Exploring Iraqi Perceptions of Child Marriage: A Qualitative Study | BMC Women’s Health


One hundred and forty-two people participated in this study. Eighty-six of them (60.6%) were women, forty-three (30.3) had a high school diploma and fifty-seven (40.1%) belonged to the age bracket. age (30-39) years (Table 3).

Table 3 Socio-demographic characteristics of participants

The sixteen focus groups provided a broad representation of viewpoints and sufficient saturation. Different themes and sub-themes regarding ideal age of marriage, attitude towards marriage, reasons for early marriage, pros and cons of early marriage and the practice of early marriage in the community emerged from the focus group discussions. (Table 4).

Table 4 Group discussion theme and sub-theme

1. Ideal age of marriage

Regarding the ideal age of marriage, most participants said that 25 is the ideal age to marry, for both men and women. Some of the participants gave answers like this:

The ideal age for marriage for both men and women is 25 as this age is mature. They are more mature; Twenty-five years is the ideal age to get married because they are mature at that time and they know the meaning of life. M, 35 years old

Few participants said the age should even be over twenty-five: The age of marriage should be above twenty-five as they know the responsibilities of life better. F, 36 years old

Only one participant mentioned that the wedding should be as soon as possible: Boys and girls should marry as soon as possible for religious reasons. M, 46 years old

1.1 Difference between the age of men and women

Some participants mentioned that at the time of marriage, girls should be younger than boys: the ideal age is twenty-two for women and twenty-five for men. » ;The ideal age is twenty for women and twenty-five for men; women should be younger than men.” F, 35 years old

2. Definition of early marriage

The majority of participants defined marriage as marriage before the age of eighteen. Some described it before fifteen years:Early marriage is marriage before the age of eighteen.”;”Marriage before the age of 15.” M, 28 years old.

3. Attitude towards early marriage

The majority of participants said this was a bad thing and should not be done. The joint statements were: “It is not good because the woman or the man knows nothing about married life, they are immature and have no life experience”;Not good because they are physically and mentally immature.” F, 42 A.

Few participants mentioned that early marriage depends on the situation and circumstances of the marriage. Sometimes it’s good and successful. Examples:”It depends on the situation and the circumstances of the marriage. We have a very successful early marriage. F, 37 years old.

4. Reasons for early marriage

Different reasons for early marriage were mentioned by various participants in the focus group discussions.

4.1 Bad economic situation

Most participants mentioned that poor economic status is the main reason for early marriage, especially if the family has many girls and wants to marry them off early to get rid of them. Common statements were:

Sometimes the families are poor and have a lot of daughters, so they arrange an early marriage to get rid of them. M, 38 years old

Poor economic status to get rid of daughters, especially when a family has many daughters. F, 42 years old

4.2 Protection of girls and boys

Many participants mentioned that the main reason for early marriage in our community is to protect boys and girls from unacceptable behavior in our culture and to stabilize them in their families. Examples of comments made:

To protect boys and girls from doing bad things and make them stable. F, 37 years old

Current circumstances are not suitable, so parents want to marry their children earlier to avoid mistakes. M, 39 years old

4.3 Girls dropping out of school

Some participants mentioned that when girls leave school, their parents marry them off earlier. Example of comments made:

When a girl leaves school, the family prepares her for marriage. F, 28 years old

4.4 The tradition of the community

Some participants mentioned that the tradition of our community is one of the reasons for early marriage. Example of comments made:

The old traditional mentality of the community which encourages early marriage is one of the reasons. M, 30 years old

4.5 New technologies, Internet, mobile phone and Facebook

Another reason for early marriage mentioned by some participants was the latest technology, mobile phones and Facebook, as this will make communication much more accessible than before and people will be able to find each other easily. Examples of comments made:

New technologies, the mobile phone and the Internet facilitate relations between boys and girls, which can lead to early marriage. M, 29 years old

4.6 Imitation of others

Imitation is another reason for early marriage mentioned by some participants. Example of comments made:

Sometimes a girl imitates her friends while many of them are getting married at an early age, so she would like to get married early. F, 33 years old

4.7 Mentality and thinking of parents

Few participants mentioned that the thinking and mentality of parents is another cause of early marriage in our community. Example:

Old and traditional thinking of parents. They think boys and girls should get married early. M, 28 years old

4.8 Conflict in the family

A few participants also mentioned that conflicts in the family or bad relationships between different family members are other reasons for early marriage. Examples of comments made:

Sometimes early marriage results from a tribal dispute in which they give their baby girl to another family to solve the problem. F, 52 years old

Sometimes girls want to get married as soon as possible because of family problems. M, 37 years old

4.9 Religion

Two of the participants mentioned that religion is the reason for early marriage. Example

Our religious advice is to prepare the marriage of our children as soon as possible. M, 42 years old

4.10 Being an immigrant

Only one participant mentioned that the increasing number of immigrants in our area these days is another reason for early marriage in our society. Example:

The increase of immigrants in our region, especially from other parts of Iraq and Syria, forces immigrant families to marry off their daughter early to get rid of them due to financial problems. M, 35 years old

5. Benefits of early marriage

The majority of participants mentioned that there are no advantages to early marriage, but a few participants mentioned certain advantages such as:

5.1 Protection of boys and girls

The boy and the girl will be away from bad things and become stable, and they will go home. F, 39 years old

5.2 Having children at a younger age

They will have younger children, and the children will grow up with them to help them. M, 37 years old

5.3 Healthier children

Their children will be healthier because the parents are young and healthy. F, 32 years old

5.4 Young company

The society will be young and active, unlike Western countries where they suffer from a lack of young people and active people. M, 32 years old

6. Disadvantages of early marriage

6.1 Divorce

Most of the participants mentioned that this type of marriage is immature and faces many problems that end in divorce, and the children will be the first victims. Examples of joint statements made:

Early marriage can end with divorce. It is because of the immature minds of the first marriage couples. M, 38 years old

Many problems including divorce and sometimes they have children. Thus, the children will be the victims of this marriage. F, 43 years old

Husband and wife have no life experience, so any simple problem can lead to divorce. Sometimes even hearing a few words from a friend can lead to a divorce. It’s the same for the boy and the girl. M, 31 years old

6.2 Negative effects on body and mind

Some participants mentioned that this type of marriage is unhealthy and affects the girl physically and psychologically. Examples:

Early marriage is not healthy, can affect women’s reproductive organs during pregnancy. F, 29 years old

Early marriage has a psychological effect on couples, especially women. F, 33 years old

6.3 Financial issues

Few participants said that because couples are usually unemployed and have no income, they often face many financial problems and will be dependent on their parents. Examples of comments:

Because most of them are unemployed and don’t have their income, they live with their parents, which creates many problems in the family. M, 41 years old

They could not manage themselves economically and could depend on their parents. F, 45 years old

6.4 Violence against women and suicide

Some participants mentioned that early marriage ends in violence against the woman and even sometimes in the suicide of the woman. Examples of comments:

Continuous conflict between them and sometimes the husband uses violence against the wife. F, 33 years old

Sometimes this type of marriage ends in the wife’s suicide. F, 41 years old

6.5 Cheating

Two participants mentioned that the couple errs in an early marriage, that is, they have a relationship with another person rather than with their husband or wife. Example:

Cheating on each other is common in this type of marriage. M, 48 years old

6.6 Failure to pursue studies

A participant mentioned that if the couples are students, they will not be able to continue their studies:

If the couple are students, they cannot continue their studies due to different problems they face during the marriage. M, 52 years old

6.7 Boredom after a short time

Another participant mentioned that after a few years couples get bored with each other:

After a few years of marriage. They can get bored and hate each other, especially if there is a difference in educational level between them. M, 38 years old


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