Child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and school dropout in South Asia

Exploring the relationships between child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and educational attainment, particularly the secondary education, in South Asia

Cover page picture
UNICEF/UN062031/Vishwanathan

Highlights

Despite the recent progress made on girls’ education, elimination of child marriage and early childbearing, important barriers remain. As more girls are in school than ever before, especially in the contexts where child marriage is common, the conflict between schooling, marriage, and consequently childbearing become more acute.

The study explores the relationships between child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and educational attainment, particularly the secondary education, in South Asia. The study includes a comprehensive literature review, multi-country descriptive and multivariate regression analysis by utilizing Demographic and Health Survey from 5 countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 is also used for India.

The study points out that a set of shared underlying factors including poverty, cultural and gender norms, and perceived returns to girls’ schooling, feeds into the joint decision-making process about marriage and schooling. This implies that rather than characterizing the timing of marriage and school dropout as independent decisions that occur sequentially, they are presented as closely related and as part of a decision made jointly. The study also points out a strong association between secondary school completion and child marriage in Bangladesh, India and Nepal while for Pakistan and Afghanistan the educational attainment profiles are characterized by girls who have never been enrolled in school.

In addition, it was found that the overall factors driving both child marriage and educational attainment for girls vary within countries. Hence, each of the factors needs to be studied in depth to understand its implications for educational attainment and child marriage. In order to develop effective policies and interventions to address these important differences, rigorous program evaluations or impact evaluations would provide the evidence required for targeted policy and program design for country contexts, or even within countries, in the very diverse South Asian region.

Cover page picture

Author

Population Council for UNICEF ROSA

Publication date

Languages

English

Download the report

(PDF, 5,38 MB)