The Surprising Truth About Cousins and Marriage

Jamie M. asks: When did people stop thinking it was OK to marry your cousin?

heart2In modern western society, marrying your cousin is not well accepted, particularly in the United States. Through a combination of old prejudices and present-day conventional wisdom about inherited birth defects, first cousin marriage is seen by many as a little too close for comfort, as well as a bad idea if you want children.

However, first cousin marriage is far more common, and far less dangerous, than many of us have been led to believe, as you’ll soon see. Further, if you include second cousins in the mix, according to the Clinical Genetics Handbook, the increased risks with regards to having children are nearly non-existent in this case compared with non-cousin marriage.

Banning Cousin Marriages

While there have been instances of the banning of marriage between cousins at various points through history, such as the Roman Catholics banning the practice for a time starting with the Council of Agde in 506 AD, for the most part marriage among cousins has been popular as long as people have been getting married.  In fact, it is estimated that as many as 80% of the marriages in human history have been between first or second cousins.

This switch in cousin-marriage’s acceptance began in earnest in some parts of the Western world in the mid-19th century. Specifically, until the 1860s or so, first cousins commonly married in Europe and the U.S. In fact, Charles Darwin, Mr. Natural Selection himself, was married to his first cousin Emma Wedgwood.

Nonetheless, the practice soon fell out of fashion in the United States. Although never outlawed in England, during the second half of the 19th century, many states began to ban marriages between first cousins, as part of a larger movement after the Civil War for greater state involvement in a variety of areas, including education, health and safety.

Researchers note that the distinction in marriage bans between England and the U.S. may be explained by the fact that, in the United States, the practice “was associated not with the aristocracy and upper middle class [Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were second cousins] but with much easier targets: immigrants and the rural poor.”

Regardless, cousin marriage bans began popping up across the states, with the first in Kansas (1858). Ohio, NH, NV, ND, SD, WA and WY banned the practice in the 1860s, and many more had enacted bans by the 1920s. The most recent state to ban cousin marriage was Texas in 2005.

Today, first cousins may not marry in AR, DE, IA, ID, KS, KY, LA, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TX, WA and WV. First cousin marriage is allowed without restriction in 19 states, and with some restrictions in AZ, IL, IN, ME, UT, WI and NC (in North Carolina, while first cousins may marry, “double cousins” may not- more on this one in a bit.)

The distinction lies in the debate about whether or not there is an increased risk that the partners’ shared genes will produce an increased chance that their offspring will have recessive, undesirable traits. A recent report on births in a British-Pakistani community (where first cousin marriage is very common) demonstrated that first cousin children there were twice as likely to be born with “potentially life threatening birth defects” as compared with the children of unrelated parents.

Advocates on the other side point out that this resulted in only a 6% chance for the children in the study, as compared with a 3% chance for the population as a whole. For your reference, this increase in birth defect rate is about the same as the increased risk of a woman having a baby when she is 40 vs. when she is 30.  Proponents here point out that few would advocate banning a 40 year old woman from having children.

They also point to recent testing that placed the increased risk of spina bifida and cystic fibrosis at only 1.7% -2.8% higher than for children of unrelated parents. Further, researchers point out that “the widely accepted scare stories – even within academia – and the belief that cousin marriage is inevitably harmful have declined in the face of some of the data we’ve been producing.”

Double Cousins

Some reconcile the two findings by noting that the children born with defects in the recent British study may, in fact, have been double cousins (best explained by an example):

If a girl and her sister . . . meet two brothers, they pair off . . and each couple produces a baby . . . those kids [would be double cousins]

A community nurse who works among the Pakistani community in the British study opined:

A first cousin marries a first cousin and the couple’s own grandparents are cousins, too. I have heard of first-cousin marriages going back generation after generation in some families.

Cross-Cousins vs. Parallel Cousins 

In some societies, first cousin marriage is traditional and well-accepted, although many make a distinction between “cross-cousins” and “parallel cousins.”

Cross cousins have parents who are siblings, but of the opposite sex. The parents of parallel cousins are also siblings but are of the same sex (this chart may help explain).

In cultures where cross cousins are encouraged and parallel discouraged, it is often an inherited taboo, passed down from when there was greater inter-marriage and inter-mingling among the members of an extended family – with a greater chance that first cousins could also be half-siblings:

Fathers who are also brothers may overtly or covertly share sexual relations with the wife of one or the other . . . . Likewise, mothers who are also sisters may overtly or covertly share sexual access to the husband of one or the other, raising the possibility that apparent parallel cousins are actually half-siblings, sired by the same father . . . .[With] cross cousins, because in the absence of full-sibling incest, it is unlikely [they] . . . can share a father . . . [unless a] mother had a brother whose wife was impregnated by [mother’s husband].

This is not very likely to happen in modern societies that practice first-cousin marriage. In fact, in a number of countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Yemen and in the Palestinian Territories, paternal parallel cousin marriage is the preferred form of consanguineous marriage.

