What is Child Marriage?




Child marriage is the marriage of a minor below the legal age of majority, which in most countries is 18. Girls are the most vulnerable and most likely population to be forced into marriage before 18. Child marriage severely jeopardizes girls’ health and robs them of education and economic freedom. It also increases their risk of domestic violence.

Given these factors, one case of child marriage is one too many.


Child Marriage Fact Sheet

Child Marriage is a Reality in the U.S.


Even though the U.S. Department of State recognizes all marriages before 18 as a human rights abuse and condemns child marriage in the rest of the world, child marriage is widespread and legal in 48 states in the U.S.



Between 2000-2010, an estimated 250,000 children as young as 12 were married in the United States (source: Unchained At Last).

48 states are failing to protect girls from child marriage. They have dangerous loopholes and exceptions that allow for child marriage, some even have no minimum age for marriage.

Delaware and New Jersey both banned child marriage in the summer of 2018, leading the country in protecting girls from this human rights abuse.

Some common legal loopholes that allow for child marriage include: (1) parental consent; (2) judicial consent; (3) an exception allowing for marriage in the case of pregnancy.


What is Child Marriage?




Child marriage is the marriage of a minor below the legal age of majority, which in most countries is 18. Girls are the most vulnerable and most likely population to be forced into marriage before 18. Child marriage severely jeopardizes girls’ health and robs them of education and economic freedom. It also increases their risk of domestic violence.

Given these factors, one case of child marriage is one too many.


Child Marriage Fact Sheet



Child Marriage is a Reality in the U.S.


Even though the U.S. Department of State recognizes all marriages before 18 as a human rights abuse and condemns child marriage in the rest of the world, child marriage is widespread and legal in 48 states in the U.S.



Between 2000-2010, an estimated 250,000 children as young as 12 were married in the United States (source: Unchained At Last).

48 states are failing to protect girls from child marriage. They have dangerous loopholes and exceptions that allow for child marriage, some even have no minimum age for marriage.

Delaware and New Jersey both banned child marriage in the summer of 2018, leading the country in protecting girls from this human rights abuse.

Some common legal loopholes that allow for child marriage include: (1) parental consent; (2) judicial consent; (3) an exception allowing for marriage in the case of pregnancy.


Read more

William & Mary Law Professor Vivian Hamilton has extensively studied the devastating effects of child marriage in the United States. In her 2012 report, “The Age of Marital Capacity: Reconsidering Civil Recognition of Adolescent Marriage,” she finds that:

Marriages entered into before the age of 18 have a 70-80% likelihood of ending in divorce;
Women who marry before 19 are 50% more likely to dropout of high school than their unmarried counterparts and 400% less likely to complete college;
Women who marry young are 31% more likely to live in poverty later in life than women who delay marriage;
Women who married at 18 or before had a 23% greater risk of disease onset, including heart attack, diabetes, cancer, and stroke.


The AHA Foundation advocates for a hard minimum age of marriage at the age of majority in each state, which is typically 18, with no exceptions.


Stories from Survivors and Advocates


January 25, 2018

Survivor of a Forced Marriage, Fraidy Reiss, Works to End Child Marriage in America’s Neighborhoods

Fraidy Reiss is the Founder and Executive Director of Unchained At Last, the AHA Foundation’s sister organization that […]
October 30, 2017

William and Mary Law Professor Warns Child Marriage Robs American Youth of Education and Prosperity

This month, the AHA Foundation spoke with William & Mary Law Professor, Vivian Hamilton. Professor Hamilton received her […]
June 22, 2017

Shocked About Child Marriage in Massachusetts, High School Student Takes Action to Help Stop the Abuse

In Massachusetts between 2010 and 2014 almost 200 children, mostly girls were married, some as young as 15. […]
November 16, 2016

Once “a Shell of a Person Living in a Haze” of Forced Marriage, Nina Van Harn Fights Back and Wins the First Case of Forced Marriage Annulment in the State of Michigan

The image most often associated with a woman or girl who is forced into marriage is that of […]