Abstract: Examining Determinants and Trends in Prevalence of Child Marriage within the Context of Social and Economic Disparities in India (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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433P Examining Determinants and Trends in Prevalence of Child Marriage within the Context of Social and Economic Disparities in India

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Pooja Paul, MSW, Doctoral Student, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Shanta Pandey, PhD, Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background/purpose: At a global level, child marriage is increasingly being recognized as a serious violation of human rights that deprives girls of their health, education and employment opportunities. While child marriage occurs in many countries across the world, South Asia accounts for almost half of the child brides worldwide. In India, despite a decline in proportion of women getting married as children, child marriage still impacts one-third of all girls. Apart from serious health consequences, child marriage leads to limited education and employment opportunities for girls, furthering social and economic inequity. Limited studies have mapped the changes in prevalence of child marriage over time; and, few studies have examined these changing trends by state. Within this study we examined the prevalence and rate of change of child marriage in India over the previous 25 years and over the past decade, both at the national and state level. Additionally, we also assessed determinants of child marriage in two southern Indian states, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Methods: For this study we analyzed data on married women from the National Family Health Survey – NFHS-1 (1992-93), NFHS-3 (2005-06) and NFHS-4 (2015-16), which is a nationally representative survey of women aged 15-49 years. We used a sub-sample of 197,733 women who were 25 years and below. Further, we used a sub-sample of women from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to examine determinants of child marriage. Child marriage was defined as first marriage below 18 years of age, and we used data on age at marriage to calculate percentage change in proportion of child marriage.

Results: We found that overall child marriage has been decreasing from 1992 through 2015, and as of 2015-16, 43% girls in India reported age at marriage to be before 18 years. Percentage decrease in child marriage was found to be 36% over the previous 25 years and 27% over the previous decade. Among the states with highest level of child marriage, Uttar Pradesh showed the maximum decrease of 46% over the past decade. In terms of economic development, the state with the highest HDI, Kerala, showed the maximum decline at 56% over the past 25 years and 39% over the past decade. From logistic regression analyses using data from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, we found that education, household wealth and religion emerge as important predictors of child marriage.

Conclusions and Implications: While the practice of child marriage has been declining, progress has been slow. Unless this decline in number of child brides is accelerated, India will be far from achieving the goal to end child marriage. Bringing an end to child marriage is crucial to breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty, and to educating and empowering girls and women.