Thursday, March 24, 2016

Child Brides, Forced Marriage, and Partner Violence in America: Tip of an Iceberg Revealed

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights and thwarts personal safety and well-being. Child brides are at higher risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) and often are unable to effectively negotiate safe sex, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including human immunodeficiency virus, and early pregnancy. The prevalence of forced marriage and child marriage in the United States is unknown. The intersection of forced marriage and child marriage and IPV is equally unknown. 

When 277 mothers who reported IPV to shelter or justice services were asked about a forced marriage attempt, frequency and severity of IPV, mental health status, and behavioral functioning of their child, 47 (17%) reported a forced marriage attempt with 45% of the women younger than 18 years of age at the time of the attempt. Among the 47 women, 11 (23%) reported death threats, 20 (43%) reported marriage to the person, and 28 (60%) reported a pregnancy. 

Women younger than 18 years reported more threats of isolation and economic deprivation associated with the attempt as well as pressure from parents to marry. Regardless of age, women experiencing a forced marriage attempt reported more intimate partner sexual abuse, somatization, and behavior problems for their children. Forced marriage attempts occurred to one in six women (17%) reporting IPV and are associated with worse functioning for mother and child. 

The frequent occurrence and associated effect of forced marriage attempts to maternal child functioning indicates routine assessment for a forced marriage attempt as part of comprehensive care for women reporting IPV.

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  • 1Texas Woman's University, College of Nursing, Houston, Texas.
  •  2016 Apr;127(4):706-713. 

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