The Untold Truth: Child Marriage in the United States


Child marriages, although an outdated practice, continue to occur in the United States.

Safia Khan, Photojournalist

Marrying off one’s daughter at such a young and crucial age may seem like an extremely outdated practice that only exists in third world countries, but sadly that is far from the case. Between the years 2000 and 2015 200,000 underaged girl were married. The scariest fact is that there are no laws stopping it in the United States.


In the United States, each state determines the minimum age that one can get married. One can legally get married as young as fifteen years old (with parental consent). Up until January of 2019 in New Hampshire, girls could get married at 13 and boys at 14 (Cornell Law School).


How could these laws ever possibly be in the best interest of these innocent and vulnerable children? Some parents believe that it’s okay to marry off their daughter under 18 and that it would benefit her. They are even more inclined to do so if she’s pregnant. However, child marriage endangers and harms these children for life.


These children, who are barely teenagers, are forced to live on their own and separate from their families at a crucial point in their lives that should be focused on them enjoying their childhood. Alarmingly, over 50% of the girls drop out of school in an early marriage and the likeliness of them living in poverty and facing domestic abuse at the hands of their “spouse” increases.


If these underaged girls happen to get pregnant in these marriages they run the risk of dying during childbirth and their child dying in childbirth 20% more than women in their 20s (Forbes).


Caleb Gonzalez (12) believes that “ as much as [he] would like everyone to be free to make their own choices, it’s not safe to have the legal age of marriage under the age of emancipation. When you have parents forcing their children into marriages, it becomes a scary situation for those children. They are stuck in a marriage they had no say in. I believe that people should be allowed to marry at the same age they are emancipated so kids are protected from being forced into marriages.”


Child marriage laws are also a loophole for pedophiles to go unconvicted of their crimes and marry their victims and unfortunately, this happens a lot.


Dawn Tyree was pregnant and married to her 32 year old rapist in 1985. Dawn Tyree was only 11 years old. Due to her parents being extremely conservative abortion wasn’t an option, but being unmarried and pregnant was not an option either. So at 11 years old, Tyree was forced to marry her abuser and had two of his children before the age of 16 (The New York Times).


The most heartbreaking part of that story is that it is not unique and this often occurs a lot in the United States.


Delaware and New Jersey are two out of 50 states that have the minimum age set at 18 without exception, and even though this is an improvement there is still a long way to go.


There is no reason that in a developed and first world country like the United States that legal exploitation of children through child marriages should be occurring.