Amish traditions prohibit the marrying of outsiders. For a marriage to happen, both partners should share the same faith and be Amish.
According to statistics, more than 60,000 Lancaster County Amish can trace their family lineage from just 80 ancestors, which implies there is sharing of genetic defects and materials leading to fatal hereditary disease.
Inbreeding is evident in the Amish community due to the many cases of rare and unique genetic disorders detected in the area. Also, with the increase in population and no intermarriages, inbreeding is bound to happen.
In the Amish community, marrying a first cousin is prohibited, whereas marrying a second cousin is allowed. So, yes Amish community practice inbreeding.
The Amish community represents outstanding communities for the high degree of inbreeding. The inbreeding has resulted in increased recessive disorders that are unknown or rarely seen outside the Amish community.
The Old Order Amish practice inbreeding more since they do not believe in intermarriages. However, the inbreeding problem is more in isolated areas. During courtship and dating, Amish people often do not talk about the marriage topic to the youth.
If the youth or the Amish family has little knowledge of their family lineage, it will result in inbreeding. Unless a child is born with a genetic disorder, the family may never realize the inbreeding and may view the disease as a natural phenomenon.
A family will allow their child to marry a close family member like a cousin, even with the knowledge. Apart from inbreeding, the act can be viewed as incest which is seen before the Lord—leaving the question of whether Amish people follow all the bible scriptures.
Clinging to traditions
Interestingly, due to their lack of technology and education, Amish people have no information about genetic disorders and view diseases as regular occurrences. This has resulted in many of them still practicing inbreeding resulting in persistent genetic disorders.
Also, from a lack of knowledge, Amish people do not take their children to the hospital and end up not knowing the names of the genetic diseases and the cure. It is common to find all kids in an Amish family suffering from a similar disorder.
Most of the genetic disorders have only been traced to the Amish community. The Amish community has not adopted ways to carry out a test before marriage or after a child is born to detect if there is any genetic disorder.
Clinging on traditions is one of the main reasons why Amish inbreeding and genetic disorders have continued to accelerate over the years.
Insufficient Medical Technology.
Amish communities have hospitals that offer medical checkups. However, the hospitals do not have the necessary technology to help detect the types of illness. This has prevented many Amish from knowing the kind of disorder their children are suffering.
The worst part is that if an Amish decides to consult another bigger hospital, it leads to automatic shunning. Also, Amish are prohibited from using contraceptives as their values and beliefs support having large families.
This results in a family having almost five disordered kids. Besides technology, most Amish people cannot cater to medical expenses due to a lack of health insurance.
That’s why they use a small universal healthcare system, which is found within their local church, which lets the people pay into a communal pot later used for medical expenses, from major treatments to routine appointments.
In most cases, the pots are reserved for significant medical needs, although they may not be available for diagnosis of genetic disorders.
Additionally, Amish are generally private, and topics about inbreeding and genetic disorders occasionally arise. Amish community people are busy and may not have the time and energy to deal with genetic disorders.
Amish actively shun everyday conveniences as they never object themselves to statistical or academic analysis. Also, the Amish are inclined to stick together and discuss their community issues. Amish people do not have a full grasp of what genetic disorder entails.
Amish families receive their medical care from qualified providers like non-Amish people since they only participate in education until the eighth grade.
Even so, the eighth education is delivered by a community member rather than a qualified teacher. This implies that even with qualified medical assistance, Amish people will not fully understand the genetic disorders to the point they will seek proper medical attention or stop inbreeding.
Also, lack of education will overlap with the Amish habits of writing off actions or behaviors that they consider abnormal. As a result, genetic disorders are shrugged off and not researched from a medical perspective.
What are some of the genetic disorders?
The disorder includes Angelman syndrome, dwarfism, uncommon distribution of blood types, and metabolic disorders.
Most of these disorders are unique, rare, or severe enough to escalate the mortality degree among Amish children. Sadly, most Amish people accept these disorders as God’s fate.
Although the Amish are exposed to high risk of genetic disorders, their healthy and clean lifestyle has led to better health among them. For instance, the is low usage of tobacco and alcohol and a limited number of sexual partners.
For instance, dwarfism in the Amish community is associated with the founder effect. Amish people carry uncommon concentrations of gene mutations that result in various rare inherited disorders like dwarfism.
Ellis-Van Creveld syndrome is one form of dwarfism that, apart from shortness it involves polydactyly, an abnormality of teeth and nails. Also, half of the people with this disorder have a hole between the two upper chambers in their hearts.
If people within an area of dwarfism marry, the likelihood of recessive genes of the founder comes together to produce offspring. Ellis-Van Creveld has been traced back from 1744 and has stayed in the Amish community till today.
The disorder was passed from generation to generation; today, the disease is more common among Amish people than non-Amish people. The founder effect is an extreme example of a “genetic drift.”
How do Amish Prevent Inbreeding?
Amish people do try to prevent inbreeding. They ensure they know and communicate their family histories. Amish families have members who catalog the family tree since the families tend to be large.
The categorization is typically extensive as it includes immediate family members and far extended families. It is common for Amish people to know their second and third cousins in the community- and address them as such.
It implies that Amish people have a strong oral history, although it goes beyond the strong oral history and goes into the written tradition in other ways.
One tradition is a “Family Bible,” where the Amish ensure they pass the Bible to their generation. The Bible contains a recorded family tree on the blank pages at the beginning and end. The Bible could belong to a single nuclear family or be extensive to date back several generations.
Also, the Bible can denote other family Bible owners who can assist in supplementing the family data of the others. The information generated helps in preventing inbreeding among the Amish.
Also, by tending to the dead cemeteries, the Amish can prevent inbreeding. The cemeteries act as historical landmarks for the Amish as they can see the names and dates of the people before them.
With this, the Amish can draw general family correlations and surnames in the community. The process is easy as Amish people rarely change or introduce new surnames. As a result, Amish can know their direct family lineage and other people who might be peripherally involved as well.
Similarly, the Amish can prevent inbreeding through intermarriages, although it is a prohibited activity. Marrying outside their community could create a healthier gene pool, but it will ultimately destroy the essence of what it means to be Amish.
Overall, Amish have no proficient way of preventing inbreeding, making it impossible to prevent genetic disorders. Among the Amish, inbreeding has proved to cause physical and mental impairment among children. Inbreeding causes recessive genes to be homozygous, with high infant mortality.
It is high time the Amish people adopted technology, furthered their education, and allowed their children to marry outsiders to control inbreeding.
Also, other punishments like shunning people from seeking advanced medical attention should be banned. Health is a dire situation that should be given the attention it requires.
In conclusion, Amish people practice inbreeding. The inbreeding has been mainly fueled by the strict Amish rule of not marrying outsiders.
A large number of Amish people can be traced to a small number of Amish ancestors, which is why many Amish people have a similar surname. Inbreeding is evident in the Amish community due to the many cases of rare and unique genetic disorders detected in the area.
Also, with the increase in population and no intermarriages, inbreeding is bound to happen. The prohibition of technology and their lack of education is the leading cause of inbreeding acceleration in the Amish community.
Amish families have had a family Bible containing the family tree to prevent inbreeding, which passes over to their generations over the years. Also, tending the cemeteries has been a helpful way of knowing the family lineage from which a person comes.