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Forms of Marriage

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Forms of Marriage

This page contains descriptions of different forms of marriage, with various levels of legality across the globe.

Avunculate Marriage

Related Category: Avunculate Marriage

An avunculate marriage is any marriage between an uncle and a niece or between an aunt and a nephew. It may refer to a marriage between biological relatives or people related by marriage. In some countries, avunculate marriages are prohibited by law, while in others marriages between biological relatives of this kind are both legal and common.

If the partners in an avunculate marriage are biologically related, they normally have the same genetic relationship as half-siblings, or a grandparent and grandchild – that is they share approximately 25% of their genetic material. (They are therefore more closely related than partners in a marriage between first cousins, in which on average the members share 12.5% of inherited genetic material, but less than that of a marriage between, for instance, cousin-siblings, in which the partners share 37.5% of their inherited genetic material.)

Avunculate marriage is legal in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Finland, Malaysia, The Netherlands, and Russia. It is explicitly illegal in most English-speaking countries.

See: Avunculate Marriage

Consanguineous Marriage

Related Category: Consanguineous Marriage
When a married couple share one or more ancestors in common, their marriage is considered consanguineous. Depending on the degree and type of consanguinity, and the customs in a time and place, their marriage may be normal, even advantageous, frowned upon, or prohibited.

Consanguinity can be simple, when there is only one common ancestor, or multiple, when there is more than one chain of relation between the bride and groom.

The four major degrees of simple consanguinity are:

I. uncle-niece/aunt-nephew
II. first cousins
III. first cousins once removed
IV. second cousins

Direct ancestor marriage (father-daughter, grandfather-granddaughter) and sibling marriages are almost universally taboo. However other close marriages, such as between uncles and nieces, or between first cousins, has been widely practiced. Consanguineous marriages continue to be common in Saudi Arabia and China, among other places.

In Catholic countries before 1918, dispensation was required for marriages until the fourth degree of consanguinity and, after this date, for marriages to the third degree. Since any marriage that could be permitted, was given dispensation, even in Catholic countries, this requirement was only a formality, and did not prevent cousin marriage, where the culture permitted or encouraged it. In Sicily, and in the provinces of Palermo and Agrigento in particular, dispensations were required in up to ten percent of all marriages, early in the twentieth century. (Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Antonio Moroni, and Gianna Zei. "Consanguinity, Inbreeding, and Genetic Drift in Italy." 2004: Princeton University Press.)

  • Cousin Marriage:

Cousin marriage is marriage between cousins (i.e. people with common grandparents or people who share other fairly recent ancestors). Opinions and practice vary widely across the world. In some cultures and communities, cousin marriage is considered ideal and actively encouraged; in others, it is subject to social stigma. Cousin marriage is common in the Middle East, for instance, where it accounts for over half of all marriages in some countries. In some countries outside that region, it is uncommon but still legal. In others, it is seen as incestuous and is legally prohibited: it is banned in China and Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, and in fewer than half of the United States. Supporters of cousin marriage where it is banned may view the prohibition as discrimination, while opponents may appeal to moral or other arguments. Worldwide, more than 10% of marriages are between first or second cousins.
In the past, cousin marriage was practised within indigenous cultures in Australia, North America, South America, and Polynesia. Various religions have ranged from prohibiting sixth cousins or closer from marrying, to freely allowing first-cousin marriage. Cousin marriage is an important topic in anthropology and alliance theory.
Children of first-cousin marriages may have an increased risk of genetic disorders, particularly if their parents both carry a harmful recessive mutation, but this can only be estimated empirically, and those estimates are likely to be specific to particular populations in specific environments. Children of more distantly related cousins have less risk of harmful genetic mutations. In fact, a study of Icelandic records indicated that marriages between third or fourth cousins (people with common great-great- or great-great-great-grandparents) may produce the most children and grandchildren.

See: Wikipedia:Cousin marriage

Double In Law Marriage

Related Category: Category: Double In Law Marriages
Double in-law marriages are those in which two or more siblings marry people who are siblings to one another. The result of these marriages is that the children of these couples are double cousins, having both sets of grandparents in common.


Related Category: Category:Polygamists
Polygamy is the practice of marrying multiple spouses. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, sociologists call this polygyny. When a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry.

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Comments: 6

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Would it be worth adding a category for people who marry a sibling of a step parent? I don't think it's a consanguineous marriage. Example, Hill-57133.

Edit: or people who marry an unrelated step-sibling, for that matter.

posted by Gary (van Oudheusden) Houston
edited by Gary (van Oudheusden) Houston
Gary, Do you mean a step-sibling? Tanya
I mentioned really two different cases, one is step-siblings, but Hill-57133 actually married a younger sister of his step-mother.
I found an interesting profile where the married couple appear to be siblings sharing at least the same father (mother not listed). Of course it brings the question of whether one of the siblings was adopted, but nevertheless interesting and unusual family profile. Would this be the correct categorization for this profile?
posted by B Kolot
I would use the more general "Consanguineous Marriage"
posted by Elsie Gorman

Categories: Forms of Marriage