Shifting Social Solidarities and Genetic Risk in Communities Where Cousin Marriage Is Commonplace.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:25
Location: Hörsaal BIG 2 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Neil SMALL, University of Bradford, United Kingdom
One billion people live in communities where marriage to blood relations (most often cousins) is customary.  If parents are blood relations the chances of their children having a recessive genetic condition increases. Marriage within any restricted community also increases risk.

Born in Bradford (BiB) is a birth cohort study based in Bradford, the UKs 6th largest city. BiB has collected data from 12,453 women with 13,776 pregnancies (2007-2011) and 3,448 of their partners. Half the mothers in the study are of Pakistani origin and half of this group were born outside the UK. Two-thirds of Mothers of Pakistani origin were married to a blood relation, it is a customary practice that has a long history. So too does the practice of marriage within biraderi (“brotherhood”) networks.  Both these routes for choosing marriage partners are integral to trans-national marriage and are of widespread importance in migrant communities across the world. Rates of congenital anomaly in couples related by blood were double the overall rate in the cohort.

But cousin marriage and marriage within biraderi may carry positive benefits, including those that help shape health and well-being. For example comparing mothers in such marriages with those not related by blood to their husband we find evidence of a positive impact on economic and psychological well-being and on levels of positive health related behaviour, including less smoking. Providing social solidarity that gives psychological or practical support may improve infant health. We have a paradox that helps define health promotion and health education debates as well as contributing to debates about legal restrictions on migration;  what can make a community  stronger can also harm it. After exploring changing patterns in marriage choice and in the social structure of community solidarities this presentation will consider genetics, choice and risk.