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Friday, 7 August 2015

Kissin Cousins

According to the latest research by the university of Edinburgh (and actually not so latest research, as I recall being told this decades ago), having a very diverse parental genetic background gives a child a better chance in life. The outcome of these liaisons are both taller and smarter. The research looked at the DNA of over 350,000 people worldwide and confirmed that the offspring of unrelated parents, were both lankier and more intelligent than the offspring of people who were closely related, such as being first cousins.

Famously, 'Kissin Cousins' were a feature of certain mountain folk in the Blue Ridge and Smoky mountains in the USA ..... so much so, that the film 'Deliverance', tarred an entire area with the 'inbred' epitaph. In fact, the US has mixed views on the practice .....

Kissin Cousins USA ......

Now this information might not mean much in the UK, except that we have a whole group of south Asian immigrants, who habitually marry their first cousins, and have done so for countless generations. In some Asian nations, they account for over half of all marriages, and amongst UK Pakistanis, and Indians, 55% of marriages are of this sort.

This long term historical interbreeding with immediate cousins, means that genetically these first cousins are actually very very closely related already, much more so than might be the case with white European cousins, first or otherwise, and this brings consequences.

According to the report, children of first cousins for example, are on average, both shorter and less well educated (with 10 months less formal education), than those from a diverse genetic background. According to some studies the risk of birth defects doubles amongst first cousin marriages, as it rises from roughly 2% in the general population, to 4% for first cousins.

'Homozygosity' Issues In Eastern Kentucky

What this means socially is hard to predict (apart from increased care costs), but anecdotally, I was once told that there are a lot of children with defects born into families in Pakistan, where whole villages are often genetically related, but that 'informal' infanticides, poor health prognosis, and or general neglect meant that these children were locked away without registration, and often 'disappeared' before adulthood. Whether that is true or not (and I had no reason to disbelieve the Pakistani man who told me that). Of course that sort of neglect is not allowed here, well not deliberately, so maybe the coming decades will see the issue of first cousin marriages being raised as a social issue in the UK again.

Another, 2013 study, pointed to the fact that that first cousin marriages account for nearly a third of birth defects in babies of Pakistani origin, and the Government Environment Minister at the time, Phil Woolas, said the genetic problems in the Asian communities caused by this social activity had to be addressed as a ‘matter of public health’.  Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits and it appears from the report and the ministers comments that the issue is already raising ripples of concerns in the UK but is not being actively tackled.

First cousin marriage was of course illegal in the UK only a few hundred years or so ago, for much the same reasons as highlighted here. However King Henry VIII decreed it legal (for reasons of internal politics), and it has remained so ever since, even if we have shied away from it as a generally unhealthy exercise.

6 comments:

  1. Once again, excellent choice of photo, it says a thousand words! Where inbreeding tends to produce weird and ugly offspring, the opposite - inter racial breeding - tends to produce the best looking, a fact which came to mind recently whilst watching a white supremacist preaching rubbish about segregation of 'the races'.

    When I saw ads for The Boy With Giant Hands I wondered why so many of these cases, on TV at least, appear to be in India? I've seen no suggestion that this case is to do with inbreeding and I don't know if it has been considered.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder or so they say ... whether its the results of interracial breeding or inbreeding. Those two boys probably both had arranged wives (cousins naturally!), so that family line is still going on somewhere in the Kentucky area of the USA.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Donna. Alabama USA12 August 2015 at 22:28

    I think I went out with one of them on a blind date! It was a worrying development.

    .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Donna, for your sake I hope that this was a one-off date once it wasn't blind! Of course technically, if you weren't related then many of the issues wouldn't have issues, if you you get what I mean. Thanks for the upda t ... er comment.

      Delete
  4. The ancient Egyptians also practised inbreeding, especially amongst the royal family and upper classes. Pharaoh Akenatun is a classic example of the result.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, his odd body shape has been speculated as being a result of inbreeding in the Royal family. I think I may write a little more on this subject in a further posting. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete

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