‘Cousin marriage’ doubles gene risk for babies: Study

Published: July 4, 2013
Thirty-one per cent of all anomalies in children of Pakistani origin could be attributed to first-cousin marriages. DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB

Thirty-one per cent of all anomalies in children of Pakistani origin could be attributed to first-cousin marriages. DESIGN: MUHAMMAD SUHAIB

PARIS: First cousins who marry run twice the risk of having a child with genetic abnormalities, according to the findings of a study in the English city of Bradford, published Friday in The Lancet.

The city, which has a high proportion of South Asian immigrants and their descendants among its population, served as a microcosm for examining the risk of blood relative couplings.

About 37 per cent of marriages among people of Pakistani origin in the study involved first cousins, compared to less than one per cent of “British unions”, said the researchers.

University of Leeds investigator Eamonn Sheridan led a team that pored over data from the “Born in Bradford” study, which tracks the health of 13,500 babies born at the city’s main hospital between 2007 and 2011.

Out of 11,396 babies for whom family details were known, 18 per cent were the offspring of first-cousin unions, mainly among people of Pakistani heritage.

A total of 386 babies – three per cent – were born with anomalies ranging from problems in the nervous, respiratory and digestive systems, to urinary and genital defects and cleft palates.

This Bradford rate was nearly twice the national average, said the study.

Other factors blamed for genetic flaws, such as alcohol consumption, smoking and social deprivation, can be ruled out, it said.

“Thirty-one per cent of all anomalies in children of Pakistani origin could be attributed to consanguinity” or marriage between first cousins, said the study.

The authors say theirs was the first study to delve into the causes of congenital abnormalities in a broad population.

Co-researcher Neil Small said that in absolute terms, the risk from consanguineous marriage was still small.

The study noted, in fact, that the risk was about the same as for older white British mothers – an age deemed to be 34 years and above.

Even so, “sensitive advice (about) avoidable risks” should be disseminated to communities and couples in consanguineous unions, he said. The findings should also inform health professionals in antenatal care and genetic testing.

The paper said 90 infant deaths a year among Pakistani mothers in England and Wales could be attributed to congenital anomalies.

Consanguinity is a deeply rooted social phenomenon, The Lancet noted.

“More than one billion people worldwide currently (live) in communities where consanguineous marriages are commonplace.”

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Reader Comments (35)

  • Rashid
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:18PM

    What do the religious scholars say on this? They should be consulted before we decide one way or the other. After all, all that science tells us is man made.


  • james
    Jul 4, 2013 - 1:58PM

    cousine marriages are incest, should be banned!Recommend

  • Gemini
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:03PM

    I belong to a small village in Gilgit, but people there have strong knowledge about genetic disabilities why it happens and how to stop it. Cousin marriages are strongly condemned in our place as well.


  • expaki
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:29PM

    @Rashid: ” all that science tells us is man made”

    Rashid Sahib, do not you smell CONSPIRACY in this man made study?


  • Vishnu Dutta
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:46PM


    Scientists dont tell you what is man made, they tell you about their findings about laws of nature which are laws created by God himself. Scientists didnt create genetic mutations but god did, scientists only found out how it works.

    On the other hand it cannot be said about religious scholars if they are telling us stuff which is man made or god made.


  • Cousin
    Jul 4, 2013 - 2:49PM

    I’m from Karachi, and about to marry my cousin. I guess I’m screwed ;(

    This is all due to the system and society, there is no way to meet girls interested in marriage.


  • Saad Ghauri
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:05PM


    “After all, all that science tells us is man made.”

    I don’t even…. what does that even mean? Why should we consult religious scholars if the facts are there?


  • K
    Jul 4, 2013 - 3:19PM


    Yes we should ask the same scholars who dismissed dna as primary evidence. Also, science is not man made, it is discovery of God’s universal laws not made by humans unless you believe that man made the universe. Technology is man made not science.


  • Fear
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:00PM

    I fear of getting married to my cousin from maternal side =l


  • Ali Zaid
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:04PM

    Cousin marriages are not at all promoted in Islam. Its only the prevailing South Asian culture resulting in cousin marriages.


  • expaki
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:06PM

    @Cousin: “about to marry my cousin. I guess I’m screwed”

    Oye Cousinaa !! in Punjabi, there is saying, get your LANGOTAA and RUN :-)


  • ashar
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:20PM

    Completely misleading report.


  • Jul 4, 2013 - 4:31PM

    The study noted, in fact, that the risk was about the same as for older white British mothers – an age deemed to be 34 years and above.

    So women over 34 should be discouraged from having babies too?


  • rafi
    Jul 4, 2013 - 4:35PM

    is it not fact to an extent we are all cousins, arnt we?


  • Ali Tanoli
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:02PM

    said it man,….


  • from london
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:17PM

    this was in the newspapers today in the uk. the studies are very accurate. its happened in my family and many families i know of. the practice should be banned. parents/couples should not make such selfish decisions that will change and effect a couples life forever.


  • Ahsan Imtiaz
    Jul 4, 2013 - 5:31PM

    @Ali Zaid
    Cousin marriage is also common in Arab countires and Iran. We imitated their marriage customs when we converted. In the same way people imitate western customs we imitated middle eastern customs because we believed the arabs were models of superior customs.


  • Insaan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 6:12PM

    @Cousin: You can find a girl in similar situation who does not want to marry her cousin. You can marry her and her cousin can marry your cousin. Does your extended family have history of inherited disease like Thalasemia, schizophrenia? If there is a history consult a doctor who knows about Inherited diseases.


  • Insaan
    Jul 4, 2013 - 6:16PM

    @Antebellum: So women over 34 should be discouraged from having babies too?

    Women over 34 have more chances of babies having birth defects, that has nothing to do with genetic disorders.


  • Mrs. Ali
    Jul 4, 2013 - 7:09PM

    This report is very true, my father was a scholar. He gathered vast knowledge in too many disciplines of life from all over the world. His Islamic knowledge was also very intense. He always use to speak against cousin marriages. He condemned this act and never let it happen in his own family throughout his life. After his death one of my cousin married my another cousin, now they have children but mentally retarded. In my opinion one should not take risk as it increases the ratio of abnormalities. It is not necessary that the kids would be abnormal but the chances increases, so be careful because raising an abnormal child is not an easy job.


  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Jul 4, 2013 - 7:25PM

    It is a scietific discovery and related paper may get published in a reputed journal . It may be possible that the name of these scientist may be recomended for noble prize . But those who are aware of GOTRA system being practiced in India might be knowing it well that marrage in same GOTRA is strictly prohibited . The principles of EUGENICS is being followed strictly in upper cast of Hindus even today due to which they stiil have better gene pool in comparison to the other casts of Hindus . In fact these principles can be easily implemented among animals and plants but it is hard to observe in human beings particularly among Tribals and muslims . Educated Indian muslims are now folliwing this rule where as the majority is seems to be influenced by Pak muslims .


  • M
    Jul 4, 2013 - 9:51PM

    It is undisputed that cousin marriage causes brain disorders & genetic diseases to carry forward which is why it is considered taboo in modern societies. This can be directly correlated to fact that hardly any major innovation or scientific breakthrough has emerged from the 1.5 billion strong Muslim population worldwide. The data is damning, only 2 Muslim Nobel laureates in science thus far


  • Rex Minor
    Jul 4, 2013 - 10:32PM

    The results of the clinical study are not conclusive for application, nor are they meant for pubic reading.

    Rex Minor


  • Rex Minor
    Jul 4, 2013 - 10:44PM


    you are simply expressing your opinion, not science. Have you ever heard of active and inactive genes? Why ignore the word ‘risk’ in the paper? If you are indee a meical doctor then you should also know that such studies have been previously made with similar reading: And finaly are you aware the that the entire population of Iceland originates from two to three families. Nevertheless, it is always prudent to have the DNA check before a man and woman get married and regardless of blood relation.

    Rex Minor


  • waqas
    Jul 4, 2013 - 11:48PM

    mujh tou koi cuzn mili he nae shadi k lye :P i m searching a girl out of family but not from bradri will it be ok ?


  • Daniyal
    Jul 5, 2013 - 1:32AM

    I am a result of my father falling in love with his chacha ki beti. -_-


  • Samir
    Jul 5, 2013 - 2:06AM

    I Got married with Cousen, Because all the 3rd Party Girls remain Unserious about making decisions. They can never be trusted as well. Somehow I am already screwed anyway.
    Emotional Drama bazi of Parents Bands us.


  • Imran
    Jul 5, 2013 - 2:06AM

    Nice number games being played here .18%-3%=396=twice(funny no numbers given) the national average.so why is there any abnormalities at all if they aren’t cousins marrying rest of the country.


  • Jul 5, 2013 - 11:08AM

    @Ali Zaid:

    India forms 80% of South Asia and Cousin marriages are frowned upon in our society. In Villages, people who marry someone within the village were ex-communicated and still happens in some remote villages.

    The Cousin marriages that Pakistanis practice is a direct descendent of Arabia, don’t malign South Asia in this, which is practically India.

    The culture of India is vastly different from that of Pakistan. Pakistan in many ways is similar to Arab countries, as it follows their culture and Religion.


  • Jul 5, 2013 - 11:17AM

    This, I bet, has something to do with the disdain of Science and common sense, preferring Religious dogmas.

    Pakistan was born out of India and in India marriage within the same village, same “Gotra”(Family line) is frowned upon.

    You often hear cases of of Villages have ex-communicated couples for marrying within the same village. And, this practice has been in place since ages.

    Now, this only proves you don’t have to be a Scientist or a Doctor to tell you this is so. Also, Pakistan’s ancestors have lived “IN” societies which have known this, yet they continue to persist with the traditions from Arabia. Arab nations still practice such things and there have been various studies which have questioned such practices.

    To continue this in the modern era is even more preposterous! I guess this has to do with he disdain of Science, choosing Religion over Science.

    DNA proves Theory of Evolution to be correct, so reject DNA. When DNA can be rejected, the entire genetic sciences can too be!!!


  • Polpot
    Jul 5, 2013 - 2:39PM

    @Cousin: “I’m from Karachi, and about to marry my cousin. ”
    Pls consult a qualified doctor otherwise you may be parents of a handicapped disfigured baby.
    There is still time.


  • Jul 5, 2013 - 4:35PM

    My dear this is the medical phenomna nt religous,,,,,,,,dnt involve molvi hazraat…….


  • desi dada
    Jul 6, 2013 - 2:17AM

    Hindus and Sikhs do not allow same Gotra marriage. Since two brothers have same gotra they do not allow marriage of cousin from fathers side, even distant ones. Thus two people with same last names do not get married unless the last name is a title such as Patel, Joshi, Singh, Thakur, Choudhary etc. The reasons for cousin marriage among Muslims is many fold. Initially the pure blood Arabs or Turks did not have choice but to marry cousins if they decided to marry another Turk or Arab, since their numbers were minuscule. Among the converts for economic reason or under duress, since they could not marry their sons to Arab & Turks, they could only get married their sons to their converted brothers daughter. One additional reason is the converted feudal could not marry the serf who also converted or his children. Ancestry of Durranis and Hayts of Wah is readily available. You can check out ancestry of Tehmina Durrani, Sikandaer Hayat etc. ~royalty/ips/w/wah.html‎… Once Kaidu or Khattar Singh converted, cousin marriage became a norm.


  • Ricky
    Jul 6, 2013 - 9:32AM

    I was supposed to get married to a double first cousin like many Pakistanis. Our both sides of the family were the same. However, from the childhood I never liked the idea of marrying a sister. I married a stranger and have a wonderful family with high IQ and physically fit. Looking at the plight of many Muslim countries and shorter lifespan it is not difficult to understand.


  • Anjum nazmi
    Jul 8, 2013 - 3:15PM

    why cousin marriage is not suitable if any test invent before marriage
    thanks Anjum Nazmi


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