Transition, Interrupted: A Mixed-Methods Exploration of Starter Marriages in Malawi

Anais Bertrand-Dansereau, McGill University

Adolescent girls who dream about their future rarely envision meeting the right man, getting married and… divorcing within a few months. That is nevertheless a relatively common occurrence in Malawi, where divorce is common, happens fast and is associated with increased risk for child and sexual health. In this paper, we explore the phenomenon of “starter marriages”, divorces that take place shortly after a wedding and cast doubt upon the completion of a young woman's transition to adulthood. Using a mixed methods approach, we investigate how these interrupted transitions happen, and what factors are associated with them. We find that aside from regional differences, relationship variables matter more than individual characteristics: women who marry a man they have known for a short time, with whom they do not share a community, and with whom they have not had difficult conversations, are more likely to divorce quickly.

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Presented in Session 8: Romantic Relationships in the Transition to Adulthood