It's not clear why the women in the study chose to get married before adulthood, but pregnancy seems to have played a role. Almost half of the women who married as children were pregnant before adulthood, compared to just 3 percent of those who got married as adults, the authors noted.
The researchers found that slightly more women who'd married as children had suffered from mental disorders throughout their lifetimes, compared those who'd married as adults -- 53 vs. 49 percent, respectively
Specifically, major depressive disorder and nicotine dependence were the most common disorders among those married as children. There wasn't a big difference in terms of alcohol and illegal drug abuse, although those women married as children were much more likely to smoke cigarettes (the study classified tobacco addiction as a mental illness).
The study found that a higher risk of most mental disorders was common in women married as children. After adjusting for other factors, the researchers found that antisocial personality disorder was the most common disorder.
Nevertheless, it's difficult, and perhaps impossible, to know for sure if child marriage was behind a higher rate of mental illness, since other factors could be part of the picture.
"What we have here is only an indirect proof that child marriage may have negative effects on mental health," Le Strat stressed.
One alternative possibility is that something about these women could make them more likely to get married as children and to suffer from mental illness, the researchers asserted.
One fact is clear, though, said Linda J. Waite, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago who studies marriage. Both men and women who marry young are more likely than other people to get divorced, she said, although Latino women
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