Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How common are intra-familial relationships and how harmful are they?

How common are intra-familial relationships and how harmful are they?


Being from the south, we hear many offensive jokes about “incest”.  Today it has appeared to be very socially unacceptable, and is illegal in most states.  However, though parental incest has been illegalized (as it should be) there have been few states that still allow cousins to be married (7).  When reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s life, I learned that he did just that.  His wife, thirteen year old Virginia Clemm at the time of their marriage, and Edgar were first cousins.  Her early death, dying at only 25, has been rumored to even inspire some of his stories (1).  Though Poe is a primary example of marrying within the family, he is not the only one known to do so.  Other famous examples as Jessie James and his first-cousin wife, Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, Thomas Jefferson and his third cousin, Albert Einstein and his second cousin, and Jerry Lee Lewis and his cousin Myra (7).  Incest has also been popular in important movies, such as when Oedipus sleeps with his mother unknowingly (3). It is true that marrying inside the family was much more acceptable before and in the Victorian ages.

Poe and his wife

Just how common is this?

                It has been recorded that incest occurs in 30 percent of people across the world.  However, these are only cases that have admitted and some cases are kept in the dark.  It was reported that males were more likely to express being victims of this than girls (5).  If we include marriage between first cousins, then incest is very common.  I found on one website, that “half the US states will marry first cousins”.  Whether first cousins or not, it has been found that we at least know one person who has been part of incest whether we know it or not.  During the last two centuries, it has been shown that sexual child abuse happened more than we’d expect.  Many sleeping arrangements placed children in the beds with parents and sometimes had a negative impact (4).  Dreams consisting of incest are even said to be common and shouldn’t bring you much alarm.  These dreams could just be results of deep appreciation for a relative, not a crush (6).  Thankfully, in a study it was found that we are not attracted to people who look like ourselves (8).     


Charles Darwin’s Marriage

Charles Darwin and his wife

Like Poe, Charles Darwin is also another candidate of marrying a first cousin, Emma Hedgewood.  It is been discussed that he may have also a product of this.  Charles’s children fell sick very often.  Charles thought that maybe this was actually due to the inbreeding.  His daughter Anne was a result of being ill and died during her childhood.  Inbreeding has occurred long before the date of 1860.  However, it wasn’t until then that scientific studies were made showing that inbreeding actually had harmful effects.   Charles, being concerned for his children as well as his own life, went on to study this as well.  A study, on inbreeding in Scotland, concluded that 44 percent of children of incest were mentally impaired and that six percent were deaf.  Others argue that there is always the risk of having a child with a mutation.  It has been concluded, though, that inbreeding with family members has doubled the risks (2).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Allan_Poe (1)
http://newhumanist.org.uk/2133/kissing-cousins (2)
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/30/weekinreview/incest-as-a-selling-point.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm (3)
http://www.faqs.org/childhood/In-Ke/Incest.html (4)
http://www.rationalskepticism.org/social-sciences/just-how-common-is-incest-t9841.html (5)
http://marriage-equality.blogspot.com/2011/12/frequently-asked-question-how-common-is.html (6)
http://listverse.com/2008/07/20/10-famous-people-who-married-their-cousins/ (7)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl3da490MTY (8)


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