Birth, marriage and death are the standard trio of key events in most people’s lives. But only one which is marriage is a matter of choice. The right to exercise that choice was recognized as a principle of law even in Roman times and has long been established in international human rights instruments. Yet many girls, and a smaller number of boys, enter marriage without any chance of exercising their right to choose. Some are forced into marriage at a very early age. Others are simply too young to make an informed decision about their marriage partner or about the implications of marriage itself. They may have given what passes for ‘consent’ in the eyes of custom or the law, but in reality, consent to their binding union has been made by others on their behalf. However, some of these young lads make their decisions themselves as regards marriage even while in school which is either their choice or situational. Also most parents who give out their girl child early in marriage do not care how these girls will cope with school that is for those who are lucky to be in school.
Early marriage is a social phenomenon which cuts across nations, religions, cultures and ethnicities. Traditionally, the undergraduate years are thought of as a time of self discovery, exploration and independence but what happens to those values when the college students are married? People typically do not define marriage in individual terms but rather consider it a partnership in which each member sacrifices some of his or her autonomy.
Students generally are faced with a number of stressors. These include continuous evaluation, pressure to earn good grades, time pressures, unclear assignments and poor performance in their undergraduate projects, heavy workload, uncomfortable classrooms, and relationship with family and friends. Students are said to experience the greatest stressors with school-family conflict. Low incomes, course work, and children were all factors in role strain in female married students. Role strain from increased roles as wives and mothers as the case may be and from time conflicts are all associated with high stress, depression, and anxiety among married undergraduate students.
Having to study poses challenges to single undergraduate students you can then imagine the stress it poses on young married undergraduate students who are saddled with their family responsibilities. Several challenges arise when individuals tend to negotiate the role of university students with their role inside of marriage and the family. Women from time immemorial have been saddled with many family responsibilities and are traditionally assigned many roles including custody of children, maintenance of the home, feeding and preservation of the family health. The female married undergraduate students are also expected to perform duties as wife and mother, in addition to fulfilling their academic responsibilities. Within marriages, the strain faced can include, but are not limited to quarrels between spouses, feelings of exhaustion and resentment over inequitable division s of household labour.
Adjusting to an academic setting can be difficult for all students, no matter what stage of life they are in. The rigorous demand of the university level courses coupled with the patriarchal values of the institution can be overwhelming for even the most studious students. Instructors expect more with less guidance and may seem unapproachable to new students who have questions.
Early marriage is a marriage or similar union, formal or informal, between a child and an adult or another child under a certain age, typically age eighteen. The vast majorities of child marriages is between a girl and a man, and are rooted in gender inequality.
Early marriage also known as Child marriage violates the rights of children and has widespread and long-term consequences for child brides and child grooms. For girls, in addition to mental health issues and a lack of access to education and career opportunities, this includes adverse health effects as a result of early pregnancy (including teenage pregnancy) and childbirth.
Therefore, child marriage is generally understood to mean marriages that take place before age 18, but for many girls, marriage occurs much earlier. In some countries, girls as young as 7 or 8 are forced by their families to marry much older men. The reasons girls are married are diverse, and parents sometimes believe that through marriage, they are protecting their daughters and increasing their economic opportunities. However, child marriage exposes girls to increased health problems and violence, denies them access to social networks and support systems, and perpetuates a cycle of poverty and gender inequality.
CAUSES OF EARLY MARRIAGE
Poverty: Poverty plays a central role in perpetuating child marriage. Parents want to ensure their daughters' financial security; however, daughters are considered an economic burden. Feeding, clothing, and educating girls is costly, and girls will eventually leave the household.
For many poor families, marrying their daughter at an early age essentially is a strategy for economic survival; it means one less person to feed, clothe and educate. In most countries especially the third world countries, the importance of financial transactions at the time of marriage also tends to push families to marry their daughters early.
Globally, forced child marriage is much more common in poorer countries and regions, and within those countries, it tends to be concentrated among the poorest households. For example, a girl from a poor household in Senegal is four times more likely to marry as a child than a girl from a rich household. However, in impoverished situations, parents see few alternatives for their daughters, aside from early marriage.
Limited education and economic options: Little or no schooling strongly correlates with being married at a young age. Conversely, attending school and having higher levels of education protect girls from the possibility of early marriage. In many countries, educating girls often is less of a priority than educating boys. When a woman’s most important role is considered to be that of a wife, mother and homemaker, schooling girls and preparing them for the jobs may be given short shrift. And even when poor families want to send their daughters to school, they often lack access to nearby, quality schools and the ability to pay school fees. It is usually safer and economically more rewarding to spend limited resources on educating sons than daughters. This boxes families into early marriage as the only viable option for girls.
Tradition and Religion: In many societies, parents are under pressure to marry off their daughters as early as possible in an effort to prevent her from becoming sexually active before marriage; a woman who does so brings dishonor to her family and community. Because marriage often determines a woman’s status in many societies, parents also worry that if they don’t marry their daughters according to social expectations, they will not be able to marry them at all. Forced child marriage also is a route to cementing family, clan, and tribal connections or settling obligations.
Protective mechanism against premarital sexual activity: Parents worry about ensuring their daughters' virginity and chastity. Child marriage is also seen as a protective mechanism against premarital sexual activity, unintended pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The latter concern is even greater in this era of HIV/AIDS.
HOW TO COPE WITH EARLY MARRIAGE
Early marriage, a problem faced mostly by girls, leads to inequality and discrimination in the lives of women. Marrying off a girl child at an early age contravenes human rights and children’s rights; it is one of the forms of discrimination and violence against women.
Therefore, for girls who find themselves in this pathetic situation must learn to cope with it. They must first come to the realization that they’ve given up their rights which includes right to education except if they are lucky to get married to a man who believes in the girl child education which of course are rare cases as seen in the society today especially the third world countries. Therefore, they must make sure to speak out at all times when they are been violated or deprived some certain life important amenities like healthcare. They must ensure not to be silent which could eventually lead to loss of life.
Schooling for married females can indeed be very tedious and challenging. The challenge that is most common among married undergraduate female students is managing multiple roles and that the major cause of it is role contagion. It can however, be concluded that combining work commitment, family responsibilities and school obligations leads to stress among the married undergraduate female students and this has the greatest effect on them.