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Impact of Child Marriage on Educational Attainment

When I was 15, I went to school every day, spent time with friends, and played soccer.

When Sara Tasneem was 15, she got married.

At 15, I worried about my math grade.

At 15, Sara lost her childhood, her freedom, and her agency when she was forced to withdraw from school.

For the 75,344 children trapped in child marriages across the United States, Sara’s story is all too familiar.

Child Marriage as a Threat to Education

Whether children are forced to drop out of school because of child marriage, they are deprived of formal schooling. Sometimes they are forced to drop out by their perpetrator or early pregnancy. Others are denied entry to an educational space because of their marital status.

This link between child marriage and educational attainment is undeniable. Children who marry before the age of 19 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school and four times less likely to graduate from college.

When children are removed from school, they not only suffer from a lack of formal education but also a lack of socialization. Schools provide a space for children to cultivate social skills and support systems which allow mobility and engagement in their communities. Child marriage, however, forces children to be isolated from the supportive social networks that are so crucial to their well-being.

Effects of Limited Education

This minimized social capital coupled with low education levels can severely curtail a child’s future by limiting their work opportunities. Many high-paying and stable jobs require more than a high school education or vocational training, which children trapped in child marriages may not possess. Therefore, depriving a child of the formal education needed to gain useful skills or vocational training impacts their lifelong earning and employment potential.

A lack of formal education also has intergenerational impacts. According to a report from the Foundation for Child Development, children whose mothers have not graduated from high school experience large disparities compared to children whose mothers have a bachelor’s degree. These disparities manifest in higher rates of poverty, lower rates of reading proficiency, and low family income. Children of child marriage may also experience lower rates of educational attainment.

Effects on Health

Forcefully withdrawing children from school can also reduce a child’s access to information on health and welfare for themselves or their children. According to a report published in the AMA Journal of Ethics, low socioeconomic status along with inadequate employment, family function, and educational attainment are all associated with compromised lifetime health.

A lack of education and financial stability can also lead to ineffective prenatal care and child nurturing. According to the International Women’s Health Coalition, children of child brides are 60 percent more likely to die in the first year of life than those born to mothers who are older than 19. These children are also more likely to be poor and unhealthy.

All of this creates an endless cycle for child brides and their children, one that traps them in poverty, low educational attainment, and poor health. Ending this cycle starts with ending child marriage. To learn how you can join Students Against Child Marriage in this fight, join our action list or consider starting a chapter at your school.

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