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Growth and fluctuating asymmetry of human newborns: Influence of inbreeding and parental education



Historically, medical concerns about the deleterious effects of closely inbred marriages have focused on the risk posed by recessive Mendelian disease, with much less attention to developmental instability. We studied the effects of inbreeding (first-cousin marriage) on growth and fluctuating asymmetry of 200 full-term infants (101 inbred and 99 outbred) whose parents were of similar socioeconomic status in Sivas Province, Turkey. In addition to differences in their mean inbreeding coefficients (f = 1/16 for first cousins and f < 1/1,024 for unrelated parents), the consanguineous parents were less well educated (3 years, on average for both husbands and wives). We measured weight, height, head circumference, and chest circumference of the newborns, as well as four bilateral traits (ear width, ear length, and second and fourth digit lengths). After taking education into account, none of the measures of size (weight, height, head circumference, and chest circumference) and fluctuating asymmetry differed between the inbred and outbred groups. Male children of well-educated parents, however, were larger and had less fluctuating asymmetry. Female children of well-educated parents weighed more than those of less well-educated parents, but were otherwise indistinguishable for height, head circumference, chest circumference, and fluctuating asymmetry. We conclude that inbreeding depression causes neither an increase in fluctuating asymmetry of full-term newborns, nor a decrease in body size. Unmeasured variables correlated with education appear to have an effect on fluctuating asymmetry and size of male children and only a weak effect on size (weight) of female children. Am J Phys Anthropol 153:45–51, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.