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A global movement to end “child marriage” often assumes that they are coerced into marrying by their families at a cost to their schooling, mental health and physical wellbeing.“That’s a dominant narrative within the international development sector, that ‘child marriage’ happens because daughters are forced to marry at young ages for their parents’ financial benefit and that marrying early is fundamentally harmful to the girl’s wellbeing,” said Susan Schaffnit, a postdoctoral scholar in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Anthropology.“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.
Question guide outlines the key qualitative tools used to investigate gender norms, with a particular focus on tools used in the second year of our research, which focused on norms related to child marriage and education.
Qualitative research is particularly valuable for understanding gender norms that affect adolescent girls, because it allows people’s own perspectives and voices to come through, and gives the researcher a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the complexities involved in studying gender norms.
The internationally recognized definition of a child – established by the Convention of the Rights of the Child, one of the most universally endorsed and widely ratified treaties in history – is “every human being below the age of 18 years”.
This is also the legal definition used in most parts of the world.
“But surprisingly little research has explored local peoples’ perceptions of early marriage or directly tested whether parents gain and daughters suffer from marrying under 18 years.” In a pair of papers, lead author Schaffnit and David Lawson, a UCSB assistant professor of anthropology, report on a study of the timing of marriage, bridewealth payments (transferred from the groom’s family to the bride’s family) and women’s wellbeing in rural Tanzania.
The papers are published this month in Nature Human Behaviour and in Sexual and Reproductive Health Matters.“Future research should distinguish between early marriage in late adolescence and very early marriage, which is considerably rarer in Tanzania,” Lawson said.“Boundaries between childhood and adulthood are flexible, and fixating on an arbitrary 18-year-old threshold means we may miss opportunities to support girls and women regardless of their precise age at marriage.” In 2016 Tanzania revised the legal age of marriage for girls from 15 years to 18 years, but this has since been appealed due to conflict with local customs.But in a small number of countries, adulthood, or the “age of majority” may be reached before age 18.(The Convention on the Rights of the Child makes an exception for national laws recognizing an earlier age of majority.) Some countries and cultures consider adulthood a state achieved upon marriage – for example, countries where full age means the age of 18 years and above, and any married woman is deemed to be of full age. How old are the children involved in child marriages? What does teen pregnancy have to do with child marriage? Is it insensitive to interfere with other countries’ religious or cultural traditions around child marriage? What is the difference between child marriage, early marriage and forced marriage?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.Access to society journal content varies across our titles.If you have access to a journal via a society or association membership, please browse to your society journal, select an article to view, and follow the instructions in this box.