredibly similar and almost irresistable. So why is it that these same genetic similarities don’t make us fancy our brothers and sisters, or even our parents?

Westermarck, believes there is a mechanism in the brain which has developed to stop us having sex with our family, we wouldn’t have evolved very far otherwise. So how does it work? Well he thought that this part of the brain develops Kin Recognition by whether or not you are living together, and being raised by the same people; making the thought of mating with them repulsive. Evidence for this has been provided by the Kibbutz community in Israel. The children raised together in the community, upon reaching puberty, rarely choose sexual partners who they were raised with. Further support to the theory is given by some arranged marriages in China. The baby daughter is given to the family which she is to marry into so the mother-in-law can raise her. It was found that in these cases the marriages turned out to be less happy, more likely to end in divorce, and produced less children.

As ever though the theory can’t fully explain everything… but I guess there are exceptions to every rule.