Child Abuse Review, 2022 (SSCI)
© 2022 Association of Child Protection Professionals and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.All over the world, poor and illiterate girls living in rural areas are at higher risk of becoming underage marriage than well-educated girls living in cities. Early marriages exacerbate inequalities between females and males in society and violate children's and women's rights. This study aimed to demonstrate temporal changes in the prevalence of child marriage and underage childbearing in Turkey by exploring the causes of regional variations in the schooling rate. Our retrospective, descriptive and register-based study obtained input data on childbirth, marriage, population and schooling from official statistics published by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) and the Republic of Turkey Ministry of National Education. Based on official statistics, underage childbearing rates decreased from 2002 to 2019 in Turkey. This study outlined significant regional variations in the ratio of childbearing female under 18 to the population that were higher in the northeastern, central eastern, and southeastern Anatolia regions of Turkey than in other regions. During the same period, there were downward trends in the number of legal marriages of female aged 16–17 and the number of underage females who gave birth in contrast with an increasing population of girls living in Turkey. In terms of welfare, education and healthcare, developments in Turkey were considered to have contributed to the downward tendency of childbearing and marriages of underage females. However, an increase in the schooling rate of girls was the critical determinant of the observed tendency. Therefore, officially setting the compulsory education age to 18 can help to prevent underage marriage and childbearing.