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Are Teen Brides Nuts? Study Links Teen Marriage and Mental Disorders

By Sarah Rae, Editorial Staff

A new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) finds that women who marry before age 18 have a higher risk of mental disorders. This includes bipolar disorder, panic disorder, depression, and even antisocial personality disorder. In the U.S. nearly 9 percent of females were married before age 18. These women tend to be of low economic status, lower level education, and live in rural areas. Almost half of them were pregnant when they married.

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“We know that child marriage is associated with elevated risks of HIV transmission, unwanted pregnancy and death from childbirth. But while previous studies have looked at the physical health consequences of child marriage, the impact on mental health had never been studied before,” said Dr. Bernard Le Foll, psychiatrist co-author of the study. In the U.S. divorce rates are particularly high until couples reach their mid-twenties. But what about countries where child marriage is a common practice and divorce not an option? Researchers want this study to influence child marriage laws, calling it a “global public health concern.”

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So they found indirect proof that child marriage has an adverse affect on mental health. But what’s the direct cause? What is it about marriage that doesn’t gel with adolescence? Is it the bond itself or does it just depend on the person? Some married couples in that 9 percent don’t divorce, and some of those brides don’t develop mental disorders. Then it’s fair to say there are many other factors to consider than age. Let’s take a look at some of them:

• It’s important to consider the type of girl who would marry in her teens. Maybe poor mental health was already a part of her life. Maybe she has low self-esteem. Maybe the responsibilities of young adulthood are too much for her, and she wants someone to take care of her. Perhaps she wants to get away from a bad family situation.

• We also have to consider the type of spouse she marries. How emotionally mature or mentally healthy is he? Can he meet her needs? Does he have the same expectations?

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• Then we have to consider the type of parents who would sign a consent form. In many states, a person under 18 needs both of their parents present to consent in order to obtain a marriage license. If you were the parent, would you give your child consent?

• What about age disparity? Shouldn’t we take into account whether a woman married a same-age or older spouse? Certainly that brings different cards to the table. A same-age spouse is likely equally inexperienced and probably not financially secure. On the other hand, you may be concerned that an older spouse brings too much experience to the table and doesn’t have the best intentions.

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• Should a person who can neither vote nor drink alcohol make a big commitment like marriage? They have so much ahead of them. Before 18 rarely do we have any idea what we will eventually do with our lives. In fact, most 35-year-olds don’t either. But while you can always make a career-change, marriage is supposed to be forever.

• Would you hang out with your 16-year-old self? I know I wouldn’t. I don’t think we’d like each other very much. She got most of her knowledge of the world from MTV, never wore anything but jeans, listened to overly sentimental emo music, and had no idea that life was going to be harder than 8am AP calculus. I’m not sure what she’d think of me, but the label “poser” comes to mind. Would I want 16-year old me making any big, life-changing decisions? Heavens, no.

• Could some kids be using marriage as a Get Out Of Jail Free card when it comes to underage sex? Would their parents want them to marry at 16 rather than engage in premarital sex? If health clinics providing free condoms can be criticized as promoting sex, then the denunciation of premarital sex should be criticized for promoting child marriage.

Original Story

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