Previous studies have examined the relationship between age at marriage and health outcomes, but few have explored how marriage drivers are associated with health outcomes. In this study, we examine the relationship between two marriage drivers, premarital pregnancy and agency, and several health outcomes (use of maternal health care services, child health outcomes, and change in depressive symptoms) among married adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
We use three panel data sets collected by the Population Council: the Adolescent Girls Empowerment Program from Zambia (N = 660), the Malawi Schooling and Adolescent Study from Malawi (N = 1,041), and Understanding the Lives of Adolescents and Young Adults from India (N = 894 in Bihar, N = 599 in Uttar Pradesh). Our analytical models use logistic and multinomial logistic regression.
We find mixed evidence of the association between marriage drivers and health outcomes. Results show that having agency in marital partner choice in India is associated with both an increase and decrease in reported depressive symptoms. In addition, pregnancy before marriage is associated with fewer antenatal visits and hospital-based births in Malawi than pregnancy after marriage. However, we find no evidence that it is associated with worse child health outcomes than pregnancy after marriage in Malawi and Zambia.
Overall, our study suggests that the relationship between marriage drivers and AGYW's health outcomes after marriage is not consistent across contexts. We highlight the importance of interpreting marriage drivers within prevailing norms to understand their impact on married AGYW's health.