When Cousins Marry Mental Health Issues Increase

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Aideen Maguire Centre of Excellence for Public Health Queen's University Belfast Institute of Clinical Sciences B Royal Hospitals Site, Belfast

Dr Aideen Maguire

Dr. Aideen Maguire
Centre of Excellence for Public Health
Queen’s University Belfast
Institute of Clinical Sciences B
Royal Hospitals Site, Belfast

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?


Response: Consanguineous Marriage is the marriage between second or first cousins. Although not common practice in the Western world approximately 1 in 10 children worldwide are born to consanguineous parents. It is legal in all countries worldwide except the United States of America, North Korea and China. Cousin-marriage is associated with an increased risk of autosomal recessive genetic disorders in offspring but the association between cousin-marriage and the mental health of offspring has not been extensively studied.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Children of consanguineous parents are over 3 times more likley to be in receipt of medications for common mood disorders (antidepressant and/or anxioltyic medication) compared to children of non-related parents and over twice as likley to be in receipt of antipsychotic medication compared to children of non-related parents. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Children of first-cousin related parents are at an increased risk of common mood disorders and psychoses.

This is of interest as migration from countries where consanguineous marriage is common-place, such as Eastern Africa and Asian countries, is on the increase across Western Europe.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: This is the first study of its kind to examine the mental health risk associated with being a child of consanguineous parents. Accurate records on rates of Consanguineous Marriage worldwide are not kept. This study calls on countries with large scale administrative datasets who have data on cousin marriage to replicate this study and asks for neonatal records worldwide to include information on degree of parental consanguinity.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: This study suggests an association between cousin-marriage and mental health risk in children. However, more studies are needed. Sensitive advice about the risks associated with consanguineous unions should be provided to assist in reproductive decision making.


Shaw A. Consanguineous Marriage and the Psychopathology of the Progeny of First-Cousin Couples. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online April 04, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.0513

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Last Updated on April 7, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD