Social norms and child marriage in Cameroon: an application of the theory of normative spectrum

Author: Beniamino Cislaghi, Gerry Mackie, Paul Nkwi, Holly Shakya Year: 2019

Many factors contribute to the practice of child marriage. In many places, social norms – unwritten rules about what behaviours are considered acceptable or not in a group – may be among these drivers. However, different social norms may have different level of influence on child marriage.

This paper explores the influence of social norms on child marriage across four communities in different part of Cameroon.

The researchers found several norms contributing to child marriage. Looking more specifically at the belief that “respectable girls marry soon after they reach puberty”, they found very different results from one community to another. In some communities, child marriage was happening and everybody strongly believed that girls should marry early. In others, while child marriage was happening, most people disapproved of it.

The paper analyses how these findings can be used to tailor interventions to address child marriage and emphasises the importance of having a deep local understanding of social norms to design effective initiatives.


TAGS: Research article Cameroon Sub-Saharan Africa Social norm change Mobilising families and communities