Nav: Home

Delaying marriage in developing countries benefits children

April 04, 2017

Delaying the marriage age of young women in parts of the developing world has significant positive effects for their children, a new study shows.

The research, conducted by academics at the University of Sussex, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington at Seattle and the World Bank, looked at data from tens of thousands of households across India.

It uncovers that children of women who get married later are more likely to complete their required vaccinations, have a higher weight-for-height, are more likely to enrol at school and attain better grades.

Underage marriage is prevalent in India; though the legal minimum age of marriage is 18, over 50 per cent of women in the study reported being married at a younger age. The practice is not just specific to India, but is common within many parts of the developing world.

The paper, published in the Journal of Development Economics, looks at more than 32,000 women, aged 15-40, living in both rural and urban households across India. Previous studies have highlighted the health risks of early childbirth, for both mother and child; others have focussed on its effects on the child's education. Uniquely, this investigation looks at a much broader range of indicators of child wellbeing and attempts to find out why marriage age in itself has such profound effects.

Among its findings, the study shows that children of women who delay marriage by one year are:
  • 4.6 per cent more likely to complete their required vaccinations
  • 3.1 per cent more likely to enrol at school
  • Achieve 2.3 per cent better grades in reading, and 3 per cent better in maths.


To further shed light on why they observe these effects, the authors zoom in on a special set of women, the "child brides" -- these are the women who are engaged to be married before they reach puberty. They find that the children of the non-educated "child brides", in particular, suffer the most negative effects to their wellbeing. The fact that these children are affected indicates that the age at marriage in and by itself matters.

Dr Annemie Maertens of the University of Sussex elaborates: "What our study is saying is that delaying marriage not only improves the mother's educational attainment or changes the kind of husband she marries. There's also a direct effect: because she's getting married earlier, she has different preferences, less health knowledge, possibly lower bargaining power and gives birth to more children.

"It's not enough to just work on the educational aspect: minimum age laws need to become enforced."

India's Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is clearly not being observed or enforced successfully, the researchers argue. The country's cultural acceptance of child marriage might play a role and, hence, in addition to better enforcement, the study suggests that incentive schemes -- such as the "Our daughters, our wealth" program in Haryana, India -- could offer a solution.

Dr Maertens says: "There are a couple of small-scale pilot programs that have been quite successful, which give a financial reward to parents of unmarried 18-year-old girls, and our paper is in support of those programs.

"In the absence of social norms, which have not been changed, and in the absence of the ability to enforce laws, you might want to consider other incentives."
-end-
The paper -- titled "The Causal Effect of Maternal Age at Marriage on Child Wellbeing: Evidence from India" - is part of a larger project, involving Dr Maertens and Dr Amalavoyal Chari (University of Sussex), Professor Rachel Heath (University of Washington at Seattle) and Dr Freeha Fatima (World Bank).

University of Sussex

Related Marriage Articles:

Do unmarried women face shortages of partners in the US marriage market?
One explanation for declines in marriage is a shortage of economically-attractive men for unmarried women to marry.
Could marriage stave off dementia?
Dementia and marital status could be linked, according to a new Michigan State University study that found married people are less likely to experience dementia as they age.
Happy in marriage? Genetics may play a role
People fall in love for many reasons -- similar interests, physical attraction, and shared values among them.
Your genes could impact the quality of your marriage
The quality of your marriage could be affected by your genes, according to new research conducted at Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Ideal marriage partners drive Waorani warriors to war
In a new study, a team of researchers examined the social composition of raiding parties and their relationship to marriage alliances in an Amazonian tribal society, the Waorani of Ecuador.
More Marriage News and Marriage Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...