“Then I will say that we have to marry each other”: A qualitative view of premarital pregnancy as a driver of child marriage in Malawi”

Andrea J. Melnikas, Nancy Mulauzi, James Mkandawire, Grace Saul, Sajeda Amin


Child marriage is common in Malawi, with 42.1% of women ages 20-24 marrying before age 18. Although global research on child marriage has increased in recent years, the reasons are context-specific and there is limited evidence on specific drivers of child marriage in Malawi. We explored pathways to child marriage in Mangochi and Nkhata Bay, drawing on focus groups (n=20) and in-depth interviews (n=39) with adolescent girls and parents of adolescent girls. We find that pregnancy often determines marriage timing and partner selection among adolescents, due in part to norms of adolescent dating or courtship and premarital sexual activity. Once pregnancy occurs, marriage is nearly inevitable even if the girl is under age 18. These findings have important implications for programs to delay marriage; programs must address weak motivations to prevent pregnancy and work to create alternative livelihood opportunities to foster economic self-sufficiency. (Afr J Reprod Health 2022; 26[9]: 55-63).

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1363/SP00916


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