Cousin Marriages Today

Globally, cousin marriages are still going strong, with an estimated 10% of all marriages in the world being between cousins, and has high as 50% in some regions of the world. In addition to those countries mentioned above, the “overwhelming majority of cross-cousin marriages appear among the Islamic cultures of North Africa, and those of West and Central Asia.”

However, cousin marriage is making a comeback in the U.S., as well, as more and more studies continue to debunk the overblown risks once commonly touted.

First cousins marrying in 21st century America discover that many states no longer regulate the practice. Likewise, most sects of Christianity do not forbid it, which would be hard to do given cases like Isaac and Rebekah in the Book of Genesis. For instance, the Methodist Church, has “no official position on marriage between cousins.”

Nonetheless, it’s not easy being in a first cousin marriage in some regions of the world. As one man in such a relationship recently discussed, some members of the couple’s immediate family no longer speak to them and have never met the couple’s children. On top of that, he stated,

We don’t typically tell folks. We told our daughters, “It’s not something to be ashamed of, but [don’t] tell your friends . . . people are fickle, and preteens and teens can be downright cruel.”

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Bonus Facts:

  • Some famous individuals who married their first cousins include: Albert Einstein (with his second wife Elsa), H.G. Wells (with Isabel Mary Wells), Saddam Hussein (with Sajida Talfah), Christopher Robin Miln and his wife Leslie (the former being of Winnie the Pooh fame), and Edgar Allen Poe with Virginia Clemm, among many, many more.
  • Edgar Allen Poe married Virginia Clemm  when he was 26 and she 13. She died just 11 years later, inspiring some of his more famous poems, such as “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee”. A friend of Poe’s, Charles Burr, wrote, “Many times, after the death of his beloved wife, was he found at the dead hour of a winter night, sitting beside her tomb almost frozen in the snow.”
  • A recent famous example of a second cousin marriage was between Rudy Giuliani and (his now ex-wife) Regina Peruggi.
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  • Darwin is a perfect example of the problems caused by multiple-generation close-relative marriages.

    Charles Darwin’s parents were first cousins, and the Wedgewood family had multiple generations of close-relative marriages.

    When families intermarry for multiple generations, the odds that aren’t so bad the first time rapidly increase, until you get the health problems and lack of ability to reproduce like Darwin’s kids or like much of the royal families of Europe around 1900.

    For all of the many flaws of the eugenics movements, the effort to constrain close-family marriage isn’t a bad idea.

  • Edwin Clarke

    The fact that there are no known cases where evolution has elected to prevent interbreeding between cousins in any species indicates that human interference in this regard is not well thought out. Only the perceived negative effects of cousin marriage is sprouted and seldom the benefits.
    For example: from NESCent at:
    http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/nesc-wnm042512.php
    ——–
    quote:
    “One surprising and oft-neglected advantage of marriage between close biological relatives is a phenomenon called purging, in which disease genes are exposed and removed from the gene pool.
    Thanks to purging, marriage between close relatives in early human populations would have kept the prevalence of genetic disorders low”
    ————

    Fighting against nature is never a great idea. Whatever the good intentions, in the end, banning cousin marriage will increase heritable genes in the human gene-pool; and possibly other negative effects we do not yet understand.

    Therefore: marry your cousin! It will benefit your grandchildren and the human race!

    • omar

      nice well done explanation.

    • Hugo

      The problem is though that it leads to very low IQs as well as the physical problems, which could well be at a sub-clinical level. This lowered intelligence explains the obvious failure of certain societies in the modern world.

      • Donna

        The idea of lower intelligence when a child is born to close cousins is not always true. Just as there may be recessive genes that carry some disorder, there may also be recessive genes that have strong phenotypes. Here in RI many of the families intermarried with first cousins in the early generations but there’s no record I have found of any problem. These people were strong enough to sail across an ocean, prosper in an unknown land, and survive the various scourges to which they were exposed as well as harsh climates. They passed down those strong genes associated with survival, unlike the houses of Europe that intermarried and passed down hemophilia.

      • Donna

        If you measure the intelligence of a country, ie their literature, engineering contributions, art, etc you can see a clearly just how much genetics matter in the world. Hundreds of years of cousins marrying cousins has produced a race of lower intelligence people.

    • sam

      Cousin marriage increases the risk of genetic disorders, albiet a small increase of 3%, but not worth the risk,however if your gene pool is great, then its different, in iceland folks married their second cousins throughout generations without a problem,infact they have superior genes some say.

      Banning any marriage due to children’s genetic possibility is silly reasoning, we don’t ban folks with down syndrom,tay sachs,etc from marrying others with that gene.

    • Corie

      Human interference is well thought out, inbreeding has been proven to show over multiple generations will cause recessive gene disorders that could become active in various groups, and that gene variation is good once in a while even if it is not all the time.

