a1 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Sultan Qaboos University, Al Khoud, Sultanate of Oman
The practice of consanguineous marriage has been the culturally preferred form of marriage in most Arab and the Middle Eastern countries, including Oman, but due to a paucity of population-based data in the past there is a dearth of information about its form and dynamics in Oman. Recent national-level surveys allow this gap to be filled. This paper examines the prevalence, trends and determinants of consanguineous marriages in Oman using data from the 2000 Oman National Health Survey. The results indicate a very high prevalence of consanguineous marriage in Oman, as more than half (52%) of marriages are consanguineous. First cousin unions are the most common type of consanguineous unions, constituting 39% of all marriages and 75% of all consanguineous marriages. The study observed various patterns of consanguinity, some of them common with other Arab nations, and some unique in nature. Women's age at marriage, employment, place of childhood residence and geographical region appear to be significant determinants of consanguineous marriages. Consanguineous marriage shows a strong association with marital stability, early age at marriage and early-age childbearing. There has been no appreciable change in the prevalence of consanguineous unions in Oman over the last four decades despite massive socioeconomic development and modernization. However, recent marriage cohorts show slight declining trends. The results suggest that consanguinity is likely to remain stable in the future or decline at a slow rate. Specific health education and genetic counselling should be followed in line with WHO recommendations to minimize the negative health consequences of consanguinity for child health.
(Online publication February 09 2012)