In centuries past, when only the highest class had access to education, teen marriage was commonplace. People began working earlier and women had babies at a younger age. In today's society, 46 percent of teen marriages will end in divorce before reaching their 10th year. Money concerns because of lack of education, the stress of raising children at an early age and the lack of maturity in problem solving and communication will lead to challenges that many couples will not be able to overcome. Understanding the problems with teen marriage in today's society can help nurture stronger marriages and stronger communities.
Effect on Education
Women who are married before the age of 19 are 50 percent more likely to drop out of high school, wrote Gordon B. Dahl in "Demography." Without a high school diploma, prospects for higher education become unlikely, which makes finding a job more difficult. Without employment, many married teens will struggle to maintain a household separate from their parents'..
Married teens who do find employment can expect to earn less than couples marrying older. Women who marry young are 30 percent more likely to live in poverty. In addition to the strain put on financially insecure marriages, communities are shouldered with the burden of providing support to these households.
Managing the trials and tribulations of any marriage requires solid communication and problem-solving skills. While the teenage brain has developed the ability to process emotions, it is not until someone is in his early 20s that the ability to control impulses is intact. This means that in handling relationship issues, teenagers will have a more difficult time responding to emotionally charged events. This can create high levels of individual stress. In addition, those who marry under the age of 18 have an increased lifetime risk of mental health problems. This could be related to higher levels of stress or higher levels of substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Effect on Children
Many teens decide to marry because of an unplanned pregnancy or marrying earlier simply leads to younger parenting. It has been shown, notably in research conducted by Sara Jaffee, et. al. for Cambridge University and published in "Development and Psychopathology," that children born to young parents grow up to experience higher levels of unemployment and even higher levels of violent crime. In addition, these children more often grow up to be young parents themselves, repeating the cycle.
- National Health Statistics Reports: First Marriages in the United States: Data From the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth; Casey E. Copen, PhD et al
- Demography: Early Teen Marriage and Future Poverty
- NIMH: The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction
- Development and Psychopathology: Why Are Children Born to Teen Mothers At Risk for Adverse Outcomes in Young Adulthood?
Based in Charlotte, NC, Kelley Taylor is a therapist specializing in working with individuals and families. She received a master’s degree in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and is a nationally certified counselor.