Cross cousin marriage

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Cross-cousin marriage denotes ethnosociologically the cousin marriage of a man with his cross- related cousin : with the daughter of his aunt on the father's side (the father sister), or with the daughter of his uncle on his mother's side (the mother's brother, uncle ). The cross relationship consists in the fact that a mother and a father of the spouses are siblings of different sexes . In contrast, in a parallel cousin marriage, two parents of the spouses are siblings of the same sex ( parallel relationship ): usually two fraternal fathers (see Bint-ʿamm marriage ), less often two sibling mothers.


In the following diagram, only two daughters of the four parent siblings are cross-related for the son and are therefore of interest as spouses:

Father sister
cross aunt
Father brother
parallel uncle ♂
sister ♀ parallel aunt
Mother brother
cross uncle
Daughter =
cross cousin
Daughters & Sons
= parallel
Daughters & Sons
= parallel
Daughter =
cross cousin

In the middle of the arrangement is the nuclear family consisting of father, mother and son, next to them are the parents' siblings with their daughters, the son's cousins; The son, as a cross cousin, is the possible spouse for his two cross cousins, whereby the decision for the daughter of his father sister or mother brother depends on the respective cultural background.

In the case of a daughter (instead of the son shown) nothing changes in the diagram, except for the gender of the partner: For them, the cross cousins ​​come into question, the sons of cross aunt or cross uncle.


Groups of hunters and gatherers usually have between 20 and 30 members. Survival of a group of this size when left to its own devices is unlikely in times of crisis. However, the chances of survival increase if the group has peaceful and cooperative relationships with other groups of hunters and gatherers. The basis for building such relationships is usually the exchange of certain goods. The exchange of sons and daughters, the "most valuable asset", has proven to be the most effective form of exchange for building long-term alliances. The institutionalized form of this exchange are exogamous marriage rules such as cross-cousin marriage, which prescribe a marriage outside of one's own ancestry group . It is usually exogamy because the daughters move in with their husband, who lives in a different parentage group. Strong alliance structures arise when the daughters are passed on in a ring between (at least) three groups. However, if the direction of exchange is reversed in each generation, according to Lévi-Strauss, two marriage groups can easily detach themselves from the marriage cycle, which makes it difficult to form alliances with others.

Exogamous marriage rules are closely related to extended incest prohibitions , which can also be traced back to the need for long-term alliances between groups, as for example Marvin Harris has shown.


The marriage of the father sister daughter is the recommended or even mandatory marriage rule for many of the 160 or so ethnic groups that are organized according to maternal ancestry ( matrilinear ) ; Among the almost 600  patrilineal ethnic groups oriented towards the paternal line, there are only a few who prefer a cross cousin, in their case the mother-brother-daughter.

The cousin marriage - also of a more distant degree - is widespread worldwide, especially in the Arab and also in the Islamic cultural area (see relatives marriage ), among many of the 1300 ethnic groups and indigenous peoples worldwide  , and has also been documented for many tribes and peoples of the past. Almost all cultures make a precise distinction between permitted and even desired connections to either cross or parallel cousins ​​and the undesirable opposite (marriage prohibitions and laws). One reason for the preference for cross cousins ​​is that many ethnicities see parallel cousins ​​- i.e. the children of the father brother or mother sister - as equal to their own siblings and therefore do not want or should not marry: They belong "to the family" and come therefore not considered as a spouse ( incest ban , exogamous marriage law ). However, the children of the father sister live in patrilocal societies in a different clan and are therefore marriageable.


In 1948, the French ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss showed in his ethno-sociological theory of the "formation of alliances" between groups of descent ( unilinear descent groups : single-line family associations, lineages , clans ) that mutual marriage between cross-cousins serves to strengthen the common alliance between two or more groups of descent. In contrast, includes two parallel related parents mostly the same family union, which then results through the marriage of their children, a strengthening of their own lineage, but no ties to another group. In the Arab-Islamic world, for example, parallel cousin marriage with the daughter of the father brother ( Bint ʿamm ) is very widespread because it strengthens the family cohesion of the fraternal fathers and keeps both small families in the same extended family (an endogamous marriage law of "internal marriage").


The Jewish banking family of the Rothschilds had cousin marriages for many generations, as did the descendants of the Hanseatic entrepreneur Johann Henry Schröder .

A well-known example of successive cross-cousin marriages can be found in the British hit novel Wuthering Heights ( Die Sturmhöhe ) by Emily Brontë , which she published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell: In it the young Catherine marries the Linton, he is the son of her father's sister; from Linton's perspective it is a marriage with the daughter of the mother brother (cross). Catherine's daughter eventually marries her cross cousin Hareton, the son of her mother's brother.

For the African Akan peoples, cross-cousin marriage is of great importance in their mother right . Another example is the Nambikwara in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil .

The marriage of the parallel cousin is preferred in the Arab world and also in the Islamic cultural area: with the Bint ʿamm , daughter of the paternal uncle , the father's brother (see also marriage of relatives ).

Hereditary Disease Risks

Genetic counseling centers in the affected countries also indicate that children of closely blood-related couples have a greater risk of a hereditary disease or disability than children of unrelated couples. This risk is twice as high with a relationship between first-degree cousin and cousin at 6 percent and increases when the offspring who are blood relatives marry one another repeatedly (see hereditary disease risks ).


  • Claude Lévi-Strauss : The Elementary Structures of Relationship . Translated from the French by Eva Moldenhauer . 3. Edition. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2009, ISBN 3-518-28644-7 (French first edition 1948; Lévi-Strauss, 1908–2009, was an ethnologist, founder of ethnological structuralism and early representative of an ethnosociology ).

Web links

Commons : cousin marriage  - Collection of images and media files
  • Helmut Lukas, Vera Schindler, Johann Stockinger: Cross cousin marriage. In: Online Interactive Glossary: ​​Marriage, Marriage, and Family. Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 1997, accessed on March 28, 2018 (in-depth remarks on various forms of cross-cousin marriage, with references).
  • Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Term: Cross-Cousin Marriage (cross-base marriage). (PDF file: 853 kB; 52 pages: pp. 92–143, here pp. 128–130). In: Introduction to the Forms of Social Organization (Part 3/5). Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2011, pp. 128–130 , archived from the original on October 17, 2013 ; accessed on March 28, 2018 (documents for your lecture in the summer semester 2011).
  • Brian Schwimmer: Cross Cousin Marriage. In: Tutorial: Kinship and Social Organization. Department of Anthropology, University of Manitoba, Canada, 2003, accessed on March 28, 2018 (English, extensive kinship tutorial with various forms of cross-cousin marriage).

Individual evidence

  1. a b Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Term Cross-Cousin Marriage (cross-base marriage). In: Introduction to the Forms of Social Organization (Part 3/5). (PDF file: 853 kB; 52 pages: pp. 92–143, here pp. 128–129). Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2011, pp. 128–129 , archived from the original on October 17, 2013 ; accessed on March 28, 2018 : “ad. Definition of cross-cousin: »Cross-cousin: A cousin related through an opposite-sex sibling link. In other words, a father's sister's child or mother's brother's child, in contrast a parallel cousin (cousin by same-sex sibling link). «(BARNARD / SPENCER 1997: p.599) ad. Definition of cross-cousin marriage: "Cross-cousin marriage: In alliance theory (especially in its early versions), a rule or practice of marriage between father's sister's child and mother's brother's child (a man's marriage with MBD [Mother Brother Daughter] is ›Matrilateral‹, with FZD [Father Brother Daughter] is ›patri-lateral‹). «(KEESING 1975: p.148, glossary) ad. Why is cross-cousin marriage so important here? Two things should be referred to here: On the one hand, the exchange of women (e.g. sisters between two men) leads to cousin marriages over a long period of time, i.e. over several generations (see SCHUSKY 1965: p.59 and PANOFF / PERRIN 1982: p.292) […] In a number of kinship terminological systems, a whole group of people is terminologically grouped under the category of cross-cousins. […] On the other hand, the kinship terminological system, which in most cases equates the parallel cousins ​​terminologically with the siblings (cf. eg Iroquois, Crow and Omaha systems), causes these parallel cousins ​​as marriage partners as a result of the incest taboo out of the question, thus only the cross-cousins, who are not subject to the incest taboo, are possible as spouses. (see SCHUSKY 1965: p. 60). "
  2. Frank Arndt: Exchange in Negotiations: A Dynamic Model of Exchange Processes. Springer Verlag, 2008, p. 92.
  3. ^ A b J. Patrick Gray: Ethnographic Atlas Codebook. In: World Cultures. Volume 10, No. 1, 1998, pp. 86-136, here p. 104: Table 43 Descent: Major Type ( PDF file: 2.4 MB; 52 pages: without page numbers ); one of the few evaluations of all 1267 ethnic groups recorded worldwide at that time: "584 patrilineal [...] 160 matrilineal [...] 349 bilateral" (= 46.1% patrilineal; 12.6% matrilineal; 27.6% cognatic-bilateral). The basic Ethnographic Atlas now covers 1,300 ethnic groups and indigenous peoples worldwide (status 2018 in InterSciWiki ); it serves the holistic cultural comparison of the peoples, z. B. in the international HRAF project .
  4. ^ Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Marriage forms in patrilineal societies. In: Introduction to the forms of social organization (part 2/5). (PDF file: 1.9 MB; 58 pages: pp. 33–90, here p. 63). Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2011, p. 63 , archived from the original on October 21, 2013 ; retrieved on March 28, 2018 : "For individual patrilineal societies, especially in the Middle East, the father-brother-daughter marriage (bint-amm marriage) was postulated as the ideal form of marriage and has led to fierce controversy (see explanations later) . For other patrilineal societies, e.g. B. the Australian Aborigines, SE Asia or South America, the cross-cousin marriage (e.g. with the mother-brother-daughter) was postulated as the ideal form. (Compare BARNARD / SPENCER 1997: p.152 f) “ .
  5. ^ Gabriele Rasuly-Paleczek: Patrilateral Parallel-Cousin Marriage: ("Bint-Amm-Heirat"). In: Introduction to the Forms of Social Organization (Part 3/5). (PDF file: 853 kB; 52 pages: pp. 92–143, here p. 138). Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, 2011, p. 138 , archived from the original on October 17, 2013 ; Retrieved on March 28, 2018 : "In most societies, the parallel cousins ​​are equated with the siblings (cf. e.g. Crow and Omaha system) and are therefore subject to the prohibition of incest and therefore cannot be married."
  6. Lukas, Schindler, Stockinger: Alliance system. In: Online Interactive Glossary: ​​Marriage, Marriage, and Family. Institute for Cultural and Social Anthropology, University of Vienna, October 11, 1997, retrieved on March 28, 2018 : "Alliance system: A relationship system that produces established and permanent marriage relationships by means of marriages repeated over several generations between unilinear descent groups or other kinship groups is expressed. "
  7. Hansjakob Müller among other things: Medical genetics: family planning and genetics . In: Swiss Medicine Forum . Volume 5, No. 24 . Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, Basel June 15, 2005, p. 639–641, here p. 640 ( PDF file: 123 kB, 3 pages ). PDF file: 123 kB, 3 pages ( Memento of the original from March 29, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Table 2: Genetic risks in related marriages : "First degree relatives (father-daughter, brother-sister): 50% | 1st cousin – cousin: 6% | Cousin – cousin 2nd degree: 4% [Note: risk for couples who are not consanguineous: 3%] […] Studies have shown that the common offspring of relatives carry higher genetic risks than those of non-relatives. In the case of first-degree cousins, the risk of physical and mental disabilities is twice as great as the risk in the normal population. [...] The severe degenerative nervous disease Tay-Sachs occurs more frequently in the Ashkenazim Jewish population than elsewhere. The risk of this disease with autosomal recessive inheritance is correspondingly high in couples of this origin. "  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. Janine Flocke: Migrants: Relatives, engaged, married! In: Zeit Online. March 27, 2007, accessed on March 28, 2018 : “Because the risk of malformation is often higher than expected, even among cousins. This is especially the case if the couple's ancestors were blood relatives. "Some families have only married each other for generations," says [Yasemin] Yadigaroglu. The Berlin gynecologist and expert in prenatal diagnostics Rolf Becker has found that around 8 percent of the children of treated migrants were mentally or physically disabled. " (Note: 3% for parents who are not blood relatives.)