Journal Article

What are the drivers of child marriage? A conceptual framework to guide policies and programs

Purpose
The child marriage field lacks a simplified framework that connects an understanding of the drivers of child marriage for girls to decisions about the design of interventions to delay marriage within different contexts and support married girls.

Methods
We reviewed existing child marriage frameworks and conducted consultations with experts working on child marriage. We then developed a simplified conceptual framework describing the key drivers of child marriage for girls. We explored how these drivers play out and interact using qualitative data from three settings where child marriage is common: Bangladesh, Malawi, and Niger.

Results
The final conceptual framework lays out five core drivers of child marriage for girls, which vary and interact across contexts. Social norms and poverty are shown as core drivers that underlie lack of agency, lack of opportunity, and pregnancy/fear of pregnancy. These drivers reflect community, household, and individual-level factors. The case studies highlight the important relationships between these drivers, and the way they interact within each context. We use these examples to explore how policymakers and practitioners might identify the most appropriate interventions to address child marriage across different settings.

Conclusions
We offer this framework as a starting point to guide more targeted interventions and policies that address the complex combination of child marriage drivers within each setting. By adapting this framework to different settings, those designing and implementing child marriage prevention interventions can identify the key drivers in each setting, understand how those drivers interact, and more effectively target effective interventions.