      As a warning sign, More so to say continue this inbreeding and face the consequences of mother nature.

      source: http://helorimer.people.ysu.edu/inbred.html
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2080450/

      Also these practices devalue people and oppress others..
      Why do I say oppress others? We can look to groups that still practice relative marriages, or cousin marriages over time and see the devaluing of women, forced arranged marriages, child marriages, and domestic violence is widely prevalent. I am strictly against forced arranged marriages, forced marriages continue to allow for such devastation in countries where they are practiced. And does not allow free will of the human being. Humans are not cattle to be traded like animals. A lot of these youth are social conditioned from a young age to marry a relative, or cousin or forced to marry someone against there will or emotionally blackmailed. Relatives and Parents have there own hidden agenda, in my opinion

      History pov:
      This is where the fault lies here, where groups misuse mother nature to inbreed and “keep it in the family” greed and money driven societies give rise. That is the curse, and it can be looked on of the pass as human history “always” repeats itself and this is fact and one thing we can learn about history. That such evils or social evils in civilization always fall, and create division and corruption.

      if we look into human history, humans were not widely dispersed as we are today, groups and communities lived in small communities which made them intolerant to outsiders, however some groups could have been more welcoming and vice versa.
      there is no doubt that survival of the fittest was at its point of the pass. However with modernization today, there is no need to continue such backward outmoded practices. The pass women had no value, she had no say to such marriages and agreed or else was punished by law of the customs of the tribe, this is universal all over the world that women were second to men.

      Now that being said, clever as our ancestors were they inbreed in order to populate the earth, we actually have to thank them otherwise the human race could have gone to nothing, however that is of the pass and groups moved for water supply or food resources, trade, resources, etc, people did come in contact with groups and mated and had relations outside of immediate groups, and children were born outside of groups to populate the land. Know one on this earth is “pure blood”… stretching so far back one cannot even begin to understand how many people mated where and stayed and some continued to travel..
      anyway,
      Times have changed and there is a reason why this modernization has happened and that people can widely communicate today, not only is this outstanding to understand early marriages and early practices of humans on earth, it also shows that the time’s today is pointing us in the direction to better understand everyone and come to conclusion that we are all similar and different in many ways, and shows that it is now our duty to become tolerant of others and not vicious towards outsiders, and celebrate our differences, similarities and uniqueness.

      We also can look at uncontacted tribes today that continue to live in isolation, there behavior for various reasons is prevent contact of outside humans , they are fear of outsiders because people always fear the unknown of what is outside of there immediate group over time, or fear of oppression, slavery etc, But what could have created such fears? Mostly fear is out of the unknown, not understanding of others, fear of oppression, slavery, what could they do to us? These kinds of thoughts, or they think they are better than us? Or we are better than them? This is how we think, we do it, whether we want to admit to it or not, unconsciously we migrate to people closely to us
      this also could be the reason such intolerance to people that are a different races etc, humans of the pass thought “to protect mine only” for “SURVIVAL” this could be why such practices became of rise? Knowone wanted outsiders coming in and destroying the clan ways, per say, that is why I think biologically we as humans fear and segregate unknowingly from people that do not look, act, like us, because that is our ancestors pass of preventing harm to the clan, it is biological instinct to protect what is mine. Just my two cents on this matter

      • Cfitzso5

        We came from a gene pool group of perhaps only a thousand people out of Africa 200,000 ago after all.

  • LOVEPAREEK

    DISAPPOINTING………U HAVE WELL PRESENTED THE PRESENT EXTANT STATUS OF COUSIN MRRGS WELL, BUT FLOUNDERED ON REASONS WHEREAS YOUR TOPIC IS NOT ON ACTUAL STATUS BUT THE “WHY” OF THE MATTER. PARTICULARLY, U R HARPING ON SCIENTIFIC CAUSES, BUT THATS MUCH LATER. THE SOCIOLOGICAL CAUSES INCLUDING PSYCHOLOGICAL ASPECTS AV BEEN LEFT UNTOUCHED. I M SURE THAT THERE IS MUCH MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE IN THIS COMPLEX PHENOMENON. WE EXPECT ALWAYS MUCH BETTER FRM U, MELISSA.

  • Guillaume

    Not a lot of information here. I would have enjoyed a little bit of a fresh look at all the infamous stories of consanguine practises. Perhaps a modern look at alpine cretinism or at the Bourbon chin?
    As far as I know, marying cousins is about keeping wealth in the family and strangers out. This tends to makes it a multi generation practice – which I’m not willing to believe is that harmless.
    Thanks anyway, I guess someone had a valentine to tend to…
    Looking forward to your next post.

  • CM

    Well-researched and splendidly written. Sadly, I suppose that a few folks convinced they “know” a lot of things that aren’t actually based in fact so much as misguided belief will have much to say in response. For those folks, all of the facts won’t matter; a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.

    • Hugo

      Baroness Flather (born in Pakistan herself) said because of ‘inbreeding’, members of the ethnic group are 13 TIMES more likely than the rest of the UK population to have disabled children.
      As for the article being well researched, it isn’t. The author states that study after study debunk the myth of inbreeding. Not one reference is given. All you have to do is speak to any geneticist or pig-farmer and they’ll tell you the dire consequences of cousin marriages especially if repeated generation after generation. But just go to the hospitals in the UK with large inbred populations and you can see its devastating effects.

  • Charles

    Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were FIRST cousins not second cousins. Albert’s father and Victoria’s mother were brother and sister.

  • Srinivas P

    The cross-cousin and parallel cousin was interesting. I was looking for these English words.
    Not only in Pakistan, but the entire Indian sub-continent (India, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and probably Burma) has the practice of marrying cousins. However there are cultural differences. In the northern Indian states, cousin marriages are itself discouraged. It is predominant in South India –
    a. Boy can marry father’s sister’s daughter
    b. Boy can marry mother’s brother’s daughter
    c. Boy can marry sister’s daughter

    As rightly put by @Guillaume, it is more about keeping wealth in the family and strangers out.

    • Sam B

      Yes it is more about wealth, in fact there is a reason that cousin marriage is on the upward trend in certain arab countries, where there is more wealth, and possibly more “modern” exposure to outside cultures, such as in the uae, and other arab countries where its more international to an extent despite autocratic and strict rules.

      As far as the cross cousin,it existed partially because your mother’s dad could have cheated with your mother’s sister, but it was less likely that he would cheat with mother’s sister-in-law. Thus lowering the possibly of siblings marrying each-other if say you wanted to marry your cousin but you could actually be marrying a half-sister.

  • Akshata

    In India cousin marriage from maternal side are quite common.
    A mother’s son can marry his uncles daughter(mother’s brothers daughter) but not vice versa.
    Other relationship marriages are considered taboo

    • Srinivas P

      @Akshata Not in all cases…South Indians can also marry their Paternal Aunt’s child.

    • YD Prasad

      I am from South-India. I recently joined in an IIT. Here I came to know that in North-India Cross-Cousin marriage is also considered taboo, where in South-India only Parallel-Cousin (Mother’ sisters children or Father’s brothers Children) marriage is considered taboo. It was shocking for me then. But, what ever the practises it was, the educated of the South needs to delve into whether Cross-Cousin Marriage is also a cause for Off-spring disability and change accordingly if necessary..
      And also I remember listening from people from my childhood that Cross-cousin marriage(we call it menarikam) should be avoided.. I didn’t understand the matter at that age but I can connect it now..
      🙂

      • graham

        In Bengali culture, any type of cousin marriage is forbidden.

        • Manna

          Graham… I’m not sure if you are talking about Bengalis from India or Bangladeshis so I’ll just say that in Bangladesh a lot of people still marry their cousins.

  • Gail

    “Cross cousins have parents who are siblings, but of the opposite sex.”

    this appears to be a description of incest, it can’t be correct.(?)

    • Sara

      While cousin marriages are considered as incest, I think you’re a bit confused. Cross cousins are simply first cousins who are children of a brother and sister. For instance, my mother and her brother are siblings of the opposite sex, therefore my mother’s brother’s son is my cross cousin.

    • Mike

      ‘“Cross cousins have parents who are siblings, but of the opposite sex.”

      this appears to be a description of incest’

      No. It can be assumed that each of the cross cousins has a distinct set of parents. (otherwise they would siblings, not cousins) One cousin’s father and the other cousin’s mother are siblings.

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  • shiv

    can we continue our generation without marriage n sex? in any family can brothers n sisters continue their generation without marriage n sex? cause i have one boy n 1 girl n i dnt wana send my daughter out my family? is that posible? plz ans someone

  • YD Prasad

    I am from South-India. I recently joined in an IIT. Here I came to know that in North-India Cross-Cousin marriage is also considered taboo, where in South-India only Parallel-Cousin (Mother’ sisters children or Father’s brothers Children) marriage is considered taboo. It was shocking for me then. But, what ever the practises it was, the educated of the South needs to delve into whether Cross-Cousin Marriage is also a cause for Off-spring disability and change accordingly if necessary..
    And also I remember listening from people from my childhood that Cross-cousin marriage(we call it menarikam) should be avoided.. I didn’t understand the matter at that age but I can connect it now..
    🙂

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  • BPL

    I have been concerned about my husbands aunt’s grandson, is dating our granddaughter, I thought they are cousins, way down the line I know but I have always been told it is in the blood line, that the off spring could be affected is this true..please help me understand. I have great concerns.

    Thank You,

    BPL

    • Sew.dodge

      Your husband’s aunt’s grandson and your husband’s granddaughter…

      See the attached link to Wikipedia for the source chart:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cousin

      Looks to me like they are second cousins. There are generally no more problems between second cousins and unrelated partners wrt genetic issues.

