Dimensions of adolescent motherhood in India

Soc Biol. 1994 Spring-Summer;41(1-2):130-4. doi: 10.1080/19485565.1994.9988865.


The practice of early marriage of girls is still widely followed in India. The expectation in the Indian sociocultural milieu that after marriage a woman will become pregnant as soon as possible encourages early onset of maternity and higher adolescent fertility. The age-specific fertility rate for married Indian women 15-19 years ranged between 83 and 89 in the last decade.

PIP: Adolescent childbearing may have adverse effects for the mother and the infant due to biological immaturity and poor nutritional status. Illicit abortion and its poor health consequences and limits on educational opportunity are but two undesirable impacts. In India adolescent marriage and childbearing is very high. In 1984 women aged 15-19 years had an age-specific fertility rate of 85.8 compared to 81.4 in Bangladesh in 1988, an equally high rate, and 23.1 in Canada in 1988. In 1981 79% of all currently married rural women were married before the age of 20 years, and 72% of all married urban women were married before the age of 20 years. In 1981 there were 6.48% of girls aged 10-14 years married (7.70% in rural areas and 2.35% in urban areas). Among 15-19 year olds, 43.44% were married (48.80% in rural areas and 28.08% in urban areas). Adolescent motherhood is high, although traditional customs sometimes dictate that marriage is not consummated until several years after the marriage and after a second ceremony (return marriage). Young Indian married girls are pressured for children by their husband's family, and without literacy there is not much choice. Since the early 1900s, mean marriage age has increased from 12.77 years to 18.23 years in 1971 to 1981. The passage of the Sharda Act in 1930 marked the upward trend in age at marriage, albeit at 1 year per decade. Teenage health due to early childbearing is affected by biological immaturity and poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Marriage*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence*