Date of Conferral





Public Health


Mary L. Gutierrez


Child marriage has life-threatening implications for the mental, physical, and psychological development of the girl-child. In Sub-Saharan Africa, and other resource poor settings, child brides and very young mothers undergo various negative experiences including economic hardship and health challenges such as obstetric fistulas, birth complications, and even death. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to describe the lived experiences of child marriage and its effect on maternal health among young mothers in Nigeria. The social ecological model provided the conceptual framework for this study. Ten young women ages 18-24 years who had been child brides when age 12-16 years were recruited through purposive sampling and interviewed using in-depth key informant interviews. Interviews were transcribed, entered, and coded using NVivo 12 software. Colaizzi’s 7 steps of data analysis were employed to extract meanings from 9 themes that made up 20 sub themes. The 9 themes were low happiness indices, education denial, husband dominance, dehumanizing experience, poverty, lack of support/exposure to telling and doing, forced young matrimony, pregnancy complications, and pressure on and from parents. One remarkable finding from this study is that not all child brides are denied the right to education. Unfortunately, access to education may be at the cost of dehumanizing experiences such as being used as sex slaves by those paying for their education. Findings from the study may be used by governments and Non-Governmental Organizations to advocate for family and community support, increased knowledge, and awareness of the needs of young mothers, in addition to improving maternal health outcomes through advocacy for support that increases focus on access to maternity care for young mothers.