Marriage is regarded as a moment of celebration and a milestone in adult life. The age at first marriage varies across the globe. Being married before the age of 18 has been a social norm in third world countries [refer to Appendix A]. The percentage of women being married before age 18 is estimated to be 20 to 50 percent in average in developing countries (Joyce, et al. , 2001). On the other hand, western countries are unlikely to experience the similar pattern of marriage.
The marital union is normally delayed too long although this is the most apparent reason for the breakdown in sexual ethics (Orsi, 2001). Because of its wealth, western society chooses to marry later in life until they have built an adequate maturity in age, education and financial state. Nowadays, many international organizations have made an effort to reduce the number of early marriage worldwide (Yudkin and Robert, 1996). Many believe that the practice of early marriage can hinder self-development of young girls.
However, in western countries, there are several efforts to promote young marriages (Orsi, 2001). They believe that early marriage should be looked as a platform to cultivate maturity together but not as an institution just for the grown-up individuals. As we are concern, early marriage is widely practice in developing countries hence a global issue has arisen as to whether early marriage does really hinder self development due to the consequences it brings to young girls. The practice is believed to bring several benefits to some extent.
However, the adverse effects it brings can impede the self-development of young adolescences in many aspects including health consequences, character building and education as well as career opportunities. 2. 0Statistical Studies of Early Marriage This aspect highlights the prevalence of early marriage across the globe and the very reasons of early marriage especially in developing countries. This aspect is important to illustrate the situation regarding early marriage worldwide. 2. 1Prevalence of Young Marriage The practice of young marriage is most common in developing countries (United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 2001).
According to Joyce (2001), an analysis of Demographic and Healthy Survey data shows that Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asian countries are having the most cases of early marriage. Of these countries that have high cases of young marriage, Niger is the leading country with 88 percent of the women married before age 18. Adapted From: Joyce, L. F. , et al. (2001). Future Options Foreclosed: Girls Who Marry Early. Reproductive Health and Rights. 139-143. Retrieved January 25, 2006, from the World Wide Web: http://www. path. org/files/RHR-Article-14. pdf. 2. 2Major Factors That Lead to Early Marriage
The huge number of young marriage in developing countries is due to several reasons. Poverty is one of the major factors underpinning early marriage (Joyce, 2001). A young girl may be regarded as an economic burden for a family thus early marriage is looked as a strategy for economic survival. A current study of five very poor villages in Egypt shows that young girls are being married off to much older men from oil-rich Middle Eastern countries for family survival (UNICEF, 2001). Besides, early marriage is one way to ensure that a girl is protected from physical disturbance (UNICEF, 2001).
Parents believe that their daughters are safer when they marry early as there is always a man to guard them. For instance, some families in Northern Uganda encourage the young girls to marry to militia members in order to secure protection (UNICEF, 2001). For third world countries, marriage shortly after puberty is common among those living traditional lifestyles (Joyce, 2001). The girls as early as 14 years old have to carry responsibilities as a wife. As it has become a social custom, the tradition is carried on from one generation to the next. 3. 0Opponents’ Views Against Early Marriage
This aspect discusses some of the opponents’ views against early marriage. It mostly talks about the disadvantages of early marriage to the girls including the lack of education, health problems and psychosocial disadvantages. The arguments given agree that early marriage does hamper self-development. 3. 1 The Denial of Education The opponents believed that early marriage denies the right of young adolescents to the education they necessitate for self-development. In traditional societies, the investment in a girl’s education is thought to be wasted as the girl is going to marry and stay at home doing household chores (UNICEF, 2001).
For instance, in Northern Nigeria, early marriage is the very reason girls are often withdrawing from school (UNICEF, 2001). Because of the early end of female education, they have limited opportunities to develop skills and acquire knowledge ‘that serve them well throughout their lives’ hence restricts their economic and career opportunities (Joyce, 2001). This is because withdrawal from school that results in illiterate and unskilled women will lead to no recognition in professional field. 3. 2 Health and Reproduction Problem
The opponents also argued that early childbearing which always occurs in early marriage endanger the lives of both the mother and her baby (Joyce, 2001). The early pregnancy increases the risk of complications and dying during delivery. A report shows that the risk of death due to pregnancy-related cases is doubled among women aged 15 to 19 compared to adult women (Adhikari, 2006). They further stressed that these girls are also more susceptible to sexually-transmitted diseases (UNICEF, 2001). Hormonal fluctuations and permeability of vaginal tissues experienced by these girls can lead to infertility.
Moreover, according to a study in Rwanda, 25 percent of women who were pregnant before 18 were infected with HIV although they only had sex with their husbands (UNICEF, 2001). 3. 3Psychosocial Disadvantages When early marriage takes place, the girls will confront with great emotional damage. Sociologists suggested that this is due to their confinement at home to do household chores hence their mobility is denied (UNICEF, 2001). Most of the girls are depressed with this situation that eventually affects their emotional well being.
An Indian research conducted in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh found that the spouses of early marriage usually suffered from great psychosocial damage (UNICEF, 2001). Another concern raised by the opponents is that the young girl loses her social life outside family cycle and this has affected her chance of cultivating her own identity (UNICEF, 2001). The most important implication of this is that her self-esteem is silently hindered from being developed and this will make her vulnerable to sexual and physical violence.
In Eastern Africa for instance, a young wife has no right to refuse sex to her husband even though her partner is suspected with HIV (UNICEF, 2001). 4. 0 Proponents’ Views on Early Marriage This part will enlighten several views that support early marriage in our society. This includes health benefits, social stability and character advantages. In this argument, early marriage is looked upon as a better practice than delayed marriage. 4. 1 Health Benefits The proponents believed that body functions are more effective and healthy at early stage in life.
For women, the body is particularly geared towards reproduction during early adulthood (Orsi, 2001). Early marriage is beneficial because desire and energy from young couples also produce healthy offsprings. They also highlighted that later marriage has led to problematic births and birth defects. This can happen as the body is unlikely to negotiate any burden like pregnancy at a late age. Not surprisingly, later marriage which is always associated with cohabitation and premarital sex increase the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases (Orsi, 2001).
The hazardous infections like HIV will spread widely if the practice of premarital sex has became a lifestyle. 4. 2 Early Marriage as a Solution to Cohabitation Another issue raised by the proponents is that the trend towards later marriage has led to a great social deterioration in the society in term of cohabitation. In the United States of America, cohabitation is more prevalent than other countries as the people choose to marry later in life (Henslin, 2005). A study found that cohabitation before marriage is the very reason for breaking up after they were married (Henslin, 2005).
Besides that, the increasing case of cohabitation in the United States of America is clearly illustrated by the graph on the next page. Adapted From: Henslin, J. M. (2005). Cohabitation. Sociology- A Down to Earth Approach (2nd Ed. ). 468. Boston: Pearson, Allyn & Bacon. They further argued that married couples including young spouses gain more benefits in terms of physical health, general happiness and longevity than cohabitants.
This is proven from a study which was cited as strong evidence that cohabiting couples experienced the rate of depression three times more than married couple (Popenoe and Dafoe, 2006). . 3 Self-development Improvement It is also believed that early marriage helps in cultivating maturity. Early marriage is looked upon as a platform for young people to grow in maturity together. Moreover, they share experiences at an early age before egoism is deposited in their heart. This is important to ensure a successful marriage is established (Orsi, 2001). They further emphasized that early marriage is a natural institution to grow emotionally by everyday give and take at an early age. This foundation is hard to build later in life.
Also, through The London Telegraph, Emma Besbrode has reported that individuals that are unmarried by early age are more vulnerable to depression and loneliness (Orsi, 2001). This unbalance in emotional development will lead to a stressful life. 5. 0 How Does Early Marriage Hamper Self-development? In this area, both arguments from proponents and opponents are being evaluated in terms of health, character building and education. This is important to determine whether the practice of early marriage does impede self-development. 5. 1 Health Aspect
Health is a very important aspect in self-development of an individual. Early marriage greatly affect the health of young adolescents especially girls. Although women who marry later in life are also vulnerable to problematic birth, (Orsi, 2001) the girls who are particularly still growing up have to struggle with the risks associated with early pregnancies (UNICEF, 2001). This is because the physical features of the girls are not fully developed and therefore both the girls and their babies have to compete to obtain the necessary nutrients for themselves.
This means that early marriage endangers both mother and her baby. Besides those, sexual intercourse that takes place at a very young age can enhance the risk of sexually-transmitted diseases (STD) (UNICEF, 2001). It is also true that STD can also infect unmarried people as well especially among cohabitants, but a recent study conducted in Rwanda shows that the younger the age at sexual intercourse, the higher the risk of STD (UNICEF, 2001). This proves that early marriage set off a poor cycle of health. 5. 2 Character Building Aspect
Each and every individual has his/her own character. The practice of early marriage limits character development as a girl who marries early experiences less socialization outside her family cycle (UNICEF, 2001). This reduces her opportunities for building her own identity which is vital for her successful self-development. On the other hand, some individuals believe that early marriage is a stage for maturity to be acquired and it is not just for matured individuals (Orsi, 2001). However, it is not the case as these girls are affected by great emotional disturbance and depression.
Inter-American researchers have discovered that these emotional consequences are ‘unavoidable part of life’ for those who choose to marry early (UNICEF, 2001). Therefore, it is clearly shown that early marriage does hinder personal development. 5. 3 Education and Intellect The importance of well-developed education is vital for an individual to survive. Since early marriage is the major reason for young adolescents to quit from school (Adhikari, 2006), it can restrict career prospects of a girl by limiting her chances to acquire important skills and knowledge.
Without those qualities, the girl’s future seems to foreclose to any opportunities for economic survival. In fact, unemployment rates are higher for those who have limited education (Baker and Dryden, 1993). This is clearly illustrated from the table below. Unemployment Rate by Educational Attainment for 15 to 24 year-olds, Canada, 1991 Educational AttainmentUnemployment Rate 0 to 8 years29. 5 Some secondary education20. 7 High school graduation15. 7 Some post-secondary12. 6 Post-secondary certificate11. 7 University degree 8. 1 Total16. 2 Source: Baker, M. and Dryden, J. (1993).
Patterns in Employment and Unemployment or Young People. Families in Canadian Society (2nd Ed. ). 93-94. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson Limited. For those reasons, early marriage is proven to bring more harm than benefits. This practice consequently hampers one’s personal development. 6. 0 Conclusion The practice of early marriage in our society today does hinder personal development of individuals in terms of health, character building and intellectual qualities. First, a girl is more vulnerable to diseases and complications when sex intercourse takes place between the spouses occur at an early age.
Early pregnancies followed by childbearing can also bring harm to the girl by increasing the risks of dying and problems during delivery. Apart from this, character building which is important to determine one’s unique identity will be affected as well when a girl enters marriage at a young age. The loss of mobility and social life due to the early marriage will result in lack of self esteem and great emotional damage. In addition, limited education is obvious among those who marry early.
In the long run, this lack of schooling will restrict economic and career prospect in the future because withdrawal from school means no qualifications and recognition. This will foreclose the future options of one’s self. Therefore, the practice of early marriage is proven to hinder personal development and should be reduced among young adolescents especially in developing countries with high incidence of young marriage. Effective steps should be executed by international organization to reduce the number of this practice worldwide. For instance, each country should rise up the legal age for marriage.
Besides that, education should be promoted among young couples so that they acquire adequate level of education for their future. Although it is difficult to reduce the number, by helping the young spouses with their life, it more or less, reduces the burden they carry.