Consanguinity, genetics and definitions of kinship in the UK Pakistani population

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Biosocial Science


Cambridge University Press

Place of Publication

United Kingdom


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Bittles, A. H., & Small, N. A. (2016). Consanguinity, genetics and definitions of kinship in the UK Pakistani population. Journal of biosocial science, 48(6), 844-854. Available here.


Consanguineous marriage is a controversial topic in many Western societies, with attention mainly focused on the health of immigrant communities from Asia and Africa. In the UK consanguinity is especially prevalent in the Pakistani community, which now numbers over 1.1 million. Less attention has been paid to the influence of hereditary population stratification within Pakistani communities, in particular biraderi (literally brotherhood) membership, which denotes male lineages that largely govern marriage partner choice and hence the transmission of disease genes. The various roles played by biraderi and their relationship to other socio-occupational and kinship terms, such as caste, quom and zat, are often overlooked in health-based studies. The interchangeable use of these different kinship terms without rigorous definition can create identity uncertainty and hinders inter-study comparisons. Where feasible, standardization of terminology would be both desirable and beneficial, with biraderi the preferred default term to identify specific social and genetic relationships within the Pakistani diaspora.



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