Thursday, 25 Dec, 2008 Science
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Scientists Say it's Okay For Two First Cousins to Get Married

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Babies born as a result of marriage between first cousins have the same risk of having genetic defects as babies born from women over 40 years old.

Two scientists, who call for the lifting of the taboo on first-cousin families, say that cousins who want to get married should not feel ashamed about it. Women in their forties, who decide to get pregnant, are not made to feel guilty about their decision and the same should be applied to first-cousin families, consider Professor Diane Paul of the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Professor Hamish Spencer of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Despite the fact that marriage between cousins is legal in Britain, some people disagree with the practice, calling for its ban due to the fact that babies born from such families have higher-than-average risk of genetic defects. But according to the two professors, the risk of developing congenital defects in babies born as a result of marriage between cousins is just two percent over the average. The risk of mortality among such babies is 4.4 percent higher than average, which is the same in babies born from women in their forties.

"Women over the age of 40 have a similar risk of having children with birth defects and no one is suggesting they should be prevented from reproducing," said Professor Spencer, the co-author of the research, which is published in the online journal Public Library of Science.

It is interesting to note that there was a time when marriages between cousins were rather common in Europe. The trend changed in the late 19th century, mainly because women became more mobile and the risk of genetic defects in babies became more evident. Early researches in the field of human genetics supported the idea about genetic defects related to the first-cousin marriages. The practice was prohibited by law in the majority of American states, China, Taiwan, North and South Korea, reports The Independent.

Professor Spencer considers that these laws should be annulated. He mainly refers to the United States, where, according to the researcher, the legislation relies of over-simplified views of genetics. "There is no scientific grounding for it," he said.

The question was raised in the UK after MP Phil Woolas, who now holds the position of the Immigration minister, stated this year that marriages between first cousins in Asian communities in the country led to an increased number of babies born with serious health issues.

"A lot of arranged marriages are with first cousins, and that produces lots of genetic problems in terms of disability [in children]," said Mr Woolas.

Short Info about Famous People Who Married their cousins:

The famous American rock 'n 'roll star, country music singer, songwriter and pianist, Jerry Lee Lewis, married his 13-year-old first cousin once removed. He was 10 years older than his wife.

In 1874 the famous American outlaw of the Wild West, Jesse James, married his first cousin Zerelda "Zee" Mimms. They were married for 12 years later and his wife gave birth to two children.

The first wife of H G Wells, a famous English writer, the author of such science fiction novels as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds, was Isabel Mary Wells, the writer's first cousin. He later got divorced and married one of his students.

American poet, writer of short stories, editor and literacy critic Edgar Allan Poe clandestinely married Virginia Eliza Clemm, who was his 13-year-old first cousin.

Johann Sebastian Bach, a famous German composer and organist in 1707 married Maria Barbara Bach, who was his second cousin. She gave birth to 7 children. After her death the musician married Anna Magdalena Wilcke, who gave birth to 13 children.

The famous English naturalist, Charles Darwin, married his first cousin Emma Wedgwood. The couple had 10 children.

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Comments:

0 votes

//21 Aug 16, 2013 02:24 AM | posted by: yep
//16, That is like saying if your gonna smoke weed, you might as well as smoke crack! Cousins are not as close to you genetically as are aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces.
6 votes

//20 Jan 09, 2013 11:40 AM | posted by: BP
I feel that first cousin merriage is somwhat not OK but second cousin is jus find. But oh no.. Nephews, nieces, aunts are so wrong
7 votes

//19 Dec 26, 2012 03:08 PM | posted by: aam aadmi
Do whatever ur heart says.If ur feeling guilty about the relation,then it is wrong.If ur are fully comitted ,it's right.Fcuk all those over educated bastards out there,just listen to ur heart bcoz while falling in love u didn't read any article.
7 votes

//17 Feb 07, 2012 11:11 PM | posted by: Amber
Thank you.. I say this because you've shown me hope. I did fall in love with my first cousin. At first i didn't know he was but when i found out.. i didn't want to leave him. Im not a religious person at all but I pray angels watch over you for as long as you live. Thank you for giving me and my to be husband hope for our future.
6 votes

//16 Apr 21, 2011 06:13 PM | posted by: Elke
If cousin marriages are acceptable, then aunt nephew unions should also be.
11 votes

//15 Apr 09, 2011 09:40 PM | posted by: Unknown
First cousins having children is not that risky. Moreover, the Bible does not forbid it (i'm atheist). I think we should not focus on the consequences after multiple generations of first cousins because it's an extreme case : it's not because one marries his first cousin that the next generation will do so. Anyway, we don't choose who we fall in love with.

I don't think that marrying our cousins is the first choice to make, but it's not immoral either.
I understand people who don't like it (we all have different opinions), but those who call those cousins "sick" are stupid and ignorant.
My parents are first cousins and i'm perfectly normal, not like those stupid people !!
7 votes

//14 Jan 29, 2011 10:36 AM | posted by: FactChecking
This is a slippery slope, the Bible allows uncle/niece marriage but not aunt/nephew marriage and should we allow such marriages because genetic risk is low after all we don't forbid folks with down syndrome from getting married or cystitis fibrosis and having children. The risk of cousin marriage is only slightly higher than the general population and less than a woman having children in her late 30s. The risk of sibling is higher but aunt/niece/haf-sister may be less , for instance 6% for a half-sibling.

Interestingly in Iceland second or third cousins are optimal than the general population and this is not by choice as Iceland has historically been isolated so few partners now of course many folks probably should marry outside the family and there are several partners to choose from, I don't view cousin marriage generally so as incest because there are many circumstances such as distant relationships, cross culture and cross cousin marriage, etc of course there are many slippery slopes as to allowing which cousin to marry or not, one should not assume that a cousin is like a sibling and not like a sibling, maybe america should have more cousin marriage but not like middle east.

The middle east people marry their cousins although not all so a study cannot really be done, it is significant for instance a third of all marriages. In Islam however rules of hijab dictate cousins however why do folks marry their cousins , so cousin is family after all.
12 votes

//13 Jan 25, 2011 01:06 PM | posted by: Unknown
religion does not forbid first cousin marriage, and science proves that there is as much chance of having disability in children as a 40+ year old women having children. I say go for it a good example is to look at s Charles Darwin who married a first cousin.
14 votes

//12 Nov 24, 2010 11:19 AM | posted by: Tar
There is nothing in the Bible against marrying first cousin. marriage between cousin makes them even more closer. I dont know why still some bastards are screaming against it. FUCK THOSE BASTARDS WHO IS AGAINST IT. it is non of their business.
10 votes

//10 Oct 28, 2010 06:48 PM | posted by: Painfulldarksoul
No one should judge people, who are in love. Who cares what the bible says? It's two who are in love and not the bible, pope, science, society, government and law.
10 votes

//9 Feb 18, 2010 11:56 PM | posted by: lottie
who cares what science is behind it, what does the pope want? (The guy who is supposed to be celibate, wears a dress, and has men kissing his ...ring) He is the one who is the leader in this.
10 votes

//8 Feb 01, 2010 03:25 PM | posted by: nelly
accoding to the Acians point of view,there are enough first cousine marriages .it doesnt bring chaos to lives.it is not considered as a sin or something beside the social norms.there are eough of examples to prove it.
12 votes

//7 Dec 25, 2009 08:32 PM | posted by: Unknown
I don't care what anybody says, marriage between cousin's is absolutely and completely sick, and anybody who does it is a sick gross pig. There are plenty of people out there to choose from
13 votes

//6 Feb 20, 2009 07:33 AM | posted by: Someone
According to Religion, it is acceptable, but God has given us enough Scientific evidence to realize that over time the risk factor rises. If two first cousins married from generation to generation, this would cause a multiplied risk. That is the danger of marrying first cousins. Using common sense, it would be wise to say that marrying a first cousin should only be as a last resort.

Cheers! =D
20 votes

//5 Dec 30, 2008 06:00 PM | posted by: Carol
Ted makes the best point. It's the cumulative effects over time that give rise to these taboos. Of course, modern morons care only about today.
17 votes

//4 Dec 30, 2008 04:16 PM | posted by: Ted
Well, this says the risk is low when one set of cousins reproduce, but what happens when multiple generations of cousins continue to reproduce? More Hapsburg-like problems?
8 votes

//3 Dec 28, 2008 07:11 AM | posted by: Sam
Einstein also married his cousin, though they had no children.
10 votes

//2 Dec 25, 2008 11:18 PM | posted by: Keith
The Bible says lots of things, none of which apply here.
15 votes

//1 Dec 25, 2008 08:33 PM | posted by: Ton
Forget what scientists say, what does the bible say.....

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