      But perhaps by now, this is no longer a consideration.

  • Charles White

    Found this to be a little helpful. I have been researching my family history and discovered that in my 4th Great Grandparents family (sons, daughters and grandchildren) there is a total of 10 marriages of cousins that I have been able to verify. 1 first cousins marriage, 1 second cousins marriage, and 8 1st cousins once removed marriages. I had known my 2nd Great Grandfather had married his 1st cousin once removed, but it was a real eye opener to discover just how deep that practice ran in one section of my family.

  • Neergish

    In Australia not only is it legal for cousins to marry, a nephew may marry his aunt and niece may marry her uncle.

    • Sam B

      This is also true in minnesota and colorado I believe.

  • Steve B.

    I had two kids with my sister and they were fine. My brother and our mother had a child and they seemed fine. My father was having sex with my sister and she had a baby with down syndrome. So one out of four turned out not so good. I would not recommend first cousins having children and only maybe second cousins.
    The rich and the Kings of Europe would try to keep the money in the family and they would marry, but then the problems came when their offspring had children with double cousins and then you get problems.

  • Jeff Fitzhugh

    With the high divorce rate it would make sense for cousins to marry if just to raise children they had with someone else. Or have children with someone else, but don’t marry them. The problem with having kids is never the kids. It’s the spouse you chose. She or he might be a maggot and all you wanted was kids out of the deal and not have to deal with them for 50 years. So it would make a lot of sense to have children with someone and then marry your cousins.

  • Sidra

    I am Pakistani, and my uncle is married to his first cousin, and also three of my cousins married three of my other cousins. I was born and raised in the States, so I was totally shocked that this was actually a thing. Then I came to find out that basically half my friends were the offspring of cousin marriages (all healthy, except two of them have ears that stick out).

    After seeing these marriages for a decade, I am kind of ambivalent about them.

    The best case I can see of cousin marriage is my cousin Arman in Canada, who married his cousin Sana from Pakistan. They have a very healthy, handsome son and they are happy together. Unlike many families, where parents are ditched when the kids get married, she has moved into her husband’s family home. The grandparents are so happy that they can live with their son, daughter-in-law, and grandson, instead of all alone. It has also benefitted her; she is going for her master’s degree, and this would have been much harder if she had to worry about childcare during her classes. She shares cooking and laundry with her mother-in-law; there isn’t the stress of normal household work.

    The worst case is my other cousin, Maliha. She has ZERO chemistry with her husband; he is honestly much much uglier than her. Attraction is not only superficial; it is a biological signal of whether someone could be a good match. I think their intense distaste of each other is a sign that they are totally not a good match. Unfortunately, both were pressured into it, and since their parents are bro and sis, they don’t want to divorce because it would mess up family unity.

    The problem with cultures that emphasize cousin marriage is that it is very hard to say no, especially if there is no alternative match in mind. This can promote unhealthy situations like my cousin Maliha is in. However, if two cousins happily like each other, without coercion, then I do not find it to be anything wrong.

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  • Peter

    Well Written Article!
    I’m from Australia and have married my second cousin from Holland and we have 3 lovely children together. I can say that we love each other dearly and that is what matters most. I don’t tell people about it because in Western Society people think it’s weird and even a close family member called it incest which it is not. I actually think that having a blood relative family bond with your spouse makes for a stronger and more trusting marriage which is the case in many societies where cousins marry and is so lacking in western countries.

    • William H. Burke, Jr.

      Peter, I think you comment is very interesting and right on! I think if two cousins love each other that they have every bit as much right to marry as anyone else. And I also agree that having a “blood relative family bond” makes for a stronger and more trusting marriage. When you marry your cousin, you know what you are getting, with a stranger, you don’t.

      • sam

        Well what about uncle,niece,aunt,half-sibling, your statement is partially true in india, where problems with in-laws,abuse of anti-dowry laws,drama, and clashes between tradition,modernization, have led some to make a more voluntary decision to marry your cousin.

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  • assman

    The problem with cousin marriage is not genetic. The problem is that it leads to tribalism. Countries that have widespread cousin marriage have tribalism and can never form real nation states. Iraq is a good example. Cousin marriage should be banned completely.

    • Mike M

      Your conclusion is ridiculous. Tribalism is not caused by cousins marrying, it’s caused by rigid adherence to traditions even when they become outdated or harmful. the marrying of cousins is a side effect of tribal mentality, not the other way around.

      • Sam B

        Well, the effect of cousins marrying can contribute to the tribal mentality, simply put the tribal mentality exists in places where cousin marriage is predominant.

        • gofuckurself

          that doesn’t mean it’s a contributor in the slightest.

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  • I am from Philippines and I have a case of planning to marry my girlfriend who is the daughter of my uncle, my grandfather and her grandmother were both brother and sister could it be allowable to marry her here in our country from Philippines?? Is there no possible effects of having a defected child someday??
    Please help me understand it will, I really need your suggestions and clarification..

    • You know what, we have the same case. I love my second cousin. I love her. Her mother is my mom’s first cousin. My grandfather and her grandmother are brothers and sisters. So me and her are second cousin. I want to know if marrying your second cousin is allowed here in the Philippines. My other problem is, it is acceptable? Do you think her parents will allow me to marry my love one?

      • sam

        I’m sure you can look it up on the internet, I believe first cousin is not allowed, as far as genetic defect, its hard to tell, there might be a small increase,but there could be a benefit depending on genes

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  • graham

    One third of all handicapped children in Uk are born to Pakistani parenst, and a large number of the parents are first cousins.

  • Maggie

    This is a great piece. I can’t believe the harsh responses – implications that the author is distracted by Valentines day? I think it reflects poorly on a website to post personal critiques such as these. If anyone is mad about the article they should write their own. These people should be supporting you- not spewing sexist bullshit.

  • KCLM

    If my cousins dad is my grandfather’s cousin and my girlfriend mom is cousins of my uncle but not related to my grandfather. Are we related? we are freaking out

    • Jack Norm

      Well, K, it depends if they have any common ancestor.

  • roger f brake

    IM a white Canadian , I married a Pakistani . she has 2 brothers and one sister, the parents are first cousins and have cousin marriage history going back forever . One brother is a permanent resident in a mental hospital . the other brother is a total recluse , both are severely underweight and will never ever fit into any society . the sisters are somewhat more normal although my wife will never work again because of a heart attack and stroke at age 52 . The father has a club hand , he is 82 and is extremely intelligent , the mother is 74 and is living a horrible existence . My opinion is that yes first cousin marriage may be o.k once in awhile , but over and over again will definitely produce unhealthy offspring .

  • Karl

    cousin-marriage conserves family/clan/tribe resources

    before electricity and mechanization, the line between life & death was so fragile – 99.9% of humans COULD NOT afford to take chances on dissapating accumulations of resources.

    It is NOT cousin-marriage cultures which feature 40% of women on anti-depressant medications……

    • Sam B

      Your comment makes little sense, I doubt 40% of woman are on ADs, are they over-prescribed yes, but certainly not to that extent and that may vary by country. Also some ADs are like street drugs in a way, and lots of folks use it though many don’t.

  • Karl Napp

    The British studies show that the risk of genetic diseases is rather 10 times as high, partly because many families have practiced cousin marriages over several generations :

    “Sadly, the facts speak for themselves. British Pakistanis, half of whom marry a first cousin (a figure that is universally agreed), are 13 times more likely to produce children with genetic disorders than the general population, according to Government-sponsored research.

    One in ten children from these cousin marriages either dies in infancy or develops a serious life-threatening disability.

    While British Pakistanis account for three per cent of the births in this country, they are responsible for 33 per cent of the 15,000 to 20,000 children born each year with genetic defects.

    The vast majority of problems are caused by recessive gene disorders, according to London’s Genetic Interest Group, which advises affected families. ”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1394119/Its-time-confront-taboo-First-cousin-marriages-Muslim-communities-putting-hundreds-children-risk.html

    • Sam B

      Two thoughts that are not often mentioned by the author and posters, where cousin marriage is common and prevalent, it isn’t a matter of someone marrying their cousin, but possible someone marrying a “double” or one and a half cousin, if your parents and grandparents married “their cousins”, then its different in a generational sense, rather than most american families where someone decides to marry their cousin which is unusual and not generational.

      • Sam B

        Let me add that the author did discuss this, but since its generational it could even more than say a double cousin, it could be like marrying a one and a half sibling, since if your parents,grandparents,and great-grandparents married their cousin.

  • Sifiso Eze

    blessed love n greetings, I am inlove with my mother’s uncle’s daughter wich means she’s my aunt I think but she’s younger than me all the same. Is she of my same blood or not?

  • TJW

    This article was well written and interesting. The information contained within had a fresh twist on the subject of cousin marriages opposed to other information that can be readily viewed on the internet. The article also gives us the world’s current trend on cousin marriages, which also is very insightful. My take on the article is that the writer has a positive vested interest. Thank you for putting it out there for us!

    Additionally, the comments made thereafter are from people who also have a vested interest, although not always positive. Many of the negative comments made were based upon un-open-mindedness, biases and/or newspaper articles that were not conclusively research-based and also skewed to a select few groups of people.

    As a person from the United States with European ancestry, of Christian faith, and no known knowledge of cousins marrying cousins in my specific family history, from what information I have found, I believe that amongst many, many cultures since the history of all of our human existence, there have been cousin marriages. Maybe they weren’t always first or second cousins, but these marriages happened all over the world in order for us to populate the earth since the time of Genesis. Do your homework here people.

