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A new narrative review of the mental health consequences of child marriage

Updated: Mar 17, 2022

Last month, a narrative review was published by network members Dr Rochelle Burgess, Dr Kelly Rose-Clarke, Dr Delanjathan Devakumar and others. The review was published in the journal, PLOS Global Public Health and is the first to examine how mental health is approached in existing literature on child marriage.

It is well established that child marriage is a global problem and is a practice which has detrimental effects on young girls and boys. Yet, despite one in five girls getting married globally before the age of 18, and despite the various categories of risk being highlighted in research including maternal health, infant mortality and intimate partner violence, the mental health consequences of the practice are rarely investigated.

Following their systematic search of papers published between 2000 and 2020, the authors had a total of 21 papers which met the inclusion criteria, and these papers were then analysed using narrative synthesis. They found that IPV, isolation, poverty and challenges in childbirth were all recognised as social factors associated with emotional distress by individuals married as children. In terms of mental disorders, depression was the highest reported.

They concluded that while their findings highlight the significant emotional and mental health conditions associated with child marriage, gaps in their understanding remain. They noted that future research should attempt to examine the mental health needs of young men or further clarify directionality in the relationship between mental health and child marriage.

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