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Social norms are a fundamental concept in the social sciences that help to keep society in order. Humans require norms to lead and steer their behavior, to maintain order and regularity in social relationships, and to make sense of and understand the acts of others. Taboos and other moral rules are extremely important to a group because they define what is proper and wrong. Let’s take a look at one popular taboo in the United States that could be considered both morally right and morally wrong. Marriages between first cousins. In some cultures, marrying cousins might be frowned upon. Due to genetic concerns, there may be rules and legislation prohibiting incest. Some cultures, on the other hand, may support cousin marriage for a variety of reasons. Many cultures, for example, advocate first cousin marriage to strengthen familial relationships. Second cousins are legally permitted to marry in every state in the United States. However, marriage between first cousins is only legal in around half of the states in the United States. For example, Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa were actually first cousins. Elsa’s mother and Albert’s mother were sisters, she and Albert had no children from their union. State Laws on Marriage to Cousins
Twenty-four states prohibit marriages between first cousins. Twenty states and the District of Columbia allow cousins to marry; six states permit first-cousin marriage only under certain circumstances.
States that allow only under certain conditions:The following states also allow first-cousin marriage but only under certain conditions such as marriage after a certain age or inability to bear children: Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Source: “State Laws Regarding Marriages” (2010).
Arizona: If both are 65 or older, or one is unable to reproduce
Illinois: If both are 50 or older, or one is unable to reproduce
Indiana: If both are at least 65
Maine: If a couple obtains a physician’s certificate of genetic counseling
Utah: If both are 65 or older, or if both are 55 or older and one is unable to reproduce
Wisconsin: If the woman is 55 or older, or one is unable to reproduce. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
One winter a couple of years ago, some of Mary’s cousins came to visit her in New York. She decided to introduce to them her new husband, they have been married for nearly a year. At that point, he hadn’t met anyone in her family. And introducing him first to these cousins, who are pretty close to her in age, seemed like a nice way to kind of ease him into the weirdness of her family.
They all met up at a dingy falafel restaurant in the city. So, they ordered falafel and started making small talk. Her husband asked her cousins what they did for work, her cousins asked how her husband and her met. And then, my husband asked them a perfectly normal, innocent small-talk question: “Are you two related to Mary on your mum’s side or your dad’s?”
Her cousins looked at each other and then they looked at Mary. There was a long, awkward pause. And Samantha finally said, “Both… We’re related to Mary on both sides.”
That’s because Samantha and Leila’s parents are first cousins. They grew up in the U.S., where cousin marriage is way less common… where it’s even shameful. That’s why they hesitated when her husband asked them what seemed to be a simple question. Samantha and Leila are perfectly normal. There are taboos in every society. They are deeply held convictions that certain acts are evil, backward, abominations, and disgusting. These types of social control tell us which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.
You will examine the data above and explain how our cultural beliefs can influence our personal opinions, even when legislation exists to clarify why this is normal. Their mother and father are first cousins. Should Samantha and Leila be embarrassed to tell to everyone that they are sisters and also second cousins?