but what about the congenital disorders?

in response to the post on inbreeding in pakistan, j asked: “Many peoples discovered that inbreeding causes birth defects and they imposed social rules to avoid it. How is that these Pakistanis are not aware of the danger and on the contrary, they enforce it?”

well, really, endogamy of some sort seems to be the default setting for non-hunter-gatherer groups of humans, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when we come across a group that is rather fond of inbreeding. the rates of consanguineous marriages for pakistan (and places like saudi arabia, et. al.) are really extraordinary, tho; and in some areas of pakistan endogamous marriages (cousin marriage + marriage within the patrilineage) can reach levels like 90% of all marriages.

but why aren’t pakistanis (and other groups) put off all these close marriages by the negative side-effects like congenital disorders? some of it seems to be that they’re just not informed enough on the matter (so i suppose that they never figured out the connection on their own either?) — and some of it seems to be that they’re just resigned to their fate. pakistanis have decided that the benefits (e.g. keeping the property in the family) outweighs the drawbacks, i guess.

here from a paper entitled “Cosmopolitan Knowledge and Indigenous Perceptions of Congenital Diseases Among the Cousin Marriage Practitioners in Kabirwala Community – Pakistan” (which was read at quad-e-azam university, islamabad, but i’ll be d*mned if i can find where i got this paper from! – this is the author though):

“For the Pakistani communities, it is rather a matter of destiny and luck than a medical concern.”


“Mehboob [the names have been changed to protect the innocent], a 57-year-old male lawyer is married to his cousin Rubia, 42 years old. Rubia has 5 years schooling. The couple has 9 children (2 sons and 7 daughters), one of which died within his first month. Among the 9 children, two are blind and one has hearing problems…. However, the couple call it taqdeer (destiny) and argue that two children are blind due to their own sins and that one has died because ‘us kay din poray ho gaye that’ (He has completed his life period). It is believed that God has given a specific life to every person at the birth of a child. According to local belief, the child has to spend only the prescribed life which God has given. When I mentioned a genetic problem as a possible interpretation during the interview, the parents said that it was ‘God’s will’, that this was the reason for their son’s death. According to the couple, Islam does not forbid cousin marriage. Therefore, there is no need to argue the issue on the basis of genetics. It is a matter of luck and destiny. Genetics have a minor role to play.”

c’est la vie, eh?

previously: anarchy in the u.k. and inbreeding in pakistan

(note: comments do not require an email. why, thank you! i’d love another peanut.)



  1. That resigned attitude towards avoidable disasters is something you find in the Arab world as well.
    הכל מאללה “Everything is from Allah”

    This also has a Jewish and Christian equivalent (“He works in mysterious ways”), but it’s far less pervasive.


  2. “endogamy of some sort seems to be the default setting”

    I think this is probably the key. people automatically breed just past the incest block unless some other factor interposes.

    some of your other posts mentioned the huge rates of consanquinity in lots places e.g China and Japan in fairly recent memory so i think it may be partly a question of emulating western mores (American mores really, as the sole superpower) (which may stop if there’s an economic collapse). in which case one factor in the places with the highest levels of consanquinity might be those places have the least inclination to emulate American ideas.

    also if certain environments select for maximum endogamy e.g mountains and deserts by selecting for a maximum endogamy culture…

    (if inbreeding provides maximum small-group cooperation and cohesion while outbreeding allows larger-group cooperation but at the cost of slightly weaker cohesion then if the environment doesn’t allow for larger-group cooperation the cost-benefit says in-breed.)

    …then the culture may carry on after the group has moved out of the original environment.

    in combination then the maximum would be where people live in environments that enforce small groups or where the local culture was formed in those environments plus the people there had the elast interest in copying America even to the extent of wanting to do the opposite.


  3. When you find that as many as 90% of marriages are consanguineous cousin marriages, how many cousins out are you counting? I read from your links to previous posts that you’re talking about marriages within a biradaris or patrilineage, but what I read there doesn’t answer that question either. Going only back to ones grandfather for the patriarch gives first cousin marriages does it not, great grandfather gives second cousin, great great grandfather third cousin, etc. Way I’m figuring it.


  4. In Sind and another province in Pakistan that is.

    Same question for that 87% consanguineous figure for certain communities of Pakistani Brits.


  5. IIRC someone knowledgeable about these things, perhaps Razib Khan, said that at or after (can’t remember) the third cousin level the inbreeding dangers are almost entirely gone.


  6. @doug1 – the 90% figure is actually for endogamous marriages, not just cousin marriages — or, at least, not just first cousins. from the post above:

    “…in some areas of pakistan endogamous marriages (cousin marriage + marriage within the patrilineage) can reach levels like 90% of all marriages.”

    that 90% figure is the highest i’ve seen, which is why i quoted it, and it got that from the article on watta satta (bride exchange) marriages. i linked to it in the previous post on pakistan.

    here’s the article: “Watta Satta: Exchange Marriage and Women’s Welfare in Rural Pakistan.” and here’s a quote from the article (i see now that i actually misquoted it, and it’s not 77% married to a blood relative, like i quoted in the last post, but actually 80%! i don’t know where i got the 77% from? strike that. that weird 80% was from a draft version of the paper. i’ve updated the link to go to the final version. the figure was 77%.) [pg. 6]:

    “Even more striking is the extent of marriage within clan and caste: 77% of women in our sample have married a blood relative, mostly first-cousins with a preference for the paternal side; 13% have married someone unrelated by blood but within the same caste (zaat/biraderi); leaving just 10% of marriages exogamous with respect to clan and caste.”

    i don’t know what “mostly first-cousins” means — the authors didn’t specifiy. in any case, it’s an awful lot of first-cousin marriage (sharing a grandfather, like you say). and the biraderi is a patrilineage, so anyone from the same biraderi is likely a cousin of some sort, too, albeit maybe sixth or seventh cousin (which starts to not really count).


  7. @doug1 – “IIRC someone knowledgeable about these things, perhaps Razib Khan, said that at or after (can’t remember) the third cousin level the inbreeding dangers are almost entirely gone.”

    healthwise, yes — and, maybe, no. i mean, if an entire patrilineage has been inbreeding for 800 years or so, then you would think those third cousins share more genes than third cousins in our society, no? maybe the greater degree of relatedness is not significant, tho, i don’t really know. the medical community, however, does reckon “consanguinity” as second cousin or closer.

    i’m not so interested in the medical dangers so much as the impact of genetic relatedness on social behaviors. that’s my interest. (^_^)


  8. @doug1 – “Same question for that 87% consanguineous figure for certain communities of Pakistani Brits.”

    again, that 87% figure is for endogamous marriages, not just consanguineous marriages. if you look at the chart in the anarchy in the u.k. post you’ll see:

    1C marriages = 59%
    2C-3C marriages + three marriages to in-laws (who could be blood relations again) = 17%
    same biradari (patrilineage) = 11%

    that totals 87%.

    i don’t blame you for being slightly confused about what i’m babbling on about. i need to be more clear with my terms!

    i need to settle on some divisions here. maybe i should use the standard, medical usage of consanguinity = 2C or closer, so that would give me:

    consanguineous marriages = 2C or closer marriages (this would also include uncle/niece or aunt/nephew marriage, or half-siblings — anyone closer than 2C).
    endogamous marriages = all other cousin/relative marriages greater than 2C.


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