Many years ago, it was not unusual for children to work. They also married and had children at a younger age than is common now.
In the past 50 years, the age of adulthood has increased. For example, in the U.S. you have to be 21 years of age to buy alcohol. It is true you can be in combat at 17 or 18, but you cannot buy a beer back home.
In the U.S. and most of the world, 18 years of age is now considered adulthood. Fewer people are getting married at that age, but it is legal.
It is also legal to marry at a younger age. For example, a 16 or 17-year-old can get married if a parent signs a legal consent form. In many states, a child under 15 can marry if there is judicial approval.
Sex between a child and an adult is called statutory rape. It is a crime. However, it is not a crime if they are married.
Between 1995 and 2012, 3,500 New Jersey children age under age 18 were married. Of that number, 178 were married by judicial approval. What is behind these numbers?
Immigrant groups make up a large share of early marriages. Marriages may be a result of family honor. Marriage may improve the financial lot of the parental families. These are called “forced marriages.” Experts say many of these marriages are made against the will of the bride and groom.
Some forced marriages are linked to human trafficking. Most of the children forced into such marriage are girls.
There is no way to know why judges approve the marriages of very young people. Only ten states have laws against such marriages. Experts say the solution in the U.S. is simple. The states have to pass laws forbidding it.
Source: The New York Times October 13, 2015