Decline of Cousin Marriage among the Karo: A Case of Sexual Conflict?

Impal Marriage Study

One goal of this study was to collect data on Karo people’s perceptions of the reasons for the low rate of impal marriage. The results of the ‘experimental’ part of my Fulbright project have been published in the journal Human Nature.

Impal Couples1 Karo couples married from the 1950s to the present.

My co-authors and I found a number of interesting things, including that Karo people find the prospect of someone marrying a cousin with whom they are unfamiliar much more distasteful than marrying one who with whom they have a close relationship. This runs counter to Westermarck’s negative imprinting hypothesis.

The age and gender pattern of responses suggests that women’s perception of the practice has remained steady while men’s perceptions have become increasingly negative. Taken together with a gender difference…

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