Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa


  • I. EGERBLADH (a1) and A. H. BITTLES (a2) (a3)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 22 March 2011

Most studies on consanguinity have been conducted on contemporary populations and have focused on the prevalence and types of preferred intra-familial marriage. With its comprehensive birth, marriage and deaths records dating back to the late 17th century, and the legal bar on first cousin marriage removed in the mid-19th century, Sweden offers unique opportunities to examine the factors that determine by whom, where and why consanguineous marriages were contracted. The present study covers the period 1780–1899 and presents a detailed portrait of cousin and sibling exchange marriages in the Skellefteå region of northern coastal Sweden. The combined prevalence of first, second and third cousin marriage increased from 2.3% in 1790–1810 to 8.8% in 1880–1899, and multi-generation consanguinity also increased significantly over the study period. The distribution and prevalence of first cousin marriages was strikingly non-random, with a significantly greater propensity for consanguinity among land-owning families, especially involving first-born sons, within specific pedigrees, and in a number of more remote inland communities. Additional factors associated with a greater likelihood of consanguineous marriage included physical or mental disability among males, and among females the prior birth of an illegitimate child. Besides the inherent interest in the social and demographic structure of this region of northern Sweden during the course of the 19th century, in future studies it will be important to determine the degree to which the observed patterns of consanguineous and sibling exchange marriages in these past generations could have influenced present-day genetic structure.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. H. Bittles (1994) The role and significance of consanguinity as a demographic variable. Population and Development Review 20, 561584.

A. H. Bittles (2001) Consanguinity and its relevance to clinical genetics. Clinical Genetics 60, 8998.

A. H. Bittles (2002) Endogamy, consanguinity and community genetics. Journal of Genetics 81, 9198.

A. H. Bittles (2003) The bases of Western attitudes to consanguineous marriage. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 45, 135138.

A. H. Bittles (2009) Commentary: the background and outcomes of the first-cousin marriage controversy in Great Britain. International Journal of Epidemiology 38, 14531458.

A. H. Bittles & M. L. Black (2010a) Consanguineous marriage and human evolution. Annual Review of Anthropology 39, 193207.

A. H. Bittles & M. L. Black (2010b) Consanguinity, human evolution and complex diseases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107, 17791786.

A. H. Bittles & H. Hamamy (2010) Endogamy and consanguineous marriage in Arab populations. In A. Teebi (ed.) Genetic Disorders among Arab Populations, 2nd edn. Springer, Heidelberg, pp. 85108.

A. H. Bittles & I. Egerbladh (2005) The influence of past endogamy and consanguinity on genetic disorders in northern Sweden. Annals of Human Genetics 69, 549558.

A. H. Bittles , J. C. Grant , S. G. Sullivan & R. Hussain (2002) Does inbreeding lead to decreased human fertility? Annals of Human Biology 29, 111133.

A. Brändström (1996) Life histories of single parents and illegitimate infants in nineteenth-century Sweden. The History of the Family 1, 205226.

H. Bras , F. van Poppel & K. Mandemakers (2009) Relatives as spouses: preferences and opportunities for kin marriage in a Western society. American Journal of Human Biology 21, 793804.

M. Fraccaro (1958) The incidence of consanguineous marriages in Sweden. Hereditas 44, 6574.

R. Hussain (1999) Community perceptions of reasons for preference for consanguineous marriage in Pakistan. Journal of Biosocial Science 31, 449461.

R. Hussain & A. H. Bittles (1998) The prevalence and demographic characteristics of consanguineous marriages in Pakistan. Journal of Biosocial Science 30, 261275.

A. O. Karlsson , T. Wallerström , A. Götherström & G. Holmlund (2006) Y-chromosome diversity in Sweden – a long-time perspective. European Journal of Human Genetics 14, 963970.

S. Strömholm (1981) An Introduction to Swedish Law. Norstedt, Stockholm.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Biosocial Science
  • ISSN: 0021-9320
  • EISSN: 1469-7599
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-biosocial-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *