What problems or challenges are they likely to face?
We used to be largely a rural, agricultural society. Family farms were the norm rather than the exception. Large numbers of children were the norm, too, as many hands were needed to run that family farm. But when the industrial revolution happened and people began to move to the cities, things changed. Large families were a burden, not a boon. Women entered the workforce. And after World War II, the American Dream took on a new shape. The suburbs were born. Families developed wish lists. They began to expect to own an array of consumer goods, often in multiples. Birth control became widely available, and they bore fewer children. More and more people were in college, further delaying the onset of parenting. Many women assisted in the War effort and filled non-traditional roles for females in that generation. Women began to enter the workforce and go to college in record numbers.
All these factors, plus many others, combined to push out the ages at which people married and started families. As the norm for marriage and parenting became delayed, teen age marriage seemed to be more rare than ever before. As a result, both formal and informal support systems for these families became less and less available.
What difficulties face teenagers who marry?
First, it is the rare person who hears of a teen marriage who does not wonder if pregnancy was involved. And it often is. Even with the availability of abortion today, and the somewhat lessened stigma of that procedure, there are still teens who marry because they have found they are soon to become parents. As positive and responsible as this may seem at the outset, it can be a recipe for disaster.
Most teens are not ready for the responsibility of marriage, let alone the responsibility of parenthood. If you are a pregnant teen, or you are the parent of a pregnant teen, consider adoption as an alternative. Many, many loving families who are not able to conceive would be over-joyed to provide your baby with a wonderful home.
If pregnancy is not what precipitated the teen marriage, there are still other considerations on the table. In many municipalities, teenagers may need co-signers for even the most basic of services. It would be wise to find out if teenagers in your area can rent housing and can sign for car purchases, for example.
Many states have emancipated minor statutes which apply to teens who have attained “adult” status under the law in a way other than by attaining the age of majority. You need to research what those laws are in your area. Some public school systems balk at enrolling married teenagers. And many private schools just won’t do so at all. Make sure you are clear as to what educational opportunities may or may not be available to married teens in your state. Insurance is another concern.
Teens who are insured under the umbrella of their parent’s car insurance policies will pay far lower rates for auto insurance than will their married counterparts. Medical insurance is yet another consideration. Even if the parent’s insurance carrier insures dependent children up to age 19, or even into their 20s if full-time students, this coverage will almost certainly not be extended to married minor children, regardless of their ages.
It’s not all bad news however! Many states have financial aid programs for college attendance. Applications for these programs require the student to complete paperwork which indicates what family financial support is available. Married teenagers generally do not have to reveal parental sources of income since they are married and have their own households. Their income is likely to be far less than their parent’s income, so they may qualify for more educational assistance if they have the academic credentials to qualify for it. Finally, probably the most basic consideration in teenage marriage is actually age itself. It is an extremely rare young person who has a fully formed personality and the ego strength to sustain a successful marriage begun while a teenager. There are just too many wild cards or unknowns.
Beginning a marriage is a real adjustment, and even a significant challenge, for many couples. Think about yourself at 15. How much had you changed by 18? By 21? By 25? Those 10 years between 15 and 25 are so very critical to learning, to development of ones self, and to life success. It is easy to see why those who attempt the giant step of marriage in the same time period may well be in for a rough road ahead.