Document Type

Journal Article




Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Exercise, Biomedical and Health Science




This article was originally published as: Bittles, A. H., & Black, M.L. (2010). The impact of consanguinity on neonatal and infant health. Early Human Development, 86(11), 737-741. NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Early Human Development. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Early Human Development, 86, 11, (2010) Original article available here.


Marriage between biological relatives is widely popular in many parts of the world, with over 1000 million people living in countries where 20–50+% of unions are contracted between couples related as second cousins or closer. Consanguinity is, however, a controversial topic, in part due to public misunderstanding, complicated by often exaggerated past estimates of the adverse health outcomes. While some consanguineous couples are at high risk of conceiving a child with a genetic disorder, they are a small minority. Thus a multi-population meta-analysis has indicated an excess infant death rate of 1.1% in the progeny of first cousins, and even this figure may be compromised by inadequate control for non-genetic variables. The benefits as well as the disadvantages of consanguineous marriage are assessed and discussed, with specific consideration given to the health of migrant communities in Western countries, among whom first cousin marriage remains preferential.



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