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Trends and factors associated with child marriage in four Asian countries [version 1; peer review: 1 approved, 1 approved with reservations]
Authors: Kerry L. D. MacQuarrie and Christina Juan
Source: Gates Open Research, 3:1467; DOI: 10.12688/gatesopenres.13021.1
Topic(s): Child marriage
Country: Asia
  Multiple Asian Countries
Published: MAY 2019
Abstract: Background: Child marriage, defined as marriage before the age of 18, is a human rights violation and is associated with numerous adverse health, social, and economic outcomes. As such, the phenomena of child marriage garners substantial programmatic and policy action. However, a better understanding of specifically how child marriage is or is not changing is needed. Methods: This study analyzes trends in the age structure of child marriage with cumulative incidence functions using data from Demographic and Health Surveys in four Asian countries. It further uses equiplots and chi-square tests of independence to identify specific patterns of and trends in inequalities of child marriage across three socio-economic factors: education, wealth, and residence. Results: We find significant decreases in child marriage in all four countries since the 1990s. The rate of change has been unevenly paced, with rapid increases in age at marriage followed by periods of little observable change. Child marriage generally falls first during the youngest ages, followed by decreases in marriage later in adolescence. Marriage remains an adolescent experience for the majority of women in Bangladesh and Nepal. Child marriage is most common in Bangladesh and least common in Indonesia, while India has experienced the largest declines in child marriage. There is no discernible trend toward non-marriage, but rather a trend toward delayed marriage only. We find widespread education-, wealth-, and residence-based inequalities, with child marriage concentrated among more disadvantaged groups. Inequalities based on education are wider than either those based on wealth or residence. Inequalities have mostly lessened over the previous decade, except in Nepal. A pattern of mass deprivation is observed with regard to education, while wealth-based inequalities follow a queuing pattern. Conclusions: These inequality patterns suggest delayed marriage be broadly promoted, alongside targeted interventions directed to the most disadvantaged groups.