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Understanding Saudi attitudes toward consanguinity

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submitted on 2023-08-14, 10:34 and posted on 2023-09-26, 07:46 authored by Nature Research

Almost 400 Saudis from a hospital waiting room were surveyed about their attitudes toward consanguineous marriages. One in every two respondents expressed positive attitudes, with Saudi men being twice more likely than women to be positive about this type of relationship.

The predominant reasons expressed behind a positive attitude were social and traditional (60%), but other explanations included living near family, strengthening family bonds, and financial reasons.

Spouses already in a consanguineous marriage were significantly more positive about this type of relationship than those who were not (65.8% vs 30.5%). Also, respondents with related parents were significantly more positive toward consanguinity than their counterparts (56% vs 38.1%).

Consanguinity – marriage between blood relatives – is highly prevalent in the Middle East region, with many studies reporting a prevalence of more than 50% in Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, for example. A recent study reported that consanguineous marriages were prevalent among 56% of the married population in Saudi Arabia. A full one-third of the marriages reported in that study were between first cousins. Other studies report the prevalence of consanguinity between 22 and 55% in the country.

“Understanding the attitude towards consanguinity and its predictors of socio-demographic characteristics will help to determine the societal need for educational programmes and the best way of targeting information to people”, write the researchers in their study published in the Qatar Medical Journal.

Saudi Arabia’s seemingly high tendency toward consanguinity might be associated with the common traditional belief that it’s important to strengthen and develop family ties, the researchers postulate.

The study found that respondents who received health advice about the risks of consanguineous marriages on offspring were less likely to have a positive attitude toward this type of relationship. Unexpectedly, however, those who received this information from a doctor were surprisingly more likely to have a positive attitude on consanguineous marriages than those who received this information from friends or social media. “This raises a question of the reason behind that, which needs to be thoroughly investigated in further research”, the researchers write.

The team, representing several universities and health institutions in Saudi Arabia, say care must be taken in interpreting and generalizing the findings of their study. They note that future studies should investigate the effect of educational programmes, social media and public health policies on the attitudes of Saudi Arabian adults toward consanguinity. They also recommend conducting a large national survey of public attitudes toward this type of relationship in different regions and cultures within the country to draw a clearer picture of the attitude in different segments of society.

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Published in: Highlights, Published by Nature Research for Hamad bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press)



  • English


Nature Research

Publication Year

  • 2016

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This Item is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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  • Hamad Bin Khalifa University

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