The genetic fitness of an individual is influenced by their phenotype, genotype and family and social structure of the population in which they live. It is likely that the fitness of deaf individuals was quite low in the Western European population during the Middle Ages. The establishment of residential schools for deaf individuals nearly 400 years ago resulted in relaxed genetic selection against deaf individuals which contributed to the improved fitness of deaf individuals in recent times. As part of a study of deaf probands from Gallaudet University, we collected pedigree data, including the mating type and the number and hearing status of the children of 686 deaf adults and 602 of their hearing siblings. Most of these individuals had an onset of severe to profound hearing loss by early childhood. Marital rates of deaf adults were similar to their hearing siblings (0.83 vs. 0.85). Among married individuals, the fertility of deaf individuals is lower than their hearing siblings (2.06 vs. 2.26, p = 0.005). The fitness of deaf individuals was reduced (p = 0.002). Analysis of fertility rates after stratification by mating type reveals that matings between two deaf individuals produced more children (2.11) than matings of a deaf and hearing individual (1.85), suggesting that fertility among deaf individuals is influenced by multiple factors.
- Assortative mating
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