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Understanding Forced Marriage in the United States: Developing Measures, Examining its Nature, and Assessing Gender Disparities

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 36 Issue: 11-12 Dated: 2021 Pages: 5730-5760
Date Published
31 pages

This first large-scale examination of the prevalence of forced marriage in the United States surveyed a national sample of Internet users over 18 years of age.


In Western European countries and Canada, an emerging scholarly literature has helped inform awareness and prevention efforts and justice system responses to address forced marriages; however, little is known about this issue in the United States. In addressing this issue, the current study used a Google Consumer Survey platform to estimate the prevalence of and gender disparities in forced marriages for this sample; to examine conditions and circumstances associated with forced marriage; to develop adequate measurement tools to identify individuals who have faced forced marriage; and to better understand how and to what extent those experiencing forced marriage face psychological abuse from intimate partners and access victim services. Contrary to the experiences of legal and social service providers, findings indicate that more men than women reported forced marriage experiences. The discrepancy between this finding and prior research underscores the need to further develop survey measures and reconsider closed-ended, web-based survey screener questions such as the one used to identify respondents experiencing forced marriage in this study. These considerations may help identify victims with better precision and locate the underlying causes of gender disparities in forced marriage. In addition, many respondents reported entering forced marriages while facing concerns over their own or their family’s reputation and threats of harm (to themselves or self-harm of a family member). A majority of respondents also reported experiencing psychological intimate partner violence and seeking help, particularly from law enforcement and healthcare providers. This large overlap between forced marriage and psychological intimate partner violence, as well as between forced marriage and seeking help from law enforcement and health care providers, indicates that service provision needs are notably acute for this population. (publisher abstract modified)



Date Published: January 1, 2021