Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation



First Advisor

Caroline Hartnett

Second Advisor

Douglas L. Anderton


Drawing on research from the fields sociology and demography, this dissertation endeavors to deconstruct the declines in Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) around the world by assessing the power of international institutions to create and enforce global norms across a wide range of nation-states. I conducted three different studies on CEFM at different levels to better understand how international policy, the cultural composition of countries, macro level demographic trends, and the relationships between national leadership and international governance have effected changes over the last few decades beginning in 1980. I used comparative historical methods in conjunction with demographic techniques for analyzing population data to derive new conclusions that illuminate policy and practice globally. In the first chapter, I analyzed the variation in global norm adoption by determining if the cultural composition of countries can be used to explain the adoption of national minimum age-of-marriage laws to prohibit CEFM. I find that religious homogeneity is significantly correlated vi with higher minimum ages, but also with legal exceptions, at the country level. This represents compliance with the global norm but results in a lower ‘true’ minimum age-ofmarriage after considering exceptions. In the second chapter, I analyzed the effect of the Second Demographic Transition on reducing CEFM in the region of Latin America. I find that the prevalence of CEFM declined dramatically in the region during this period, although the absolute numbers of child brides increased. The third chapter utilized the unique case of Iran to describe how a fractured relationship between the state and the international community can reduce the effectiveness of global norm diffusion. I find that Iranian policy doesn’t adhere to global norms, that about 99% of Iranian child brides were younger than their husband, and the youngest brides (12 years old) had the largest average age difference (16 years).


© 2021, Zackery Butler

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Sociology Commons