Teen marriage can be defined as the union between people between the ages of 13 to 19 years. In the past teen marriage was considered a norm in many places. Then the legal age for marriage was when a girl reaches the stage of puberty and considered fertile and ready for procreation. The proposition for delay of marriage age is based on believes that teenagers are not mentally and psychologically prepared to handle the issues that are related to marriage. In the past the focus was to eradicate the prevalence of premarital sex in the society. Other major factors that contribute to the prevalence of teen marriages include teenage pregnancy, religion, family and peer pressure, poverty and the need for security, arranged marriages and cultural practices that encourage it. Some parts of the world practice teen marriage for the continuation of family bloodline and lineage for economic and political reasons; a good example is the ancient Rome.
In the past teenage parenting was not a big issue. Teenage parents were everywhere. The world of politics, media and academics had not declared it a social problem. Phelps, Furstenber and Colby (2002) put that before 1965 in America, half of the women were married before the age of 20. After the Second World War, the decline in marriage was witnessed due to women taking educational careers. In 1970s, the average marriage age for women had risen to over 21 years. Today the average ideal age for marriage is 25 years.
Are teens ready for marriage?
Ted Haggard, John Bolin (2000) in “confident parents and exceptional teens” put that ‘most teens are biologically able to mate but are not ready for marriage’ they argue that adolescent years are difficult because teenagers are psychologically ready for sex but are not prepared to handle the difficulties that are associated with marriage. They are not ready to raise children and are not ready to make long lasting commitments to their partners. They suggest that adolescent stage should only be a stage where people learn to practice controlled sexuality. To them the society teaches the teenagers that it is not possible to control themselves as they are just like animals by assuming that it is natural for them to be active to another.
Teen marriages are always bound to break. The highest cases of divorce occur between people who were married in their teens. The average duration in which a teen marriage can last has been put at 2 to 3 years (Carlson & Stinson, 1982). Stresses such as financial needs have been suggested to be the cause of the breakages in marriage. (Annette U. Rickel 1989) due to the economic problems the teenagers in a marriage are not able to earn enough for them to make a comfortable life. This is caused by the couple’s lack of adequate education to enable them get employment in the labor market. Other reason that makes it difficult for teens to get jobs is the law against child labor. When the teenagers are unable to fend for themselves then they are forced to stay with the parents of one of the spouse. There are bound to be differences between the parents and the young married couple whenever they start living together.
The teenagers still have the tendency of despairing for things that other people have and think they may never have. They also still have not let go of their possessions and find it difficult to share with anyone. Most people believe that 50-60% of teen marriages will end in divorce. The reason for the existence of this believes is that people think that teens marry for all the wrong reasons. Of all the reasons that have been put forward, pregnancy has been suggested to be the major reason that makes teens consider marriage option. Teens also consider marriage just to get far from their parents. They feel that their parents are too controlling and they want some independence. With this as a reason for marriage then teen marriages are headed for divorce. Teens are still in a stage of psychological upheaval and still finding their real personality and undergoing emotional maturation.
Teen marriage has been blamed for the high rate of divorce in the society today. For example Latvia recorded the highest rate of divorce than the rest of Europe and the world in the early 1960s. After a study to fathom the cause of the high divorce rate was conducted, marital age for those studied was found to be a major contributing factor to divorce. In 1979, 5.5 % of 1000 Latvian inhabitants were bound to be divorced. The marital age for Latvians has been decreasing since 1950s until 1980.Wolfgang Lutz, Sergei Scherbov (1994) suggests that the reason why teenage marriages break is because of the way teenagers find their mates. A large percentage of them find their mates through friends and acquaintances while others find their mates at discotheques and parties. They never spend enough time to know their partners before they consider taking the vows. Therefore taking time to find an ideal made is not possible for teenagers as they have only met people around them.
Ebony magazine in August 1961 ran a story about teenage marriage of “Negro (African Americans) as the ultimate waste of teenage potential”. The writer claimed that teenagers rush into marriage as a search for freedom. Although the teenagers are looking for freedom they have wasted their chances of living a free live as most of the marriages they go into are bound for divorce. After marriage the chances of continuing with education are slim as the teens start to provide for their families. The decision to obtain marriage certificate instead of college certificate will be costly in the future of the teens. The writer claims that the lack of education makes the teenager lack foresight and the ability to plan for the future thus rendering the future of married teens vague.
Teenage marriage has always been considered to be a solution to the problem of single mother parenthood among the young female population. It is also a way of minimizing the rate of premarital sex in the society. In assessing whether teenage marriage should be allowed, it is imperative that policy makers follow the past and current trends of marital age among the population. The cause in the increase in the age for marriage has to do with the various reasons that affect teen marriages. Apart from economic reasons, there also other health factors that does not encourage the occurrence of teen marriages. The overall wellbeing of the teenagers in marriage should be considered when deciding whether teen marriages should be allowed.
Early marriages are known to be highly unstable. Divorce rates in the US have teenage marriages contributing the highest percentage. For example 50 % of women who married at the ages of 18-19 will be divorced 15 years into their marriage compared to only a third of women married at age over 20. Women who got married at their teens will have a low prospect about marriage at later life if they are divorced. (Naomi, Sailor 2002). Those advocating for teen marriage as a solution suggest that studies that have been conducted indicate that teenage marriage improve the economic status of women who come from poor backgrounds. Studies have also shown that married teenage males enjoy higher economic status than their unmarried counterparts of the same age. However this only continues until the age of 22 years when their advantage start lacking behind greatly because of lack of proper education. For the women, marrying and then divorcing reduces their chances of enjoying economic prosperity in their later years.
Beside economic problems, there also other problems associated with teen marriages such as health. Married teen mothers are likely to have rapid second birth. According to national longitudinal study, teen mothers who are married are more likely to have rapid birth when they stay with their husbands (Sailor, 2002). Another problem that has been associated with teen marriages is the prevalence of violence among married teens. Teenage relationships are all associated with high level of violence. Although there is no prove of increased violence after marriage, it should be noted that women between the ages of 16 -24 years experience the highest levels of violence. The nature of violence range from victimization from their partners on rape, murder, sexual assault and other aggravated injury. The US department of Justice reports that women opt to get married to escape hostile home environment (Sailor, 2002). Some women also cite childhood abuse as the reason that they became pregnant and want to get to early marriages. Early marriages therefore should be taken to be an indicator that teens are experiencing some trouble in their family.
Maturity of partners in marriage is an essential factor. By considering the age of people in teen marriage, there are bound to be immature and irresponsible acts done by the teens in their marriage. Such kinds of actions may not be a big problem to someone outside marriage context but it posses a serious problem to anyone who is married. This will make the possibility of them enjoying their union in marriage difficult as the partners may not be ready to commit to the other.
Although teenage marriage has been criticized from many quarters, some people still argue that it may have potential benefits to individuals. Research has shown that teens who marry people from the same social, racial, economic and sometimes religious background will have higher chances of enjoying longer marriage live. Men in such relationships have been known to have higher chances of not suffering from heart diseases at old age. In the case of women, there have been cases of experiencing low psychological traumas in later life or recovering from them quicker than people who married at after age 30s. Compared to people who marry at the age of 30, married teens are more likely to enjoy their marriage. The key to making a lasting teenage marriage is enabling them make informed decision when they are faced with one by ensuring that they have enough facts before making a decision.
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Phelps Erin, Furstenberg Frank F., Colby Anne. (2002). looking at lives: American longitudinal studies
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Rowan T. Carl. “The Tragedy of Teen- age marriage” Ebony magazine. August1961.Vol. 16, No. 10
Sailor, Naomi. (2002). Is Teen Marriage a Solution? London: SAGE.
Wolfgang, Lutz, Sergei Scherbov. (1994).Demographic Trends and Patterns in the Soviet Union Before
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