Study: Marriage under 18 linked to mental problems

Around 6% of American women get married before the age of 18. These girls are much more likely to battle mental health issues like depression and anxiety. They are also more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.

These findings have led some, including the head researcher of the study, Dr. Yann Le Strat, to label child marriage as "a major psychological trauma."

The study analyzed the responses from over 18,000 women who completed the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. The prevalence of child marriage was highest among African Americans and Alaskan natives, those who have low education and earn a low income, and teens living in the South and rural areas.

The study was unable to determine if marriage at a young age facilitated mental problems or if the same factors that increased the risk of child marriage also contributed to mental issues.

Le Strat hypothesized that child marriage in America may be influenced by the same factors as in developing countries, like sexual coercion and family pressure. However, it is important to realize that being forced to marry young is not the same as a young couple making this choice on their own. This study did not examine if any of these women were pressured into marriage or if these brides willingly chose this lifestyle. The study also did not take into account other factors that may have contributed to teen marriage as well as mental health issues, like teen pregnancy or extreme religious views.


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  • Twilight's Bella Swan gives a dramatic example of the mental problems that face teen brides

Other than our grandmothers, we all know someone who got married before she graduated high school. Chances are this girl was not what you might call normal. Maybe she got married for the attention, so she could move out of her living situation, because she was pregnant, she had some fairytale notion of true love, or maybe she just really liked "mature" guys who could grow facial hair. Whatever the reason, it does not take a psychologist to know that these young brides do not see the world the same way as the rest of us or that their young marriages may lead to problems. Still, it is always nice to have scientific data to back up your argument, especially when trying to convince your teenage daughter not to marry a motorcycle mechanic named Buck. A new study published in the journal Pediatrics found that women who get married under the age of 18 are 41% more likely to suffer from mental disorders down the road.

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