Child Marriage (before the age of 18) affects over 12 million young women globally, annually. Despite acknowledgement of the negative impacts of the practice on reproductive health, mental health consequences are largely overlooked. Given the ability for poor mental health to intensify other health and social challenges, understanding the mental health consequences linked to child marriage is vital. Our study is the first to examine how mental health is approached in current literature on child marriage. Our conceptual framework was informed by a rapid assessment of key issues in the field. Systematic searches of papers published between 2000–2020 were completed on four electronic databases with no language restrictions. Our protocol was registered on Prospero (CRD42019139685). Articles were assessed using PRISMA guidelines, and their quality assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute Critical Appraisal Tools. Of the 4,457 records identified, 21 papers meeting inclusion criteria were analysed using narrative synthesis. The final sample included 5 qualitative, 1 mixed-methods and 15 quantitative studies (14 cross-sectional and 1 longitudinal study) reporting on data from 12 countries, largely in the global south. Intimate partner violence, poverty, challenges in childbirth and isolation were identified as social factors linked to emotional distress by those married as children. Depression was the most reported mental disorder. Anxiety, phobias, psychological distress, substance misuse, negative well-being and anti-social personality disorder were reported less frequently. Findings highlight that while significant emotional distress and specific mental health conditions are linked to child marriage, gaps in our understanding remain. Future studies are needed to; clarify directionality in these relationships; understand the mental health needs of young men, LGBTQI communities and those in humanitarian settings. Given the well documented cyclical relationship between social determinants and mental health conditions, we outline a series of community-oriented interventions which blend psychological, social and structural support to promote mental health and wellbeing in the contexts of child marriage.
- Medicine and health sciences
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- Biology and life sciences
- Research and analysis methods