    Personally, as an over 50, divorced, mother of two grown-children, educated at the Masters level and a grounded professional, I have seen the U.S. trend growing in this area and have personal experience in this area as well. I am currently dating a first cousin once removed. Many people would refer to us as second cousins. I did not grow up knowing him. I knew of him as a child, but then he left the area I grew up in and he became a desert storm war hero, military career man, and a mental health police officer residing far away from me for 35 years in another geographical location the United States.
    Three years ago we unexpectedly ran into each other and have been getting along together ever since that time. Have we told everyone we know that we are related? NO. You all know the answer of why we have not shared this information… I have a different married name. Honestly, our lives are complicated because of our association, but also, ours has been one the most meaningful relationships I have ever had in my life.
    How does everyone in our separate families handle it? That is a mixed bag with challenges all the time- most all of our older family members handle it well and want us to be happy together. Younger family members, because of the stigma that goes along with the concept handle things somewhat poorly.
    Will we ever marry???? Only time will tell. Currently, society’s view has a little to do with my choices here because marrying a cousin is possibly more harshly judged than living a gay or lesbian lifestyle.

    • Sam B

      In some cultures even second cousins are considered like siblings or extended families, having said that in Iceland it wasn’t uncommon for second cousins to marry due to lack of available partners, and their genetics have not suffered, in fact many positive attributes.

  • am a kenyan,ad i fall inlover with my second cousin last 2yrs.We have beared a well boy kid and strong one,my quiz is,am i wrong to marry her?

  • renatta

    These cousin marriages ought to be forbidden. My grandparents were first cousins. He drank like a fish and grandmother lived in poverty all her life. He also verbally abused her. They produced one son who had the intelligence of an idiot. In his later years, he became quite the nuisance and had to go to state mental care. For ten years, he lived a miserable existence. I know, this problem can surface in any family, but I do believe that low intelligence is passed on this way. None of his siblings got past the forth or fifth grade. I don’t think anybody has to resort to marrying a cousin. If you’re ;past child-bearing age, I don’t see a problem. Just leave the kids out of it.

    • Sam B

      I don’t think that’s a great reason, people may really love their cousins and have a happier relationship, especially in places like India, it’s weird but sometimes when a guy finds a new girl and there are problems with in-laws, customs,conflicts,etc it can be easier to marry your cousin, this is true even among the less “tribal” or traditional muslim folks. There are valid arguments against cousin marriage, but one’s bad experience may be another’s good experience.

    • Kaya

      I would wager a guess that the rampant alcoholism of your grandfather had more to do with the miserable lives of his wife and children than marrying his first cousin did. Chances are pretty good that if your grandfather was as much of a drunk as your post suggests that any wife and children of his would have had a miserable life anyway. Basically, it seems to me that the environment those children grew up in contributed more to their adult lives than their father marrying his cousin. If your grandfather was that bad of a drinker, it’s a pretty good bet he’d have drank just as much and treated ANY wife of his like crap, regardless of his biological connection to his chosen wife. He could have had a mail-order bride shipped from Europe and he likely still would have been a verbally abusive a$$wipe towards her and his children, and those hypothetical children likely wouldn’t have been any better off than the kids he had with his first cousin. Environment has as much affect on a person life as genetics, and that doesn’t sound like a great environment to grow up in.

      As for “low intelligence” – are they actually “mentally slow” or are they just unmotivated? It doesn’t sound like their father gave them a good example of hard work, education and improving their situation. Don’t blame low motivation and laziness on “low intelligence” – if there’s an actual mental disorder, that’s one thing, but growing up with a lazy, abusive alcoholic as a father isn’t exactly a recipe for a highly motivated “go-getter.”

      In short – your comment doesn’t appear to have anything to do with a cousin marrying a cousin. This is the exact same scenario a girl I went to school with faced – an alcoholic abusive father and a passive mother who was too scared to fight. Cousin-marriage has nothing to do with it. Alcohol is the problem, in her case and from the sounds of it, in your case as well. Your grandfather didn’t become an alcoholic *because* he married his cousin, he would have been an abusive alcoholic no matter who he married and his kids would have still suffered for it.

    • Cfitzso5

      Sounds like fetal alcohol syndrome rather than inbreeding.

    • April

      Interesting. I’ve had several multiple second cousin (no first cousin) marriages across 5 generations of my family beginning with my father’s parents. They’re all really smart (as in doctors and other accomplished professionals), but there are also a lot of individuals with mood disorders and alcoholism that are/were intelligent but not successful due to the substance abuse and psychological problems.

  • Firstromi

    This article was refreshing to read. And so were the comments from the readers. The internet is full of biases and harsh statements by people opposing marriages between first cousins. But Its nice to see a different side.

    Now my family – that is my grandparents or their children’s marriage on both mum and dad’s side- does not have a history or cousin marriages. All family members are happily married outside the family circle and we dont have any difficult genetic history. My family also does not consider it a good thing for cousins to marry because of the fact that they are raised as brothers and sisters. I am an indian but I live outside India. I must also be a weirdo because I seem to be that bird with a different brain who fell for her first cousin – mother’s sister’s son. I believe its mainly because we never grew up together. We meet for ten twenty days maximum in a year or two and then have no contact. I could have fallen for anyone- after all I am a university graduate with very high scores and scholarships. But my choice makes me rethink my own IQ. I could have fallen for anyone and I fell for him. We know that attraction happens for various reasons – when you find something you seek in a partner in that person or when that person helps you come out of a trauma. Both these reasons apply to me falling for him.

    Due to my family’s view on cousin marriages, my society and friends perspective , this feeling of mine is a close secret that Im writing here ( mainly because the reader’s community was supportive). Keeping it locked hurts because I have no courage to face intense battles that may follow after my confession. You might say love is when you fight for the person you love or want. I believe its best to safegaurd that person from critism than be selfish.

    Anyway, thank you all for your reasoning and logic. Its nice to know that there may be few birth defects.

    • CC

      It must be really hard for you. I just want you to know that not everyone is against it or think that it’s morally wrong. You have my support and I hope someday you’d be able to let your feelings out. Here’s a wonderful quote from one of my favorite books: “Love doesn’t always come when you want it to. Sometimes it just happens, despite your will.” <3

  • Andy

    Call me old fashioned and this is just my opinion, but if someone knowingly marries their kin its still incest and has a moral effect on that person. In my opinion it defies nature and poses a potential danger toin a child being born to the parents in all fairness i believe it should be avoided. Kissing cousins itsnt the norm and only a select few choose to participate in it. Imbreeding is wrong and any way you try it just cannot be justified.

    • gofuckurself

      incest isn’t immoral. You’re just a product of your environment so much so that you can’t recognize that information oppose’s opinions you’ve been taught as fact since you were a child. And stating incest defies nature is just plain dumb. Also simply having a child poses danger to the child more so at 35+ at which point it’s just as dangerous as first cousin’s having children which the article pointed out to you if you took a second to read it. And if you claim imbreeding is wrong please cite evidence. Although that wouldn’t work out in your favor because you would simply respond it’s common sense or other un-reasonable responses.

  • Cfitzso5

    My mother’s generation often married their cousins in farming communities, because they often socialised with extended family, none of them were in any way subject to genetic diseases or mentally impaired. My daughter is subject to haemocromatosis, a condition arising where both her parents were carriers of a recessive gene, her father and I were not related in any way but we both came from Anglo-Celtic back grounds. My husband’s (not my daughters father) family are Anglo-Irish gentry and his family tree is well documented going back to the 15th century. He was negative about the concept of cousins marrying, but I had point out he was the product of multiple of these, although mainly in the 17th and 18th century. These occurred for the same reasons as above; they were the main group that socially mixed. That and they wanted to keep the dowries in the family!

  • DERP

    Didn’t Einstein marry his first cousin? Would explain why the line never produced another genius!

    If we were talking computers and you married two identical source codes with ideological histories written in not so different languages it would produce spaghetti and meatballs, whether the code could run is not the problem the errors produced will have your programmers going bonkers. To the point they would just scrap the code base and start over from scratch.

    The whole idea needs to be banned, we don’t need a society full of Frankenmonsters with bipolar disorders running a mock. We don’t need to be reminded how beautiful some peoples eyes look or how their inner world shines when they express their uh subtle genetic disorder. It’s not beautiful having a disease trust me, I have inherited thyroid dysfunction from my mother and screwed up dental from my father. Somewhere down their lines I’m sure some idiots played house and it ended up in bad karma.

    • gofuckurself

      did you even read the article? And why the fuck do you think it’s immoral? If it’s immoral based on the data having a fucking child after 35 is just as immoral and after 40 it’s way more immoral. You’re seven layers of dumb and hide behind a societal bias that has no reason to believe what it does aside from being told it was wrong and not questioning it.

  • JDon357

    I found the article switched back and forth between ‘cousin’, ‘first cousin’, second, cross, parallel, etc. in such a way that is was difficult to be sure which the un-named author was discussing. It is easy to claim that historically – people married their ‘cousins’ without any real problems. It is also easy to imply that cultures that still do it do not suffer from ‘inbreeding’. But genetics and science say otherwise. Dredging up the minuscule number of people over the centuries who have married first cousins, without discussing their progeny – is ludicrous. But including Saddam Hussein as source of inspiration is downright laughable. So ‘todayfoundout’ that this site is more appropriate to get answers on questions like “How XOXO came to mean ‘hugs and kisses’ that definitive information on important questions.

    • gofuckurself

      you’re fucking retarded JDon357. The article cited studies that disprove what you’re asserting. Of course you disagreeing with it by invoking “science” is simply retarded because science indicates otherwise.

  • jusmastuff

    This is just really sick YUCK! no thanks keep on a hidin in them hills freaks!