The Surprising Truth About Cousins and Marriage

The Surprising Truth About Cousins and Marriage In 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. So where did the taboo against cousin marriage
start? 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
in 1858. Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming
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 cousin marriage is only allowed without restriction in 19 states, and with
some restrictions in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Utah, Wisconsin and North Carolina
(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% to 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.” It should also be noted that some of 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.”
This brings us to 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. 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. As noted in the book The Evolution of Sex,
“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. In the end, despite Western taboos today,
globally, cousin marriages are still going strong, with an estimated 10% of all marriages
in the world being between cousins, and as high as 50% in some regions of the world.
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, despite perhaps having laws against it. 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.” Bonus Fact:
• 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. A recent famous example of
a second cousin marriage was between Rudy Giuliani and (his now ex-wife) Regina Peruggi.

Michael Martin

100 Responses

  1. I know it's true about birth defects. One of my aunts married her cousin. Their child my oldest cousin as a result was maybe not what you might call mentally retarded but mentally deficient. He lived into his 70's and even married and had kids but like a lot of such people had an obsession. His was driving his road grader. My mother kept us, my brothers and I ,away from him. Don't know why. I 'm not sure if I ever met him but just read his obit online maybe a month ago. He died in 2000.

  2. It should be pointed out that Cousins Albert & Elsa Einstein refrained from having children together. Also, the health of at least one child of Charles Darwin was not the best. (A daughter dying at 10 or 11). Edgar A. Poe & his cousin-wife had no children

  3. If wish you'd have delved deeper into the consequences of first-cousin marriages over time. Inbreeding of the European monarchies seems to demonstrate that it's a bad idea.

  4. What's so wrong with marrying or dating your cousin it's a common thing in our country ✖_✖ edit: and also my parents are cousins

  5. The problem is, I don't know own who's my second cousin and I've probably never met him/her so I am stuck with my illegal crush on my first cousin

  6. Where I'm from it's totally normal…
    Tbh im shocked that people get disgusted by it.
    But that's okay it's just cultural differences.

  7. The issue is, of course, about the diversity of our gene pool. Lots of cousin marriages in successive generations will inevitably shrink the gene pool and enrich inheritable recessive diseases. In isolated, small populations like Finland, which until latter half of 20th century was a very closed, rural society, rare inherited diseases are relatively high precisely because of the necessarily frequent cousin marriages. Add to the mix incest in sparsely populated rural areas, and you'll have a growing population with almost no input into the pool. In big cities, gene exchange has always been going on, and so it has been in British aristocracy. Bastard sons and daughters have been loosely guarded semi-secrets in families, and many a woman has raised another man's child with her husband's knowledge.

  8. Speaking of marriage, how about Henry the VIII? He sure had plenty of them.

  9. I Love My 2nd Cousin Promise Im 12 And She Is 16 She Did'nt Know That She Is My Crush Plus She Is Too Cute And Sweet For Me Than Anyone Else And She Love Kitten's And I Love Cat's We Are The Same But I Want Her What Can I Do 😔

  10. The bans are very clearly not for genetic reasons. We don't stop people that have serious disorders with a 50/50 to pass them on from marrying.

  11. Regardless of how much more beneficial it would be to have the proper genetic diversity
    between the parents, and regardless of whether Creationism, Evolution or Panspermia
    is the beginning, we are all related!
    We all have those certain genetic markers that make us human, that trace us back to Mitochondrial EVE! In short… We are all one big (un)Happy Family here on this planet! 🙂

  12. Kissin cousins… It's not banned where I live. It is in some neighboring states. But what about kissing one's sister? Now that brings in all manner of possibilities, doesn't it…. The Hills Have Eyes… Brother and sister breeding can produce some undesirable attributes in their offspring, even in livestock or Pitbulls. But what's a guy to do when his sister is so hot, and she's right there, and she walks around the house in her dirty panties, and she loves to wrestle with her brother, and she comes on strong… Relative humidity: The sweat on your nuts when you're fucking your sister…

  13. Even if it’s legal (which it is in my state), and safe, it’s still gross. They are part of your blood FAMILY, the people who should never be a sexual partner.

  14. Consanguinity is a risk factor for increasing incidences of genetic disease. As such, this is always recorded if parents are related to each other during antenatal clinics.

  15. I had a huge crush on my second cousin as teens, but once discovered our parents keep a suspiciously watchful eye on all of our interactions. Well, that's one way to squash an undesirable match.

  16. Very cool, but I would like a more extensive video going into the genetics of why celestial relations result in birth defects and how cousins do/don't sync with this.

  17. Cousins are for practice,once you become a real adult you move onto siblings,if none are available uncles and aunts.

  18. I wouldn’t even be watching this video if my cousin wasn’t the sweetest gentleman I’ve ever come across + Unbelievably hot.
    Curse him for clouding my rational judgement.

  19. This is where I stand, if it ain't your brother, sister, mother, father, step-sibling, step parent, or true first cousin who the fuck cares? I'm honestly confused as to how it's any of anyone's business? Mind your own. It ain't you involved. I mean, to each his own and all that. It's not like genetic counseling isn't available. And it's not like it's any more taboo than any other marriage that is "not normal by society".

  20. i like my cousins kid (who is my age), is that okay, hes my dad cousin i think.

    we are very far in relation, is that wrong???

  21. Theres noting wrong with it ya'll think its disgusting but it aint love is love no matter who the person is also how come u dont think people changeing their genders and men putting makeup on isnt disgusting but marrying a cousin is its not harmful

  22. If a person's mother had them by her mother's brother; what are typical offspring likely to encounter? What characteristics are common to this degree of consanguinity?
    I'd love to see a video on the various degrees of consanguineous relationships.

  23. The taboo about marrying a cousin (or any relative) probably exists at least partially to keep the children on the farm from f-cking each other out of boredom or a lack of unrelated potential mates.

  24. One of the biggest things is that this is assuming that people want to have children. I know an Amish couple who are first cousins and are married but they agreed early on that they would never have children, and they never have. They were in love and are happily married to this day.

  25. Your map near the beginning was wrong. In Alabama it’s illegal….one of my first cousins fell in love with her 2nd cousin (on the other side of the family so I’ve never met him) and they wanted to marry but were denied marriage license in the heart of dixie (Alabama) so they drove 3 hours to Atlanta, Georgia where it was still legal and got married there. This was within the last 2 years.

  26. Here's an interesting question: if a state prohibited first cousin marriages because of eugenics, then would this reason apply between cousins of the same sex now that same-sex marriage is legal?

  27. I think people can do what they wish. The only real argument is just that it's "gross" or just "wrong" wich is also all they really got on gay people who deserve marriage right? There's also the health thing and rick for the offspring but there's also health risks just the same for many other things that are unquestionably legal. Just being gross or wrong in your personal opinion doesn't mean it should be illegal. I thought we where moving past that. Its the same thinking that made being gay so hard in the past.

  28. The Muslims still practice this.and the Irish practice this for a thousand years. Thats why they have red hair. The body will rejected this practice and turn the hair red. Also look at corsacor Franc lots of red heads there and nothing gets done.

  29. There's a first-cousin marriage in my family tree. I blame this for my scoliosis and bone-degeneration (which causes chronic pain) and also for my depression and anxiety. Mixed race marriages are much healthier and help to combat racism in general. Make love not war, just don't turn your family tree into a pole!

  30. If a western couple were to marry a childhood friend that they grew up with, it would be considered "cute" but when they're cousins it's suddenly disgusting to marry someone you grew up with? 🤷🏻‍♀️

  31. My parents are unrelated but my grandparents from my mom's side are cousins. No one else is. I've lived outside all my life and find cousin marriage a taboo and disgusting and would never get married to a cousin.Biologically and culturally (in my culture) there isnt a problem with first, second or third cousin marriage. The problem is when it is done generation after generation, this is a problem in many cultures, including mine. They need to fucking change. They use the excuse of religion but the prophet (Muhammad PBUH) warned against doing it generation after generation. Thank God I was born into a family where there isnt an obsession over getting married to your cousins.

  32. Is that how all English people pronounce the name Regina, so that it rhymes with vagina? In the US it is pronounced rə-jē-nə (ruh jee na).

  33. Crazy how I still like my first cousin but my mom and her mom are close to each other and me and my first cousin go to the movies a lot and we are very close but it’s so hard to forget about having a crush on her LOL😭

  34. That's okay if you have a Down syndrome child you can always tell people he's a future politician. As for Pakistani procedure that's first cousins that are usually between eight and 10 years old.

  35. Cousin intermarriage is still extremely common even in the US and Canada… not first cousins, but 2nd-4th is VERY VERY common in rural areas where relatively homogenous groups came as immigrants and have lived for a couple hundred years. In these areas it is often difficult to find someone who is NOT a cousin, and most people being related don’t even know how they are related. It’s hilarious how urban folks and people who live in areas without a long history are so shocked and hung up about this. If you want to know about current cousin intermarriage just find the rural area your family last came from with a history of 150 years or more and start working out the family trees! It will be an eye opening experience. All of us come from very very very long lines of continuous (every generation) lines of cousin marriage.

  36. The Resulting Children will have IQ'S lower than the Parents by 10-16 percent over generations ALL offspring will be classed as mentally retarded by there low IQ,,,75 percent of Muslim's attempting to join the swiss military failed the IQ test,,,Which is 80,,compared to 25 percent of the average Swiss population ,,History Now Proves this,,50 million Cousin Marrying Muslims in Europe 80 percent Out of Work and The TRUTH to Unintelligent to Train or Understand simple instructions

  37. This is political correctness.
    First cousin marriages which are common in the Muslim community in the UK, while a few % of the population are responsible for almost a quarter of the genetic birth defects in the UK. The reason he doesn't want to criticise it is because it is advocated as being good by Islam.
    When he says that first cousin marriage is common in the world – it's only in the Muslim community, and as for it making a comeback in the USA – only because the Muslim community is growing.

  38. My niece had children with my second cousin.
    They were teens when they started hanging out together. Everyone thought that they knew they were related. They did not ….until they had children together…. and then….their children were born with physical disabilities and are mentally challenged.
    But in the mountains of upstate NY….that is pretty much the norm.

  39. A friend of mine married his first cousin, but they didn't ever have any children because they didn't want their kids to suffer from heart disease, a common problem in their family.

  40. i have so many beautiful cousins and yet i cant marry them , i see them but cant love them the tyranny well atleast the children born will not have so many genetic defect

  41. Indian HINDU don't practice cousin marriage ,but Indian Muslims practice cousin marriage and raise their population tremendously

  42. The holy bible has the strictest sexual code of morals in the world, yet it does not prohibit first cousins from marrying.

    So if the bible doesnt condemn it and they are happy with each other, let them marry.

    Abraham married his half sister. Which would later be prohibited in the torah.

    Adam married a female clone of himself.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment