Child marriage, adolescent pregnancy and family formation in West and Central Africa

Publication Subtitle

Patterns, trends and drivers of change

Publication year


Publication Author

Natacha Stevanovic Fenn, Jeffrey Edmeades, Hannah Lantos and Odinaka Onovo

Of the 15 countries where the rate of child marriage is over 30 percent, nine are in West and Central Africa, with Niger having the highest rates in the world. The West and Central Africa region also has the highest adolescent birth rates in the world, at close to 200 births per 1,000 girls. Accompanying these patterns are high levels of poverty among adolescents, high levels of school dropout, particularly among girls, and low use of reproductive health services.

Although child marriage and adolescent pregnancy remain pervasive across the developing world, there is promising evidence of decreasing rates in both early marriage and pregnancy, including in West and Central Africa. Recent data indicate a slow decline in child marriage prevalence in most countries in the region and adolescent pregnancy rates are also experiencing a downward trend in parts of the region, including in Ghana, Senegal and Liberia.

Despite increasing attention and programmatic efforts to address child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in West and Central Africa in recent years, little has been done to identify what factors lead to changes in attitudes and behaviors. ICRW conducted a study to:

  1. Identify core drivers of child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in West and Central Africa;

  2. Assess the levels, trends and relationships between child marriage and adolescent pregnancy in the region.