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Global Development Institute

Early marriage, social networks and the transmission of norms

M. Niaz Asadullah and Zaki Wahhaj

Abstract

We investigate whether female early marriage is a conduit for the transmission of social norms, specifically norms relating to gender roles and rights within the household. We exploit differences in the age at menarche between sisters as an exogenous source of variation in marriage age. This approach allows us to control for beliefs and attitudes that are transmitted from parents to children. Using a sample of unmarried adolescents in Bangladesh, we first show that the timing of onset of menstruation has no direct effect on adolescent attitudes on attitudes towards gender norms. Yet we find that early marriage increases agreement with statements supportive of gender bias in the allocation of resources, and worsens the quality of a woman’s post-marital social network. We also find evidence suggesting that schooling is a complement and the quality of the social network a substitute of later marriage in terms of their effects on attitudes towards traditional gender norms.

Keywords

Gender roles, social norms, schooling, household decision-making 

 

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