Is it legal to marry my cousin in the UK and how does it affect our children? – The Sun | The Sun

FINDING The One is hard enough, especially in the days of online dating, ghosting and the like.

But sometimes they're actually closer than you think.

In the UK, it is legal to marry your cousinBut what happens if you end up falling for your cousin? Can you legally say 'I do'? And how might it affect our kids if we choose to have them?

Here's everything you need to know.

Can I marry my cousin in the UK?

In the UK, there's no legal bar to two cousins having a relationship.

That means that if end up falling for the children of your aunts and uncles, there's nothing stopping you from eventually tying the knot.

Some famous names did the same, with Charles Darwin actually coupling up with his first cousin, Emma Wedgewood.

If you're over the age of 18, you can do this without the consent of your legal guardian or parent.

However, be aware that close friends and family may feel a little awkward or worried about your decision, due to the stigma that is still sometimes attached to these relationships.



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Can having children with cousins affect babies?

Countless studies have been done on how a relationship between two cousin will affect their children, if they choose to have them.

According to Alan Bittles from the Centre of Comparative Genetics in Australia, the risk of birth defects rises from roughly 2 per cent to 4 per cent for first cousins.

Hereditary disorders and defects can occur in various different ways, but the one that could relate to cousins is known as autosomal recessive inheritance.



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This means the condition can only be passed on to a child if both parents have a copy of the faulty gene – this means both are "carriers" of the condition – and this is more likely if the parents are related.

Conditions passed on in this pattern are cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia and Tay-Sachs disease, but there are many others too.

If a person does not have a disease or disorder that they know of, they still may have the gene inside them and be a carrier, which would be recessive.

If just one parent has this and the other does not, their child may be a carrier of the gene but will definitely not develop a condition – it means they could then pass the carrier gene on to their own children.

If two recessive genes of the same disorder or disease come together, one from each parent, there is a one in four chance of the child developing that disorder, according to the NHS, and the child will have a 50 per cent chance of being a carrier.

In the context of first cousins marrying, the cousins are more likely to carry similar genes and therefore the chance of two recessive genes coming together is greater.

Studies have shown that a child of first cousins is more likely to have birth defects than two people who meet at random, because first cousins share 12.5 per cent of their DNA, according to a 2002 study in the journal of genetic counselling.

Because of the overlap there is a 1.7 to 2.8 per cent bigger risk of intellectual disability and genetic disorders than the general population says Robin Bennett, the lead author of that research.

A variety in genetics will help prevent disease.

There are still wide-ranging views on the matter however.

Alan Bittles, from the Centre for Comparative Genomics in Australia, says that the risk of birth defects rises from roughly 2% in the general population to 4% for first cousins and "it would be a mistake to ban it".

Hamish Spencer, head of zoology at the University of Otago in New Zealand told the elevated risk is "comparable to a 40-year-old woman having children and we consider that perfectly acceptable.

"I can't imagine a law saying they're not allowed to have children."

Marrying a first cousin is a common practice in the Pakistani community.

And a study carried out in Bradford where there are a high level of Pakistanis living, showed that birth defects are increased when two family members procreate.

Marriage between first cousins more than doubles the chance of having a child with potentially life-threatening defects, it showed.

Out of 11,000 births between 2007 and 2011 in Bradford, more than 2,000 babies were born from first cousin parents.

The children had a six per cent chance of having an abnormality from birth, compared to the average of three per cent.

Children born to parents that were related but not first cousins also had a higher chance of abnormalities.

Which relatives cannot marry?

Just because you can marry your cousin, does not mean that you can marry every relative in your family tree.

There are relatives who you cannot marry, no matter how much you love them:

  • Siblings and half-siblings cannot marry each other.
  • A parent cannot marry his or her son or daughter.
  • You cannot marry any one of your grandparents.
  • You cannot marry your parents' siblings – meaning your aunts and uncles.
  • You cannot marry your nephews – meaning your siblings' children.
  • Adoptive children cannot marry their genetic parents or grandparents or their adoptive parents.

Which famous people have married their cousins?

There are many famous people out there that made headlines for marrying their cousins.

Here, we name you a few:

  • HRH Elizabeth, Queen of England, and late husband Prince Philip were third cousins, as well as second cousins once removed and married in 1947.
  • Biologist Charles Darwin married his first cousin Emma Wedgewood in 1839.
  • Queen Victoria married Albert, Prince Consort, her cousin in 1840.
  • Albert Einstein's second wife was his second cousin, Elsa.

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