Incest is intimacy between family members who share a common ancestor. Although similarities do exist among incest families, incest can be further characterized as being overt or covert. While overt incest involves physical intimacy, covert incest signifies intimacy that is not of a physical nature. This may include a lack of privacy in the home, frequent comments of an explicitly sexual nature, exposure to pornography for mutual benefit, exhibitionism and voyeurism.

Whenever incest involves a minor, whether overt or covert, it is a form of childhood sexual abuse. What makes it child abuse is the fact the adult is actually exploiting the child for his or her own benefit while neglecting the needs of the child. As Linda McCarriston has noted, an adult who sexually abuses a child is like an adult who dines with a pork chop.