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Asia-Pacific Population Journal

For over two decades, the Asia-Pacific Population Journal (APPJ) has been taking the pulse of population and social issues unfolding in the region. Published by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), APPJ brings out high quality, evidence-based and forward-looking articles relevant for population policies and programmes in Asia and the Pacific. Prominent population experts, award-winning demographers, as well as lesser known researchers have been contributing articles, documenting over the years the evolution of thinking in this important sphere.

English

Parental consanguinity and offspring mortality: The search for possible linkage in the Indian context

The main reason for reinvestigating the possible linkage between consanguinity and offspring mortality emerged as a result of the gross disagreement among researchers on this subject. For the purpose of this study, consanguinity is defmed as marriage between relatives who share at least one common and detectable ancestor. There is no common consensus in the field of human genetics or demographic research regarding the biological impact of parental consanguinity on the health of their offspring. However, in this regard it is possible to recognize three broad schools of thought. Adherents of the first school consider that there is an overwhelming possibility of consanguineous parents having an unhealthy child. According to this school of thought, marriage between close relatives is genetically critical, because closely related individuals have a higher probability of carrying the same alleles than less closely related individuals. Consequently, an inbred child (the progeny of a consanguineous couple) will more frequently be homozygous for various alleles than the offspring of unrelated persons (Whittinghill, 1965). To the extent that homozygosity for genes is deleterious, consanguineous marriage is deleterious (Sutton, 1965). In this respect, the genetic load of deleterious recessive genes, usually known as the lethal equivalent, would cause death if present in homozygous combination (Cavalli-Sforza and Bodmer, 1971). A number of studies on this subject have focused on an increased level of morbidity (Bemiss, 1858; Rao and others, 1977; Ansari and Sinha, 1978) and mortality (Farah and Preston, 1982; Bundey and Alam, 1993; Bittles, 1994) among the offspring of consanguineous parents. Survey results from a few other sources have also identified a linkage between consanguinity and spontaneous abortion (Neel and Schul, 1962; Al-Awadi and others, 1986) and intrauterine loss (Saheb and others, 1981).

English

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