Journal Article

What influences girls’ age at marriage in Burkina Faso and Tanzania? Exploring the contribution of individual, household, and community level factors

Purpose
This comparative study explores the connections between potential drivers of child marriage among girls at the individual, household, and community levels. It provides insight into the multilevel influences on child marriage with the goal of informing policies and programs aimed at eliminating the practice.

Methods
We conducted a secondary analysis of baseline data from the Building Evidence to Delay Child Marriage Project, a large study undertaken in Burkina Faso and Tanzania. For each country, using data on adolescent girls and parents, we ran a series of nested logistic regression models to identify factors associated with having ever been married among girls aged 15–17 years.

Results
Findings indicate that child marriage among girls is shaped by a combination of factors at multiple levels and that the weight of influencing factors varies by context. At the household level, parental relationships were influential in both countries, although in different ways. The influence of the community varied considerably between countries, holding more importance in Burkina Faso than in Tanzania. In Burkina Faso, the importance of schooling and existence of alternative pathways for girls beyond marriage appears crucial to reducing child marriage. Other factors strongly associated with child marriage include girls’ agency, the timing of girls’ sexual initiation, and community norms, specifically views on child marriage among fathers. In Tanzania, early sexual initiation among girls was common and strongly associated with marriage during childhood; parents’ fear of premarital sex and pregnancy also emerged as a significant factor.