One may argue that the Whitaker family, originally from Odd, West Virginia, is the most well-known inbred family in the United States. Because the Whitakers are so private and because their neighbors and the authorities in their community look out for them, we don't know very much about their family.
When Mark Laita took photographs of the family in 2004 for the book Created Equal, he brought the family to the attention of people worldwide. When he attempted to photograph the family, the neighbors threatened him, and he had to explain who he was before they would let him advance.
In 2020, Laita paid The Whitaker family another visit and made a video of his trip that went viral.
Inbreeding Created Mental and Physical Abnormalities in the Whitakers
Creating a family tree for the Whitaker family is practically impossible because of their secrecy. Ethical constraints prevent researchers from obtaining family data without consent, so researchers rely on self-reported inbreeding to create family trees.
We observe Mark interacting with Lorraine, Ray, and Timmy at his 2020 interview with the Whitaker family. As a result of their unidentified mental illness, none of the three can provide thoughtful responses.
An unkempt family lives in a run-down house, giving the video an eerie feel. We believe that the family struggles to make ends meet because of the low average annual income in southwestern West Virginia.
Mark Laita gave the Whitaker family food and money to show that he was sincere. He explains in a note:
The average annual income in some counties in southwest West Virginia is as low as $12,000. Consequently, I took pizzas and soft drinks to the family and paid them generously, which goes a long way in a region where the average annual income is as low as $12,000. This was my fourth visit to the family, and each time I've brought them a money gift.”
According to a study published in Discover Magazine, inbred children have lower IQs, poorer lung function, and are more susceptible to sickness in general. According to the study findings, inbred children are also “at a significant risk of rare recessive genetic abnormalities.”
A medical specialist has not yet examined The Whitakers, but many feel their health problems are due to inbreeding. According to Mark Laita,
“Except for Timmy, all of the people in this film are related by blood. Inbreeding may or may not have played a role in the Whitaker children's anomalies. Still, considering the frequency with which it occurs in this region of the country and the extreme nature of the Whitakers' case, I believe that it played a role.
The story of the Whitakers is a fascinating puzzle that we may never be able to solve. We can only speculate about the family's past until they open up about it. In the meanwhile, Mark Laita has issued a warning:
I strongly discourage anyone from searching for them for the safety of the Whitakers' armed neighbors and the Raleigh County Sheriff's Office.
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Causes and Consequences of Inbreeding
It has been found that inbreeding increases the likelihood of congenital abnormalities and genetic illnesses in the progeny. Here's a video to help you better understand inbreeding:
When two creatures of the same ancestry mate, it is known as inbreeding. This goes against the biological purpose of mating, which is to shuffle DNA. Near-natal and childhood death rates nearly double when a kid is born to a first cousin, according to a 2011 study on Consanguineous Marriages.
The State of West Virginia's Infamous History of Inbreeding
Inbreeding practices in West Virginia have long been blamed for the state's poverty. National newspapers left a lasting impression of the state as a backwater in the 1930s, which featured images of decaying shacks and barefoot children in rags.
Incest offered as a crude “scientific” explanation for West Virginians' depressed social position, and they became the stereotypical “hillbillies” as a result. Anti-incest legislation has been enacted in West Virginia. However, first cousins can still get married elsewhere.
Unsettling Physical Features of Whitakers
Mark's observations taught us a lot. To begin with, the mental health of three members of this family was in flux. For example, Ray used to grunt whenever he needed to express himself.
Both Timmy and Lorraine also showed signs of being mentally unstable. The financial status of the family was poor. The fact that someone had made it thus far was remarkable.
Medical studies have found that inbred offspring are physically and mentally deformed. In addition to mental deficits, various mental health conditions and heart-related issues might arise.
As far as I know, all of Freddie's siblings went through the same things. Timmy was the only member of the band related to any others. Whitaker's parents could not have been linked through blood, though. The final video received more negative feedback than positive feedback.