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20 years of the evidence base on what works to prevent child marriage: A systematic review

This review assesses evaluations published from 2000 to 2019 to shed light on what approaches work, especially at scale and sustainably, to prevent child marriage in low- and middle-income countries.

We conducted a search of electronic databases and gray literature and evaluated the methodological quality and risk of bias of included studies.

A total of 30 studies met the inclusion criteria. Interventions that support girls’ schooling through cash or in-kind transfers show the clearest pattern of success in preventing child marriage, with 8 of 10 medium-high quality studies showing positive results. Although limited in number, five studies on favorable job markets and targeted life skills and livelihoods training show consistent positive results. Comparatively, asset or cash transfers conditional on delaying marriage show success only among two of four evaluations, and the three studies on unconditional cash transfers for poverty mitigation show no effect. Findings also show a low success rate for multicomponent interventions with positive results in only one of eight medium-high quality studies. Further, single component interventions were much more likely to be at scale and sustainable than multicomponent interventions.

These results indicate that enhancement of girls’ own human capital and opportunities is the most compelling pathway to delaying marriage. In contrast, low rates of success, scale-up, and sustainability of multicomponent programs requires reconsideration of this approach…

Malhotra, A., & Elnakib, S. (2020). 20 Years of the Evidence Base on What Works to Prevent Child Marriage: A Systematic Review. Journal of Adolescent Health.

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