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But in a small number of countries, adulthood, or the “age of majority” may be reached before age 18.
“Marrying early was associated with lower educational attainment,” she said, “but rather than early marriage causing girls to drop out of school, the most likely explanation here is that girls that leave school for other reasons have few socially acceptable options in life but to marry and start a family.” The papers were based on surveys of nearly 1,000 girls and women 15 to 35 years in rural Mwanza Region, where 35 percent of brides marry before age 18. The papers are “Parent-offspring conflict unlikely to explain ‘child marriage’ in northwestern Tanzania,” in Nature Human Behaviour, and “ ‘Child marriage’ in context: Exploring local attitudes towards early marriage in rural Tanzania,” in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters.
Other co-authors are Anushé Hassan of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Mark Urassa of the National Institute of Medical Research in Mwanza, Tanzania.
“We’re not claiming that girls are never forced into early marriages,” he said.
“This certainly happens in some contexts, including in Tanzania.
In fact, marrying early was associated with greater empowerment in household decisions and marriage at any age was viewed as increasing a woman’s social status.” The authors also report that most girls and women themselves decided when and who to marry.
“The terms ‘child marriage’ and ‘forced marriage,’ ” Schaffnit said, “are often used interchangeably by development organizations, but we demonstrate that there are contexts in which young people decide to marry early and may be incentivized to do so by gains in status and respect at home and in the community.” Lawson stressed that parental coercion in early marriage does occur in some circumstances.
But in contexts where ‘child marriage’ mainly takes place in late adolescence, and where autonomy in partner choice is clearly apparent, we need to be careful not to falsely vilify parents.
For some young women, it may represent a strategic choice to marry early and be the best locally available option, especially if they are already sexually active or they have started having children.” Schaffnit also notes the importance of considering locally-available options.
Lawson was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant that will fund further research on early marriage in Tanzania for two years.
The NSF Cultural Anthropology Program Senior Research Award totals roughly 0,000.