Methods: We searched ten electronic databases including grey literature with keywords on child marriage and extreme weather. Two reviewers independently screened titles and abstracts and performed a full-text review. We included quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies and grey literature published in English from 1990 to 2022 that examined the association between child marriage and extreme weather events, as classified by the international disaster database. We used the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme and National Institute of Health critical appraisal tool for assessing study quality and summarized findings using descriptive and narrative analyses.
Results: Of 353 non-duplicate records, a total of 15 articles qualified for our final review. Findings reveal a correlation between the prevalence of child marriage and extreme weather events. Studies suggest child marriage is a strategy to 1) reduce economic burden of households after disasters, especially among women-led households or those living in higher poverty, and 2) decrease risk of sexual violence among unmarried daughters after disasters. Persistent gender inequality is a key factor – extreme weather events do not cause child marriage, rather, they exacerbate underlying elements of systematic oppression. Additionally, climate change vulnerability affects child marriage through income reduction worsening gender inequality and extreme poverty. Notably, no articles included experiences of gender minorities or were situated in high-income countries.
Conclusion: Several studies indicate that occurrences of gender-based violence and early marriage increase in the wake of extreme weather events. Seeing that child marriage is a violation of basic human rights for children, it is critical that social workers and other health professionals increase their awareness of the complexities surrounding child marriage and extreme weather which will worsen amid anthropogenic climate change. While there is a need for enhanced legislation, our priority should be attending to the root causes of gender inequality through anti-oppressive empowerment efforts and policy change that recognizes coexisting elements of marginalization, such as structural racism and poverty. There is a need for quantitative studies to explore pathways and qualitative studies to understand hidden contexts of child marriage along with short-and longer-term psychosocial and life course effects. Research efforts must also include experiences of gender non-conforming people, hitherto neglected in research on gender-based violence, including child marriage. Lastly, granular data on environment and gender correlates are key. Resources should be directed toward tracking marriage and climate data for more accurate measures of child marriage figures and trends in association with extreme weather events.