Consanguineous Marriage and Intimate Partner Violence

Student Researcher: Louis Weimer
Location: India

Staff of PHRIIPublic Health Research Institute of India staff, who assisted with the survey.

Why do women marry their cousins? Although this practice has died out in the United States, it remains popular in many parts of the world, despite evidence that it can cause increased risk of genetic disorders in the children of such marriages. Most existing work on the subject stresses cultural traditions and the desire to keep wealth within the family as the reasons for high rates of consanguineous marriage in certain parts of the world.This research project looked at whether women might marry their cousins in response to high rates of domestic abuse. When women have no legal recourse against domestic abuse, they might marry their cousins for two reasons. First, women know more about their cousins than they do about people they are not related to, and can tell more easily if their cousins are potential abusers. Second, once married, women have more recourse against abusive husbands if they have preexisting relationships with their husband’s parents.

Results

The researcher conducted a survey with the Public Health Research Institute of India of 303 women to test if women marry their cousins in part to give themselves more recourse in the face of potential domestic abuse. The results were mixed, but there is strong evidence that women who are married to their cousins are indeed more comfortable approaching their husband’s parents for help in constraining abusive behavior.