Should first cousins be allowed to have children together?

Change of plan. We’ve had a string of problems getting the guests we need to set this discussion up. Some people won’t come on air to talk about their experience, others are simply unable to make today’s show. We may return to it another day when more people are available. We’re definitely going to speak to people affected by the Chinese quake, and we may go for another subject. I’ll update here when we decide. In the mean time you’re welcome to keep discussing Fuchsia’s post on cousins…

According to a report in the Observer newspaper, scientists and health experts in Britain are bracing themselves for a row later this month, when they will discuss the fraught topic of marriage between first cousins and its effect on public health.

Apparently such marriages are common in the British Pakistani community – and this may be connected with an unusual prevalence of rare recessive disorders. One MP, Ann Cryer, is calling for a ban on first cousin unions; while Muslim doctors and some geneticists say the cultural advantages of marrying your relatives are high and the risks low.

Do you think it’s OK to marry your first cousin? What are the cultural advantages? What about the risks?

And is it any of the state’s business, anyway, who has children, and with whom? One academic quoted in the article points out that the likelihood of having a child with Down’s Syndrome increases with maternal age, but no one suggests that women over 30 should be banned from having kids. Could a ban on first-cousin marriages be a step towards other forms of state-sponsored eugenics?



86 Responses to “Should first cousins be allowed to have children together?”

  1. 1 Bob in Queensland
    May 12, 2008 at 13:08

    It’s pretty clear that most of the opposition to cousins having children together is emotional rather than practical. However, that emotional reaction is very strong and very real. Certainly, until about 4 years ago I would have reacted with shock and horror.

    What happened to change my view? Well a bit over four years ago I remarried to a lovely woman I’ve known on and off for about 10 years. We both have grown children and, soon after they met, my eldest started a relationship with my wife’s middle daughter.

    Now, in this case there is absolutely NO blood relationship so no reason they shouldn’t marry and have children. However, even considering this there are a number of people who know them who consider it “just too weird” and are opposed to the relationship. They’re engaged now by the way, which should make for some interesting introductions in the future when I become my own in-law!

    Anyway, this shows to me just how strong the emotional reaction against cousins having children might be.

  2. May 12, 2008 at 14:15

    Hello to all of you my Precious friends…. And hello Precious Bob… The Prophet Mohammed says in a famous statement : Tagharabu… i.e. It’s preferable (not as an order) from the Prophet’s point of view that you’d marry someone who’s not a relative of yours… Why ?! Because the Prophet Mohammed used to always stress on the concept that the most important relation that should link all Muslims together is Islam itself, which is definitely far more important than tribal or familial relations…. Also having so many marriages between so many non-related Muslim families will strengthen and support the social infrastructure of the ideal Islamica society… Yet, marriage of 1st degree cousins isn’t forbidden in Islam, and it’s actually very popular among rural and tribal Muslim societies, also it’s still pretty popular among urban Muslim societies, but to a much lesser extent than among rural and tribal Muslim societies… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna.

  3. 3 victork13
    May 12, 2008 at 14:16

    First cousin marriage should be banned.

    The medical consequences of first cousin marriage are well known: significantly higher rates of infant mortality and greater liability to a range of inherited disorders. This ought to be sufficient reason for not allowing the practice in Britain.

    But the socio-cultural objection to the practice is even greater. First cousin marriage undermines the generation of the other-directed loyalties that make for a functioning civil society, the rule of law, and commitment to the nation and to the national interest. That’s because cousin marriage leads to extended families with the characteristics of tribes or mini-nations. Loyalty is to the extended family first or exclusively, and the effort of family members is devoted to securing advantages for a small army of cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. The natural inclination is to maintain the practice of cousin marriage because it leads to family wealth circulating within the family. It becoms an unbreakable cycle.

    Note the parts of the world where the practice is endemic: North Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and to an extent (I understand) India. Recall the leading features of those countries, at least when compared to the West: weak or dysfunctional civil societies, social units that rise no higher than the extended family or clan, rampant and shameless nepotism, the absence of meritocracy, no patriotic sentiment or readiness to sacrifice for the nation, low levels of trust making co-operation beyond the family difficult and making it impossible when it comes to members of the same society who belong to other ethnic groups (i.e. who lack even a remote family connection to ones own family), social disorganisation springing from a culture of feuding family-tribes each trying to get whatever wealth is available for its family members, and each regarding all other families as dangerous rivals (in the absence of a unifying national.

    Cousin marraige is typical of many Muslim communities. In the UK we’re talking mainly about Pakistanis. This is one of the few times when it can honestly be said that an unpleasant cultural phenomenon really does have nothing to do with Islam. But the fact that the practice is something common to Muslims can’t be overlooked. Muslims, especially younger Muslims, are not well integrated into British society, to the extent that some regard Britain and its people with hostility, and some carry that hostility to the point of mass murder. Now who can seriously believe that Muslims will be better integrated into British society if we continue to allow a practice whose social consequence is to extinguish loyalty to the nation and centre it all on the extended family? Continuing cousin marriage will simply perfect the cultural alienation and social isolation of a group who are already far removed from the mainstream of British life. It would be an act of supreme folly.

    The inability of countries like Iraq and Pakistan to achieve stability and prosperity is plausibly traced back to the cultural and social consequences of cousin marriage in the article linked to below. It is another reason for believing that these countries, so long as they permit this dysgenic practice, will be characterised by chaos, instability, tribal hostilities, and failure, and why Western intervention and nation-building are futile. It occurs to me that one factor in Israel’s victories against the Arab states is that the armies of those countries had no interest in fighting courageously or honourably, since they had no real nation that they were fighting for given that their loyalties were limited to family and clan. Doesn’t this also explain the Iraqi soldiers throwing down their weapons in the first Gulf War and and not even attempting to fight in the second?


    p.s. – if this is the subject of today’s show do try to get Steve Sailer, the author of the article, to talk.

  4. 4 selenayvonne
    May 12, 2008 at 14:20

    There are worse things going on in the world. It amazes me how, as Bob said, decisions can be swayed by emotions.

    While I don’t have a first cousin whom I would ever remotely consider as a potential partner, I have a good friend and a neighbor who married their first cousins.

    They both have sons. My friend’s son is a genius. The neighbor’s son is a whiz kid inventor of machinery.

    Any doubts anyone here might have had about such unions have been dispelled by those two examples.

    Having children is akin to rolling dice. You never know what will turn up.

  5. 5 steve
    May 12, 2008 at 14:25

    We don’t stop any other idiots from having kids, so why stop them? If you’re that stupid, that you want kids with genetic problems and birth defects, and to really have them humiliated by society, then go right ahead, you’re obviously so selfish you probably wouldn’t consider those things anyways.

  6. May 12, 2008 at 14:31

    Its not a good idea at all to have people of the same decendants to have children together,because its against our traditions and ethics.at the same time its a taboo to behave like that, because they are so many women and Men in the world who are not bloodily closer to each other,so why going to your cousin? That should not be supported at all.

    best regards


    River Gee County,Liberia.

  7. 7 Neal H
    May 12, 2008 at 14:38

    The State has a legitimate interest in promoting the health and wellbeing of its citizens. If there is a higher genetic risk from fishing in your own genetic pond so to speak, then certainly a government would want to discourage that. Whether this calls for a ban or an educational campaign depends on the given government’s assessment of risk, and the projected health care cost impact, etc.

    I don’t know about elsewhere, but in my experience in USA the concept of “kissin’ cousins” is kind of smirked at as something engaged in by backwoods yokels who don’t know any better and who may not live within a day’s walk of anyone not related to them, for exactly the reason of that practice. It conjures up images of the Hatfields and the McCoys (famous fueding families) which touches upon the tribalism and mini-nations point brought up by victork13.

    This of course doesn’t preclude a very good roll of the genetic dice as in the genius report cited by selenayvonne, no one is saying every offspring of cousins is going to pop out with 3 arms and half a brain. The risk however according to science is very real though. Personal and governmental weighing of the risks is why this is a controversial topic.

  8. 8 viola anderson
    May 12, 2008 at 14:59

    Didn’t European royalty practice it to consolidate wealth and empires? Isn’t Britain’s queen married to her cousin?

  9. 9 Will Rhodes
    May 12, 2008 at 15:08

    I have never seen a comprehensive argument FOR first-cousin marriages. I would have thought that the social taboo would have been enough to stop them – if not then a ban should be considered.

    I have seen too many children in the Pakistani community who have been disfigured with disabilities due to this practice. If it wasn’t as prevalent and common the gene pool could become a little more diluted – as this isn’t the case you have the problems as now.

    The cost to the health system is enormous – which is also one thing that should be taken into account. Looking after yourself and your disfigured/disabled child in very different in the rural areas of a country than the UK where you have the help and support that you do (NHS).

  10. 10 Nick in USA
    May 12, 2008 at 15:14

    @ SelenaYvonne

    I’m happy for your neighbor and friend, but they are definitely anecdotal evidence. It’s not guaranteed that you will have children with birth defects when you have children with a first cousin, but it is considerably more likely.

    As Steve said, the children of these marriages will suffer. In Western society, being the child of first cousin parents is just not accepted. These kids will be humiliated. Immigrants should be mindful of this before beginning this type of relationship. To be honest, I really don’t understand why anyone would ever want to do this. It doesn’t make sense.

    I’m also wondering why so many asians are immigrating to the UK without ever integrating themselves into western society. Do they think they’re getting a free ride. Do they think the British people are just going to say “Sure you can come here, take our jobs, and live exactly how you did in your own country.” Why is the UK allowing people like this to immigrate? Western society should not allow any immigrants to enter the country who don’t improve the country, and people like this are obviously making the country worse.

  11. 11 victork13
    May 12, 2008 at 15:21

    @ Viola: Prince Philip and the Queen are related, but not within the Prohibited Degrees of Kinship of the Anglican Church (see link).


    I should think that first cousin marriages must have been very rare amongst European royalty since, as the article shows, for the bulk of Christian peoples (I should think that Protestant churches take the same approach) marriage to close blood relatives was and is forbidden.

    This is one way in which Christianity – and especially the Catholic Church – has contributed to the growth of Western civilisation by enforcing a practice that eventually led to the development of stable nation-states, as opposed to the fractious tribal polities that cousin-marriage produces.

  12. 12 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 12, 2008 at 15:37

    Hi Everybody it’s me again,

    Viola Anderson.
    You took the words right out of my mouth! Yes our Queen is married to her first cousin Prince Philip. Queen Victoria was married (I believe?) to her first cousin Prince Albert. If it is O.K. for them why not us? I do feel counseling should be given. There are possible genetic consequesces.

    While visiting a rather rual area in The U.K. last year I did remark that “Everyone looked alike?” In breeding was inevitable in smaller communities in the past. People were far less mobile.

    Finally doing “The Ancestry thing” recently I was contacted by a new Aunt. My grand father had left my grand mother and produced another 7 children who we didn’t know existed. Talking on the phone to my new Aunt she did remark that if I were not homosexual and we had met and fallen in love we could have married without perhaps ever knowing? She is one year younger than myself. We plan to meet later this year. It is quite daunting.

  13. 13 Fuchsia
    May 12, 2008 at 15:43

    Thanks, everybody, for your very diverse and interesting replies. It certainly seems as though we may have the makings of a very interesting debate to air later in the week!

    Another little argument to throw into the ring:

    According to this article in the Economist


    there may be some genetic BENEFITS to marrying your DISTANT cousins…

    Thanks to Viola for pointing out that there is a strong tradition of inter-marriage not only among Pakistani immigrants to to the UK, but also in the European aristocracy.

    Let’s keep this one going!


  14. 14 steve
    May 12, 2008 at 15:47

    @ Peter

    I don’t think the Queen and Price Philip are remotely close to first cousins. I believe they are third cousins at closest.

  15. 15 victork13
    May 12, 2008 at 15:59

    Apart from the Rothschilds, I really don’t think that there is any tradition of first cousin marriages amongst Europe’s aristocracy and royalty.

    It has always been forbidden by the church.


  16. 16 viola anderson
    May 12, 2008 at 16:01

    From an evolutionary standpoint of maximizing your genes survival rate, it comes down to this: Economic advantage of kinship ties vs. health advantage of “marrying out.” Which confers greater advantage?

  17. 17 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 12, 2008 at 16:02

    Steve you may well be right? Perhaps someone out there can confirm for us?

    Am I allowed a minor digression please? Steve, Planes. Piaggio Avanti! Fantastic .One flew over here recently.

  18. 18 selena
    May 12, 2008 at 16:02

    Isn’t Queen Victoria the grandmother of both the Queen and Prince Phillip? That sticks in my mind somehow!

  19. 19 Shayhar
    May 12, 2008 at 16:05

    I completely agree with Bob. Ideas of cousins having children disgusts us perhaps because they invoke memories of our own fat cousins who used to put lint in our fruit juice at family gatherings. But what of cousins who never know of their familial connections until after they marry and bear offspring? As cliche as the notion of romance may be, nothing, not even state intervention will stop people being in love.

    I once worked with a man and woman who lived together and had two healthy children before they were uncovered by social services as biological siblings. As youngsters, they were not allowed to date and their social circle was strictly monitered by their parents (no boys for the girl, vice versa). It was shocking initially, but my perceptions changed when I saw for myself how functional and ordinary the family was. It was exceptionally heartbreaking to have to explain the situation to the children, aged 10 and 7, and tell them they couldn’t live with their parents anymore. I felt like a homewrecker, but it had to be done. I don’t condone incest or anything similar, but this was an isolated incident where rationality almost took a backseat.

    The bottom line is get out, make new friends and spread thy seeds far and wide. We’ve come a long way since Cain and his wife.

  20. 20 selena
    May 12, 2008 at 16:16

    I looked it up and find that the Queen and her husband are the great-great grandchildren of Queen Victoria.

  21. 21 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 12, 2008 at 16:17

    Hi Again Selena, Thanks for a great weekend,

    Yes I think you are right. Queen Victoria was I’m sure Grand Mother to both Our Queen and Prince Philip. Again need confirmation?

  22. 22 Dennis
    May 12, 2008 at 16:23

    @ Selena,

    Hi it was a great weekend…….

    I would not think it would be a healthy idea for FIRST COUSINS to have children together……

    [Hi Victor , also, it was a great weekend]……

    Dennis~Madrid, United States of America

  23. 23 selena
    May 12, 2008 at 16:29


    My examples may be regarded as rare. But they are nonetheless examples of the offspring of the marriages of first cousins.

    I will give you another example: a family living on my street has two severely mentally challenged children and the parents are not first cousins.

    I don’t think the issue is as clear cut as we would like to believe. I would need to see more evidence and “accurate” data from many thousands of people before making a judgment.

  24. 24 selena
    May 12, 2008 at 16:35

    @ Peter

    See second post about the Queen.

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes, I enjoyed the weekend. It was not something I usually do. Weekends have a different feel; it is more chummy, somehow.

    But I learned that being a moderator has a different feel to it, too. There is just no end to the things one can learn.

    Thanks to everyone again, for such a smooth time and of course to Victor, Ros and the WHYS team a special thanks.

    I am thinking of them at the Awards.

  25. May 12, 2008 at 16:42

    Marrying the first cousin happens every day in the middle east, the Arab world, and no one can prevent them from doing that.

  26. 26 Jens
    May 12, 2008 at 16:42

    great great garand children of queen victoria. sounds like one great too many, but heck these english royals have been getting to high old age for a long time.

  27. 27 VictorK
    May 12, 2008 at 16:56

    @Peter: you’re right about Victoria and Albert being first cousins (which was news to me). I don’t think Elizabeth and Philip are, though.

  28. 28 viola anderson
    May 12, 2008 at 17:07

    My understanding is that the last czar of Russia had a hemophiliac son which was attributed by historians to inbreeding. At the very least, there was speculation that such was the case.

    Discover Magazine a few years ago had an article about the Rothschild family’s decision to practice cousin marriage to consolidate wealth after noting it happening among other European families.

  29. 29 Will Rhodes
    May 12, 2008 at 17:17

    The relationship is a little complicated, but each of them is the great great grandchild of Queen Victoria. The rule of thumb is that you count the “greats” (including “grand”) and that is the cousin relationship. Hence they are 3rd cousins.


    The Queen and Prince Philip are NOT 1st cousins.

  30. 30 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 12, 2008 at 17:33

    Hi Again VictorK and thanks for a great weekend.

    Thanks also for your information. I do feel a bit embaressed as being a British Subject I really ought to know! Mind you these things are not often discussed.

    Our ITV1 chanel are doing part 1 of a profile of Prince Philip tonight which I will record, digital transmission permitting.

  31. May 12, 2008 at 17:40

    Hi Fuchsia,
    Akbar here in Tehran
    Muslim law allows marriage between first cousins. The tradition survives because families feel safer and more secure. Family wealth is better preserved, for one thing. Close marriages persist in the provinces in Iran, – within the Daryanis in Azerbaijan Province, for instance. Physical malformities are common.
    In one Iranian village, everyone has six fingers on each hand. Close marriages in our own family was prevalent some fourty or fifty years ago, but less so today, since we have spread out and scattered. The custom tends to weaken offsprings. Children of such marriages are often faint and pale, with equal psychological and mental consequences, which are harder to identify just by looking.

  32. 32 Syed HaSAN Turab
    May 12, 2008 at 17:44

    From father Adam to faith of Ibrahim it was not a controventional issue, the debate of allowing or not allowing to whome & by whome is a social taboo.
    This issue stand as a sand castel in the middle of prevailing human society as we all belong to Adam & mother Hawa, obiously they allowed for every thing.

  33. May 12, 2008 at 20:58

    Hello again to all of you my Precious friends… Let me guys look at this topic from a little bit romantic point of view… My name is Lubna, my sister’s name is Layla …. And among the greatest true Arab love stories of all times are two stories which heroes are 1st degree cousins… Both stories had taken place in the 1st 100 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed i.e. 1400 years ago… The 1st story goes like this : Qais Bin Al Mulawah, an Arab man who fell madly in love with his 1st degree cousin Layla and wanted desparately to marry her, Layla loved him dearly too, but her father (Qais’s uncle) opposed this marriage strongly because Qais was so poor, and made Layla marry a rich noble Arab man named Umarah… Qais lost his mind and went crazy, and kept wandering aimlessly in the deserts until he died, while Layla’s fate wasn’t mentioned in the story… As for the 2nd story : Qais Bin Dhureih (Yea, another Qais!), an Arab man who fell madly in love with his 1st degree cousin Lubna and got married to her, they lived happily together for ten years BUT WITH NO CHILDREN, finally Qais’s father (Lubna’s uncle) got fed up with the situation and forced his son Qais to divorce Lubna because he and the whole family had the impression that Lubna was sterile… One week after the divorce Qais couldn’t imagine himself living without Lubna, so he just died in bed… When Lubna heard of her lover’s death, she died too !! With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  34. 34 Dennis
    May 13, 2008 at 02:57

    @ Lubna,

    time of posting 8.58pm on May 12,2008

    i read your story it was an interesting story…….

    Dennis~Madrid, United States of America

  35. 35 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 13, 2008 at 14:16

    Hi Again everybody,
    While strimming the garden this morning remembered that JS Bach married a cousin. She was in fact his second cousin Maria Barbara. They had 7 children 3 of whom died, but that was fairly normal for the early 1700s. Sadly she died (in childbirth?). Bach remarried and had another 13 children of whom 5 or 6 survived. Numbers vary according to author.

  36. 36 Brett
    May 13, 2008 at 14:24

    Bob, what an interesting situation!!!

    I have no experience in this subject matter; But if people want to marry their cousin, who am I to tell them they cannot. If people are worried about the health risks, there are plenty of other activities and problems in our daily life with stronger health effects than marrying your first or second cousins. Again, both sides have good points. I’ll stay neutral on this one.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  37. 37 John in Salem
    May 13, 2008 at 14:51

    Children of first cousins represent such a small minority of the population that I can’t see where it makes much difference. There are hundreds of other factors that pose more of a negative influence on the gene pool.

    Read http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,227514,00.html

    You can’t legislate morality, you can’t legislate evolution and you can’t legislate love.

  38. 38 Allan in America
    May 13, 2008 at 14:56

    I think it’s disgusting and a lack of options for reasons why first cousins are developing relationships. Science has proven in the past, relatives who breed have a high chance of birth defects.

  39. 39 John Smith - Jamaica
    May 13, 2008 at 15:12

    What we think, believe and feel are all based on our culturing. Western society is intolerant to those things which we don’t subscribe to or have not adopted early on in our existence. Whilst the medical consequences may be real, it is no different from two haemophiliac carriers or two sickle cell carriers having a child. Let us put emotions aside and look at this topic objectively, weighing all the facts before accepting or condemning the practice.

  40. 40 Dennis
    May 13, 2008 at 15:21

    @ Allan in America


    Dennis~Madrid, United States of America

  41. 41 gary
    May 13, 2008 at 15:26

    No! This is poor practice on biological grounds, and pretty silly social practice also. While the happy couple will certainly “keep it in the family,” they’ll have little idea what “it” is.

  42. 42 Anthony
    May 13, 2008 at 15:38

    If anything they should stop convicted felons and people on welfare from having children. There are stupid people breeding like crazy in California. The problem is that smart people have about 2 kids, because they understand the real responsibility. You get stupid gang members having 5 kids from 3 different dads/”babies mommas” who don’t take care of the kids and breed dumbness and ghettoness. It’s horrible.

    So I would much rather have first cousins have kids than stupid, ghetto low lives.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  43. May 13, 2008 at 15:51

    Have we found a way to stop people from having children?

  44. 44 Dee in Chicago
    May 13, 2008 at 15:53

    Seriously, in an over-populated world one can’t find a partner to whom they’re not related? Marrying your cousin is just plain creepy!!

  45. May 13, 2008 at 16:08

    Primitive social taboos are no reason to prohibit first cousin marriages. So the ‘yech’ response should simply be discounted.

    Besides, such marriages are very uncommon in western society, which makes it obvious that such legislation is targeted at emigrant societies.

    The health risks are another matter. But my question is: Isn’t medical science in a position to determine in every specific case whether the first cousin match in question is likely to result in an unhealthy infant? If so, the law need only require that first cousins intending to marry undergo these tests and abide by the outcome.

    Such tests are already carried out on genetic carriers of syndromes that may adversely affect their offspring, and the parents then have to decide whether they want to take the risk. So what’s the real difference in the case of first cousin marriage?

  46. 46 Janet T
    May 13, 2008 at 16:34

    I’ve always used the phrase “cousins marrying cousins” as a way to paint of picture of people none too bright-

  47. May 13, 2008 at 16:34

    Well, I am a little conflicted on the subject, in part, because I have heard so much about the health risks involved in first cousins getting together that I would not be in any great hurry to embrace the challenges of that reality.

    What concerns me, however, is the fact that in a context where science cannot conclusively point to wholesale health defects to children born of such unions that there should be such major public outcry and moral judgement of those who would exercise this option to family planning and romance.

    Personally, I am not thrilled about having any relations of this kind with my first cousins. However, I do appreciate that there may well be those who feel differently on the subject. I would be intersted in knowing all the health implications in such a discussion, as a result.

    Indeed, victorK13 raises some interesting points in relation to the effects of the bonds of the types of kinships formed in such unions and their impact on ‘the nation’, as a political and social construct. However, I am curious to know if the experience of the West have not been significantly different in terms of the growth of the Western ‘nation-state’.

    As a politically engineered construct, the ‘nation’ was premised, in part, on certain shared religious ideas (a monotheistic Christian God), as well as certain political beliefs which later fuelled the social atmosphere in which the Western philosophy of nationalsim thrived?

    Now, if it is that inter-marriage of this kind is not strictly an Islamic precept, as you noted above, what else explains the weak sense of ‘nation’ that you allude to in the examples of the Gulf War above? I would be interested to know.

    Furthermore, I read a story in one of our local news papers this morning (I was reading some back issues, as I had missed a few days) where, a bill encouraging inter-marriage between native Indian populations in Dominica in the Caribbean, as a way of saving them from extinction (?), was struck down by the politicians. If I find the link I will post it later.

  48. 48 Justin from Iowa
    May 13, 2008 at 16:37

    My opinion is basically that of Steve’s…

    With the added caveat If it is allowed, I want written into the laws that any genetic disorders these people bequeath to their children are NOT to be provided for by the state.

    The many shouldn’t be punished for the stupidity of the few

  49. 49 steve/oregon
    May 13, 2008 at 17:16

    Ok lets be realalistic about this chances are people that marry thier cousins other then those living in rural tribal areas where it is a great distance to someone not related, are more than likely doing it becuase it is taboo. No one will ever allow a Gov. to tell them who they can and cannot be with people opose that sort of regulation.
    My suggestion would be instead of making it illegal, purpose a law that states if 2 people of relations date/marry/make babies those babies would then have no right to any Gov. sponsored health care because, the Gov. does not condone this sort of behavior. This solution would discourage responsible people from making babies with somone they new would increase the chances that the baby would be deformed/retarded. This would also alleviate any sort of burden on the Gov.

    On a side note I am of the opinion there are too many people having too many babies in this world anyways I believe that Govs. should sponsor a baby license where in order to have a child with another person you must first attended a 9 month “school” with a actual test to aquire this “baby license” during this time both the mother and father to be would be required to wear the baby bellies, study about home education, proper disicpline methods, and all around parenting. After this 9 month course there would then be a comprehensive test requiring a 80% or better to be allowed to have one baby. people who have babies without this license would be fined and the baby would be sent to a person who had applied for the license but was found unfertile for adoption

  50. 50 vijay
    May 13, 2008 at 17:29

    I suppose this practice must be more common in isolated communities (pacific islanders), groups living in extreme conditions(mountain dwellers like the Pakastani Kashmiris(also uncle:nieceis common))and historically oppressed and ostrasised people (the jews).
    Checkout Cousincouples.com there is a list of famous cousin couples,interesting,of the top of my head I could only think of Greta Scacchi and FD Roosevelt.

  51. 51 steve
    May 13, 2008 at 17:56

    @ Justin

    But society always makes up for the stupidity of the few. People on welfare that cannot afford to feed themselves, let alone their kids, have 5-10 kids, and we the taxpayers have to pay for their stupid decisions. Why should this be any different? Shouldn’t we all be forced to pay for other people’s stupid decisions? I mean, isn’t this a culture of personal accountability? I hope you people can read my sarcasm here.

  52. May 13, 2008 at 18:21

    In my nandi (kalenjin) culture, it is not allowed under any conditions. since during engagement the elder wants to know your clan and family animal, some clans cannot intermarry leave alone cousins to marry!!

  53. 53 Justin from Iowa
    May 13, 2008 at 18:45


    You are preaching to the crowd, mate. The welfare system is a joke. No incentives to get off of it other than personal ideals and industriousness (laugh).

    Welfare shouldn’t be a check, welfare should be a state job doing something so miserable that you can’t help but want to get off of welfare and do something better with your life. Or training in realistic trades. Or both.

    Give a man a fish, and you teach him how to starve… better to teach the man to fish, and never have to starve.

    Sorry for going off topic

  54. 54 Venessa
    May 13, 2008 at 19:05

    @ John in Salem; you nailed it! “You can’t legislate morality, you can’t legislate evolution and you can’t legislate love.”

    Regardless of cultural or religious beliefs consenting adults should be able to make their own decision about who they want to be with. Isn’t making laws against marriage and children for a specific demographic just another form of people forcing their cultural, religous or moral views on others? Same sex marriage comes to mind as I read this blog as another emotionally charged issue just as this.

    Cousins having children does not automatically equate to tax payers paying for a birth defect. I already pay a lot of taxes for tons of other stupid people out there having children that shouldn’t.

  55. May 13, 2008 at 19:41

    I keep wondering why you people have and express very warped and dissolute ideas. To ask whether first cousins should be allowed to bear children means or, at least, implies that they may or should have sexual intercourse but may or should not bear children. That means that they may or should murder any and every child that they conceive. Why may or should first cousins have sexual intercourse? If discussing it is not warped and dissolute, I am not Prince Pieray Odor.

    Prince Pieray Odor
    Lagos, Nigeria

  56. May 13, 2008 at 20:55

    Ditto @ Venessa/ John! My sentiments exactly! I am not sure what the deal is with all this excitement! Frankly, I think we all need to get over it and move on! Whether first cousins want to have sex or not is entirely their business, as far as I am concerned! And, then, there is the matter of carrying the children of such unions to term – Are people not allowed to decide such matters for themselves?

    This is, in part, why I asked victork13 to explain the comments in relation to the formation of the nation-state and its relevance to the arguments about the Gulf War! Do we really need such elaborate explanations for saying we are morally opposed to something? Or, am I also being judgemental?…Please, give people a break to decide how they want to live! Having a romantic relationship with my first or any other cousin for that matter is not my thing, but I am sure that there are people out there who feel completely at ease with such decisions. Who cares, really?

  57. 57 archibald in oregon
    May 14, 2008 at 03:19

    The medical implications alone should dissuade the practice, I agree that it is also detrimental to societal cohesion, comparable to nepotism in its social effects, as we all tend to treat family a bit different, for better and worse.
    With populations skyrocketing out of control, why do we need to have more offspring, cousins or no………? If we took care of all the orphan children already here, there would be no need, for a generation, to conceive, conceivably.

  58. 58 RC in Texas
    May 14, 2008 at 04:11

    I know a couple very well that are married, and they are first cousins. They have two adult children, and both these offspring are normal and healthy, one having two normal and healthy children.

    There was a special on a US network show several years ago, Dateline I believe, that dealt with this subject in detail, interviewing a number of such couples. None had children displaying any health concerns if my memory serves me correctly. Their difficulties arose from familial objections, not health problems in their children.

    The more one knows about genetics, the more one understands that the PROBABILITY of genetic defects caused by marriage to a first cousin is not large at all. Continued close marriage, however, would increase the probability of genetic defects being manifest in offspring.

    Most of the common wisdom about this phenomenon stems in part to the situation of increased occurence of hemophilia in the Romanov family, the Russian Czar assassinated during the Bolshevik Revolution.

    The taboo is cultural, not scientific.

  59. 59 adaminportland
    May 14, 2008 at 04:33

    I have been avoiding commenting on this one but I’ll do so now while I’m here. I agree with Agostinho, live and let live, although I am still very undecided on the potential health dangers.
    I need more proof on there being low risks to the children. However laws against it are perhaps too extreme in the grand scheme of things. People reproduce knowingly having genetic problems that absolutely will have repercusions for thier children and that’s not illegal in many many countries.

  60. May 14, 2008 at 06:17

    Why are these scientists meeting to discuss the matter now? The more I think about it, the more I detect the presence of a wriggly, slimy can of politico-multiculural worms.

    Conditioned as I am, the thought of first cousin marriage is personally unsettling. How would I look my uncle or aunt in the eye, or my mother and father? etc.

    But in other cultures that difficulty doesn’t obtain.

    Isn’t the stress on health risks actually exactly what the politicos need to enforce a piece of legislature that is actually meant to target not first cousin marriages, but forced marriages? (which are often forced first cousin marriages)?

    So, isn’t this a piece of legislation -in- the- offing whose final end is to take another step in the direction of forced integration of immigrant cultures?

    And isn’t that the real question here? What to do about non-indigenes who don’t integrate? about tabling laws that will enforce the integration process?

    And what does that say about the whole fraught mess of multiculturalism in Europe today?

  61. May 14, 2008 at 07:00

    Cousin union is so rare that you don’t need to make it illegal! We’re talking about 1/1000 couples here. Are you really worried about the majority of people being more loyal to their in group of their family than the country?

    There’s plenty of social stigmas to discourage the majority of people. Britain has talked about making cousin union illegal before but usually the politicians in poth sections of parliament laugh and say why do you need to invade people’s private lives.

    The increased risk of genetic disorders in offsrping of first cousins is between 1.7-2.8% on top of the normal 3% risk for nonrelated couples. That means there’s a 95+ percent chance of having a healthy baby. You also should remember that positive genes are inherited as well. And with today’s technology you can get genetic counseling and screening to make eliminate much of the risk of inherited disorders by checking to see if the couple in question have the same negative recessive genes in common. And chromosomal defects, which is what makes up most of the base 3% has nothing to do with being related. Now of course, if you keep inbredding over multiple generations you may have problems, which is what happened to the Pakistanis.

    We also don’t make peopple with known disorders not have children and they can have anywhere between 25-50% chance of passing on their disorders and no one seems to have a problem with that. That seems very discrimatory to me. Also if you’re genetically too disimilar children can also have problems due to biological incompatibility of the parents and we don’t have any laws against biracial marriage as well we shouldn’t! This prejudice stems from the Eugenics movement which brought out sterilization and miscegenation laws. Is that really what you want to base your laws on? I mean Eugenicists thought promiscuity was an inheritable trait and used that belief to sterilize people! They did not understand genetics.

    Cousin unions are not in the list of forbidden relationships it Letivitcus in the bible either and there are many cousin relationships in the stories – some of them mandated by god. The political (and secular!) power, the Catholic Church made cousin union illegal in canon law some hundreds of years ago, however, they always granted dispensations to allow cousins to get married after giving a donation to the church and this was not at all uncommon.

    So what’s the problem? You think its gross? No one is forcing you to marry a cousin! But why should you stand in the way of someone who wants to?

    Charles Darwin – the father of modern genetics – married his first cousin and they had ten children all healthy and half of them were as brilliant has he was! Yes, that’s anecdotal evidence. If you want empirical evidence go read the book Forbidden Relatives by Dr. Martin Ottenheimer.

  62. 62 Royston Roberts
    May 14, 2008 at 14:53

    hi ros, the question of, should first cousins be allowed to have children together, should not be blown out of proportion, as long as the two of them are willing to be married to each other, through consentual agreement without interferance from any faction, there is nothing wrong with that. Let me reiterate again, we are living in an era of , freedom of speech, freedom to associate, including to be united and reproduce in holy matrimony wiyh your first cousin, it’s not a crime, live the world to go round.
    Royston Roberts
    Freetown, Sierra Leone

  63. 63 Chishimba John
    May 14, 2008 at 16:17

    Marrying First cousins can only be possible to some people especially from the Middle east. In my country Zambia, it’s traditionally prohibited and besides Zambia is a Christian Nation. The Bible doesn’t allow that, therefore Marrying Cousins in my Country is disgusting, a family denial and can bring confusions between families.

  64. 64 primal convoy in Japan
    May 14, 2008 at 17:18

    I once read somewhere that in most early cultures, the idea of incest was nearly always considered “wrong”, not because of the perceived medical problems (as they simply were not known or understood), but due to the emotional problems involved.

    Family is a place for “unconditional love” (or as close to it as we can get. I’m sure there are times when any parent around the world is a million miles away from any feelings of adoration of their offspring, especially at about 2am when they are either crying or coming home drunk and banging on the front door/ ringing your phone to be picked up, etc).

    However, this feeling of “love/respect without having to do anything to get it” is eroded when sexual or romantic love mixes with it. Suddenly there are conditions to affection (physical attraction, sexual enjoyment etc), which can destabilize the family or group.

    In some cultures, the idea of “milk incest” was around, whereby families who in shared the same cow to drink from were considered “family” and thus could not breed together.

    Also, in some Christian societies, “Christening Families”, that is, the relatives of and including the God-Parents of a child were not allowed to marry or breed with the God-child (and quite possibly and relatives of that child).

    In today’s society, we also have this notion. For example, in some conservative (American?) Universities, it is common practise for for all “professors” (to use the slightly inaccurate USA term for “lecturer”) to not date ANY student at the university concerned. This seems fine, until we understand that a 30-year old faculty staff member who teaches nuclear physics is not allowed to have a romantic relationship with a 25 year old student studying history of art, even though she/he is studying on the opposite side of the city and has absolutely no educational contact with their partner at any time.

    Personally, my first kiss was to one of my first cousins. Ill admit that I got in big trouble for it (I was about 6 at the time) and she looks close enough to me to be my sister (but I don”t actually have a sister) and her dad looks a bit like me, but at 6, how was i supposed to know? She is happily married now and I was never close to her (my family is spread out all over the UK with little or no contact between cousins) anyway.

    And didn’t the Bible feature incest? I think one family servant was instructed to go out and find a female cousin or family member suitable for marriage to their master?

    Also, and no offense to my fellow Christians out there, are we not all descendants of Noah and his family? After the flood, there were no more humans left as God had smited them all with water and thus Noah and family were left to repopulate the entire planet all over again from scratch, along with all the other animals that were lucky enough to be crammed into Noahs little “Club ELE” tour cruise?

    Something to think about, I suppose.

  65. 65 Shirley
    May 14, 2008 at 18:36

    You’ve broght up something that I have not heard yet, mashallah. I had always felt repulsed by cousin marriages. Does one’s father become his uncle at the same time? Some years after converting, though, my mindset began to change. I saw so many marriages fall apart around me, and sometimes violently. I also heard about such marriages through other sources. Obviously, the majority of married people whom I know are happily married. Even so, I became increasingly worried about my own security as an un-connected female convert to Islam: who would protect me or stand up for me if something went wrong in my marriage? I realised that, in my situation, if I were to have a cousin who were also Muslim, I could very well marry that cousin, and our marital union would be observed by our family. I trust my fmaily not to tolerate some of the nonsense that I have seen occur in marriages.

    I still have a certain feeling against cousin marriages. There are cases in which the two cousins who are marrying each other come from a line of ancestors whose cousins have een marrying each other for generations upon generations. The result is not a family tree, but a family stem. It is not surprising to see congenital physical and mental defects in those cases. I would think that this chronic intermarriage happens more often than Muslims would like to admit.

  66. 66 Jim
    May 15, 2008 at 01:01

    I have been in love with my first cousin for years, and am trapped in a marriage with someone who treats me horribly. I already have kids, and do not plan to have any more. But I could not leave my wife for my cousin because of the terrible social stigma and rejection by our family.

  67. 67 VictorK
    May 15, 2008 at 07:09

    @Agostinho: I’m less concerned with the biological consequences of first cousin marriage (but like Steve I think that if it’s too happen then people who opt for it should be made to pay for any medical problems resulting, and if they are not prepared to do that they should not be permitted to marry and have off-spring), I’m not at all concerned at the moral aspect of it. It’s the political and social consequences that I have my eye on.

    I’m talking about this practice in Britain and as it relates to Muslim communitites, epecially Pakistanis. Their lack of integration into British society is a matter of fact. We should not be allowing practices that are going to keep up that sense of separation. Cousin-marriage is one of the worst of those practices for the reasons spelled out in the Steve Sailer article. Britain as a nation has every right to regulate or forbid any practice that is harmful to British social and national interests. There is no ‘right’ to cousin marriage. Neither is there any freedom to marry whom you please. Anyone who feels aggrieved by such a ban has the option to re-settle in a country that allows such marriages and form a union with their cousin there. It’s not for Britain to adapt itself to customs that are not part of the British way of life and that,more importantly, undermine that way of life.

    Re nationalism and the nation-state: I think you’re mistaken. There is an important difference between nationalism and patriotism. Patriotic sentiment is what has historically developed in the nation-states of the West (and in Japan, Iran and Turkey). It’s main features are a sense of corporate identity as a nation, national unity, the belief in a national interest and the rightness of making individual and collective sacrifices when necessary to attain that interest, and a love for ones country, its values and traditions, and its physical inheritance (landscape etc). The focus of patriotism is inward, on the nation. It is entirely compatible with respect for other countries and a sympathy for the patriotic feeling that other people naturally have their country. Nationalism is the pathological and atypical form of patriotism. It is patriotism not as a natural sentiment but as a state-driven ideology. Its outward form is external. It glorifies the nation but invariably at the expense of other nations. Patriotism is about loving your country because its yours; nationalism is about loving your country because it is considered superior to other countries. Nationalism often expresses itself in imperialism and aggression (thogh both can exist without it) in a way that patritoism rarely does. The colonial interlude in European history was a brief episode. European nation-states had established their patriotic identities before the colonial era and retained them after it. Nationalism, like that of the Nazis, could only exist as long as it was conquering other states. That was it’s whole point. What cousin marriage undermines or makes impossible in communities in which it is practiced is the development of a sense of loyalty to the nation. This is an observation drawn from what we know about the practice of cousin marriage.

  68. 68 selena
    May 16, 2008 at 20:30

    @ Jim,

    I am touched by your post and hope you don’t mind if I say that life is too short to spend time in a situation which causes stress.

    No one should feel bad about making decisions to rectify a negative situation. There is no way anyone can ever please society. Best not to try, as I see it.

    We can only be good to others if we are first good to ourselves.

  69. 69 Ali
    May 16, 2008 at 23:01

    A person who has first cousin parents is more likely to develop a disease if they smoke or drink than to have a genetic disorder.

    Why dont we ban smoking and drinking first?

  70. 70 selena
    May 16, 2008 at 23:20


    Does Britain have a law which says cousins can’t marry?

  71. 71 yorkielass
    May 18, 2008 at 15:48

    Britain does have a law that says cousins can’t marry also the polygamy is a crime but it appears that only applies to the indigenous people that have to pay the high taxes to cover the costs.
    Those that think it makes no difference try getting an appointment or treatment in a northern towns NHS hospital.
    Fact,A Newsnight investigation reports that British Pakistanis are thirteen times more likely to have children with recessive disorders than the general population. The same research, shows that British Pakistanis account for 3.4% of all births but have 30% of all British children with recessive disorders.

    Keighley MP Ann Cryer, says: “As we address problems of smoking, drinking, obesity, we say it’s a public health issue, and therefore we all have to get involved with it in persuading people to adopt a different lifestyle. I think the same should be applied to this problem in the Asian community. They must adopt a different lifestyle. They must look outside the family for husbands and wives for their young people.”

    40000 Pakistani wives are brought to the UK every year thats’after cuts were made.
    Politicians speak about problems occasionally at election time then forget all about it hence British people are now turning away from mainstream political parties.

  72. May 24, 2008 at 16:34

    First cousins are blood relatives. There is nothing like intimacy that should be encouraged between blood relatives. It’s morally unacceptable and such acts should be condemned world wide just like it is here in Uganda.

  73. May 30, 2008 at 18:19

    @WANASOLOISAAC: I agree with you. First Cousin Marriages is immoral

  74. 74 Tanu from BD
    June 6, 2008 at 19:58

    Firstly just because we are conditioned to believe something is bad doesn’t make it bad..we have to think out of the box,with an open mind.

    Secondly, i see absolutely no problem(biological or economical) marrying first cousin..it creates problem only when it is done over and over in multiple generations and that’s what happened to the pakistani communities in UK

    The biological threat is actually insignificant..well..if u consider 2-3% increase in chance as ‘highly significant’ then its your problem.

  75. June 17, 2008 at 07:11

    Anyone who finds there firsts cousins attractive need to realize they are your blood.Please move on do not have kids its sick if you know your related or leave it be if you move on and procede with relations your sick that is your own blood line are you that desperate to keep it on with your own blood???? if so you need not go on and write about it your sick and you know it pervet

  76. 76 Henry
    August 13, 2008 at 16:24

    For those who say “science” have proven that children of first cousin unions are going to be defective: Are you talking about Eugenics? Because… the National Society of Genetic Counselors (real scientists by the way…)have proven first cousins have a 96% chance of getting a prefectly healthy baby, unrelated couples have 98%. The risks are not that high. Moreover, the laws that prohibit cousin marriages are unfounded, and are a century old now. They cannot possibly reflect today’s reality.

  77. 77 dandy
    August 22, 2008 at 19:30

    As others have stated above, there may not be significant genetic risk for two first cousins having children but, children learn by example and if it is considered acceptable practice in that family and future generations continue to intermarry with their family I’m sure there will be genetic problems in time.

  78. 78 Anon
    November 5, 2008 at 11:44

    funny to think first cousin marriage is considered wrong while gay marriage is considered normal.

  79. November 24, 2008 at 01:33

    i am in a relationship with my 1st cousin we have been in a relationship for 4 years. we have a child together and he is fine!!!! we have the same grandmother, all you people are overrating this its not that big of a deal. Avadently all of u must be interested in cousin relation because why else would all of you care???? I also have a sister that is gay her and her girlfriend had a friend ahev sex with my sister to get her pregnant and she did, but then they cut al ties with this guy. Now whats more wrong????? Me and my 1st cousin husband haveing perfectly fine children and being in their life then that??????????????

  80. 80 confused.com
    December 2, 2008 at 15:06

    I have been in a relationship with my first cousin for only 4 months now, we did however have a passionate kiss 13 years ago, to which we stopped because of the stigma we thought we would receive! we both went on to marry, have kids with other partners, we never seen each other for 12 years and have just recently met up, my cousin who has been separated from his wife for1 year, I am still living with my “husband” but who I love but I am not in love with!! I plan to leave him and have made these plans long before meeting back up with my cousin who I must say is the love of my life!! I have lost all the love I had for my husband after he raised his hands to me on more than 1 occasion . We are related through both our mothers they are sisters, I had spoken to my mother after we kissed all those years ago and asked her what her views on the subject, and she simply said that you can not help who you fall in love with!! And that if that was the path in which we chose to walk then she would back us 100%. I have never in my life felt the way about anyone the way I feel about him, he is my world and I am his, we have such a bond and that may well be because we are related, as well as being so in love!! It is not illegal in the UK!! And I believe that it should not be in any other country!! If it was good enough for Monarchs before us then why not us, after all the debates I have read on here about the abnormalities caused by this which I emphasis is total rubbish if You do your research you will see, and there is living proof of that in our royal family today!!

  81. 81 known
    January 17, 2009 at 21:34

    Umm STEVE..The percentage of having a child with birth defects is about 2% in a cousin to cousin marraiges. In a normal marraige, it’s about 1.5%. So there’s really a small chance of getting an abnormal child. Read more before you talk..seriously.

  82. 82 EDDY
    March 24, 2009 at 18:53

    to Jim,

    Hey Jim i was in a similiar situation as you were for years. I was in love with my cousin while i was married w/ a child and for years me and my cousin had a secret relationship without know one knowing.

    I was also afriad of what the famiily would say even though my cousin didnt care who knew.
    I finally decided to leave my girlfriend and go for what my HEART desired. I have been with my cousin in an open relationship for 3 years now. 75 % of my family are with are with me and the other 25% arent. But hey I am very happy and it is the best decision i ever made. We are currently researching the facts about “first cousins and having children” (Go for what YOU and YOUR heart wants in life!)

  83. May 12, 2009 at 20:46

    hi, over the last year i hav had really strong feelings for my 1st cousin and as time went on de feelins got stronger to the fact that i hav fallin in love wit him,, we slep together about 7 months ago an have been best friends ever sense we do everything together now an my love for him is so strong an he feels the same about me… but recently we hav had unprotected sex twice on de same night an worried now dat i cud be pregnant!! he says he wants to be wi me the whole time but because we are 1st cousins he wants to keep it hush hush but i love him to bits an don care who knows any advice wud be greatful

  84. 84 Katie
    May 15, 2009 at 00:34

    My dad’s parents were second cousins. And all their children including my dad are screwed up. They all became gold diggers and they always like getting drunk at parties even around the small children. Most of my dad’s side of the family have disorders and anger management problems. Sometimes, I even think there is something wrong with me. My auntie and two uncles are divorced because they could never make their marriage function properly. And then two of my uncles are like 50 and have never gotten married. And then my dad’s twin brother and his wife abuse their children.

    It may not be like this for all of first cousin marriages, but I highly recommend that you do not have children when you are blodd related with your partner. I am completely humiliated that I descended from my grandparents who are cousins and I’m pretty sure their kids are too. And those who say you are in love with their cousins, I understand that you can’t control the way you feel. But sometimes there is always a second soul mate out in the world for you. I am particularly close to my guy cousin and do everything with him. We are both the same age and been best friends since we were babies. But just thinking of him in a romantic interest totally creeps me out. I’M IN LOVE WITH THE WATER POLO’S TEAM’S ABS!

  85. 85 Haseena
    September 14, 2009 at 19:41

    I am a registered nurse at a Hospital in Toronto, and i’ve personally witnessed a girl who recently gave birth to a child with down syndrome. Her Husband is her first cousin.

    However, i know this other lady who has 4 kids with her first cousin and they are as healthy as ever…

    i guess its only some cases?

  86. 86 Ed
    March 17, 2010 at 00:56

    during research on this subject, I found articles on both new and old testament that support the idea that marriage of first cousins was permitted. A couple of articles, one Catholic and one Protestant, suggested that Mary and Joseph were first cousins.
    Study of the subject, with an open mind, and you find that it is the presence of recessive genes that cause the problem and that the 1-2% increase in mutation has to do with the increased risk of both parents having the recessive gene. The possibility in unrelated people exists, also, but is at a lower percentage but still possible.
    The problems increase as families continue to intermarry thereby increasing the possibility of the recessive gene being in both cousins.
    The hemophiliac women would have passed it on no matter who they married

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: