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Teen marriage is typically defined as the union of two adolescents, joined in marriage from the age range of 14–19 years old. Until the late 20th century, teen marriage was very common and instrumental in securing a family, continuing a blood lineage and producing offspring for labor.[1] Many factors contribute to teen marriage such as teen pregnancy, religion, security, family and peer pressure, arranged marriage, economic and political reasons, social advancement, and cultural reasons. Studies have shown that teenage married couples are often less advantageous, may come from broken homes, may have little education and work low status jobs in comparison to those that marry after adolescence.[2]

Although a majority of teen marriages suffer from complications and often lead to divorce, some are successful. For example, in India, where teenagers are sometimes forced to marry by arrangement, more than 90% of these marriages will not end in divorce. In the United States, half of teen marriages dissolve within 15 years of the marriage.[3] The rate of teen marriage, however, is decreasing due the many opportunities that are available now that previously were not available before. Presently, teen marriage is not widely accepted in much of the world.[4] Teen marriage is most prevalent in culturally or geographically isolated parts of the world and it is decreasing where education is the focus of the population.

Background[edit | edit source]

The legal status of circumstances surrounding teenage marriage vary from one area or era to the next. Marriage has often been used as a tool to create allegiances or agreements, rather than a link between two people in love. Almost every country has a legal minimum age for marriage, which ranges from as low as 12 in some Latin American countries to as high as 22 in China. The age requirement is commonly 16 for women and 18 for men. Despite laws concerning the age of marriage, tradition usually takes precedence and marriage continues to occur at very young ages. In many African and Asian countries as much as two-thirds of teenage woman are or have been married.[5] In many nations, marrying off a young daughter means one less mouth to feed and no fear of illegitimate children, a dishonor to the family. But these youthful brides often suffer physical and psychological damage, according to a UNICEF report.[6]

Historically, most marriages in western culture have had a late age of marriage and an emphasis on the nuclear family.[7] The percentage of women ages 15–19 who are married in the United States is 3.9%, while in the Democratic Republic of the Congo the percentage is 74%.[8] In the U.S., teenage marriages declined significantly after the mid-20th century, but experienced resurgence in the 1990s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Census data from 2000 show that 4.5% of 15- to 19-year-olds were married, up from 3.4% in 1990. While that was an increase of almost 50%, it was still far below the 9.5% recorded in 1950.[9]

Religious aspect[edit | edit source]

The article “Religious Heritage and Teenage Marriage” suggests that many religions such as Pentecostalism, Fundamentalist Christianity, and other institutionalized sects give the message that leads parents and teens to view early marriage as the only acceptable means of culminating romantic relationships. It also became the tradition to the first generation.[10] More recently, research shows that religion has slowed down the rates of teen marriage and teen pregnancy rate since 1991,[11] a reversal of earlier trends.

Legal aspect[edit | edit source]

In many countries, teen marriage laws are making it harder for teens to marry. In the United States, all but one state require that a couple be 18 in order to marry without parental permission. Nebraska sets the age of majority at 19. However, several states will waive this requirement if there is a pregnancy. However, teenage couples may still have to have court approval. A few states allow pregnant teens or teens who have already had a child to get married without parental consent. However, these couples must have permission from a court. Even with parental approval, many states require court approval when a person is 16 years old or less.

In the Siriono culture of South America, a girl may marry before she reaches puberty.[citation needed] The Murnigin girl of Australia is likely to become a wife when her breasts first begin to develop. The Murnigin boy of Australia might marry for the first time when his beard begins to appear.[citation needed] A Lepcha girl in Tibet is sometimes married at eight years of age, while boys are often married when they are 12 years old.[citation needed]

Boys marry at 15 years of age or less in 10 percent of 58 societies.[citation needed] Another 42 percent marry between 16 and 19 years of age. Thirty-eight percent are married in their twenties, and 10 percent marry when they are 30 years of age. (Ayer) Scientists and psychologists made a discovery in 1963 that in traditional societies, boys and girls have usually begun to do serious work well before they reach puberty. Girls are often doing womanly work at a certain age: cooking, weaving, gardening, and taking care of their siblings from the age of six to the age of nine. Some girls have to do these chores at an even earlier age like three or four. Boys on the other hand, learn how to farm, herd, and hunt before they reach manhood. Some mothers and fathers attempt to let their children to choose their potential loved ones. However, about 70% of decisions regarding marriage of children are made by their parents. Parents who fail to marry a child at the proper age are thought to be neglecting their responsibilities. These parents usually have their reputations ruined. Across cultures, females tend to be married earlier than males. Boys are married later than girls in 85 percent of 45 cultures. In the remaining 15 percent, both sexes marry at a roughly the same age. The differential in age of marriage for males and females is from one to five years in 78 percent of 37 societies and between six and ten years in another 18 percent.[citation needed]

State Listing of Teen Marriage License Laws[12][edit | edit source]

See for a more complete list (and international comparisons).

  • Under 18 applicants need certified copy of birth certificate, both parents must be present with identification, or if you have a legal guardian they must be present with a court order and identification. If one or both parents are deceased, proper evidence of such must be provided.
  • Under 18 applicants need certified copy of birth certificate, both parents must be present with identification, or if you have a legal guardian they must be present with a court order and identification.
  • If applicant is above the age of 34, either a notarized parental consent form is needed, or the parents must accompany the applicant, present the proper identification, and sign the parental consent form in front of the clerk issuing the license.
  • If applicant is age 16 – 17 one of the following documents showing proof of age is needed:
    • certified copy of birth certificate
    • current driver's license
    • state or military I.D. card
    • or current passport
  • If applicant is age 15 or under, a court order is also necessary.
  • Under 18 requires consent of both sets of parents.
  • If either the bride or groom is under 18, at least one of the minor's parents, or legal guardian, must appear with the couple. Certified copies of birth certificates are required. The couple must also schedule an appointment with a counselor and then appear before a superior court judge.
  • If applicant is 16 or 17, consent of both parents (or parent having legal custody), or guardian, or judicial approval is necessary.
  • If applicant is under 16, a Judicial Court Order along with parental consent is necessary.
  • If applicant is under the age of 18 written consent of the parent or guardian is required and under the age of 16 the Judge of probate must endorse with written consent on the license.

Results and Consequences[edit | edit source]

Consequences[edit | edit source]

According to the book of Eleanor H. Ayer, Another situation that could lead teenagers to an early marriage is often unprotected sex, which could lead to a pregnancy.[13] Other factors that also lead to marriage are love, lust, fear of losing their partner, abuse, extreme parental control, sexual harassment and step-family difficulties.

Results[edit | edit source]

Teen couples usually have unhappy marriages, which might lead to a divorce. One in three teen marriages ends in divorce by the age of 25. Additionally, according to Bob and Sheri Stitof, "marriages and divorce rates have increased by 68 percent since 1995. Also, one out of every four teenagers have parents that are divorced."[14]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Striof, Bob. “Teen Marriage: History, Statistics, Things to Consider.” 15 November 2008 <>.
  2. Kiernan K.E. “Teenage Marriage and Marital Breakdown: A Longitudinal Study.” Ingenta Connect. Routledge, Part of the Taylor & Francis Group. 15 November 2008 <>.
  3. Thomas, Amy. “The Truth About Teen Marriage.” 02 May 2003. 15 Nov 20088 <>.
  4. Striof, Bob. “Teen Marriage: History, Statistics, Things to Consider.” 15 November 2008 <>.
  5. "Teens and Marriage (sidebar)." Issues & Controversies On File 6 July 2007. Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services. 3 Nov. 2008 <>.
  6. "The world of teenage marriage: too young to say I do." U.S. News & World Report. 19 Mar 2001. 12. eLibrary. Proquest CSA. MT SAN ANTONIO COLLEGE. 03 Nov 2008. <>.
  7. Soll, Lindsay. "The History of Marriage." To Tie the Knot or Not? 2003. 20 Oct. 2008 <>.
  8. "The world of teenage marriage: too young to say I do." U.S. News & World Report. 19 Mar 2001. 12. eLibrary. Proquest CSA. MT SAN ANTONIO COLLEGE. 03 Nov 2008. <>.
  9. Senderowitz, Judith. Adolescent Health: Reassessing the Passage to Adulthood. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1995.
  10. Beck, Scoot H. Cole, Battie S. Hammond, Judith A. "Religious Heritage and Teenage Marriage." Review of Religious Research. 35.2 Dec. 1993: 117-133 JSTOR. 10 Oct. 2008 <>.
  11. Foust, Michael. "STudies: Abstinence Message, Religion Shapes Teen Behavior."13 may 2003. Baptist Press. 2008 Terms of Use. 10 Oct. 2008 <>.
  13. Ayer, Eleanor H. Teen Marriage. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc. 1990
  14. Stitof, Bob and Sheri. Teen Marriage History, Statistics, Thing to Consider United States Department of Vital Statistics. 14 October 2008 <>.

External links[edit | edit source]

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