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Association Between Girl-child Marriage and Intimate Partner Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights From a Multicountry Analysis of Demographic and Health Surveys
Authors: Bright Opoku Ahinkorah, Olayinka Modupe Onayemi, Abdul-Aziz Seidu, Oluwafemi Emmanuel Awopegba, and Anthony Idowu Ajayi
Source: Journal of Interpersonal Violence , DOI:
Topic(s): Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
Women’s empowerment
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: APR 2021
Abstract: While considerable attention has been given to the health consequences of child marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), limited studies exist on its impact on intimate partner violence (IPV) in the region. We address this gap by examining the link between child marriage and IPV. We tested our study hypothesis using demographic and health survey data of 28,206 young women aged 20-24 years from 16 SSA countries with recent surveys (2015-2019). Binary logistic regression models were used to examine the effect of child marriage on IPV. Child marriage prevalence ranged from 13.5% in Rwanda, in East Africa, to 77% in Chad, in Central Africa, while IPV ranged from 17.5% in Mozambique in Southern Africa to 42% in Uganda, in East Africa. Past year experience of IPV was higher among young women who married or begun cohabiting before the age of 18 (36.9%) than those who did at age 18 or more (32.5%). This result was consistent for all forms of violence: physical violence (22.7% vs 19.7%), emotional violence (25.3% vs 21.9%), and sexual violence (12% vs 10.4%). After controlling for covariates, we found that young women in SSA who married before 18 years were more likely to experience IPV than those who married as adults (AOR: 1.20; 95% CI [1.12, 1.29]). Significant heterogeneity was observed in the country-level results, with a higher likelihood of IPV found in 14 of the 16 countries and lower in Angola and Chad. Child marriage is associated with a higher likelihood of IPV in most SSA countries, suggesting that ending child marriage will result in a substantial reduction in IPV. There is a need to institute policies to support and protect women who marry as children from abusive relationships in SSA.