About Covert Incest from “Silently Seduced” by Kenneth Adams. .
From pages 12 – 13:
All families function as a system in which one person's actions affect another and vice versa. Although each member functions independently, that member also affects and is affected by the whole. Salvador Minuchin, in “Families and Family Therapy,” says the family system has a function or purpose of seeking to bring itself back into balance or stability when disrupted. So in the case of a marriage not bonded in a healthy way, the parents' unmet dependency, intimacy and emotional needs will be met by the rest of the system – the children...
The child becomes the parent's confidant. Loneliness, bitterness and dissatisfaction with the marriage and sex life are common topics in these discussion. The child feels “icky” about it but quickly comes to the parent's rescue and begins to serve as the surrogate spouse the system is lacking. Both parents are active participants in this covertly incestuous relationship. One is getting some needs met through the child and the other is relived at not having to deal with the reality of the dissatisfied partner. Covert incest victims often report that the same-sex parent encouraged them to comfort the opposite-sex parent after a marital fight or in their absence, for example, “You take care of your mother while I'm gone; I'm counting on you.” The child, hoping to get some of his or her own needs met, readily obliges.
Once the boundary between parents and child is crossed in a covertly incestuous relationship, potential for more victimization exists. For example, if the oldest boy is in a psychological marriage with his mother, he may act out the covert sexualized energy with a younger sister in an overt sexual way. What started out as a spillover of unmet intimate needs from the marriage to the oldest boy in a covert way works its way into the overt incest between siblings. This example clearly demonstrates how one person's behavior in a family affects the family system as a whole.
The family system works to seek balance and tries to correct itself even in adulthood. As long as the abuse or neglect experienced in childhood remains buried within, we recreate our family all over again in adult relationships. This is an effort to work our and resolve that childhood pain. Yes, the family system continues to affect one's life even when one is no longer living at home and has dismissed childhood as gone and best forgotten.