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In many cases, only one marriage-partner is a child, usually the female.
Causes of child marriages include poverty, bride price, dowry, cultural traditions, laws that allow child marriages, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, illiteracy, and perceived inability of women to work for money.
Such fears and social pressures have been proposed as causes that lead to child marriages.
Extreme poverty may make daughters an economic burden on the family, which may be relieved by their early marriage, to the benefit of the family as well as the girl herself.
The legally prescribed marriageable age in some jurisdictions is below 18 years, especially in the case of girls; and even when the age is set at 18 years, many jurisdictions permit earlier marriage with parental consent or in special circumstances, such as teenage pregnancy.
In certain countries, even when the legal marriage age is 18, cultural traditions take priority over legislative law.
Parents feel that marriage provides their daughter with a sense of protection from sexual promiscuity and safe from sexually transmitted infections.
These difficulties pressed families to betroth their girls, irrespective of her age, as soon as they had the resources to pay the dowry.
In ancient and medieval societies it was common for girls to be betrothed at or even before puberty.
As Friedman claims, "arranging and contracting the marriage of a young girl were the undisputed prerogatives of her father in ancient Israel." Most girls were married before the age of 15, often at the start of their puberty.
Ruth Lamdan writes: “The numerous references to child marriage in the 16th- century Responsa literature and other sources, shows that child marriage was so common, it was virtually the norm.
In this context, it is important to remember that in halakha, the term ‘minor’ refers to a girl under twelve years and a day.
In some countries, the younger the bride, the higher the price she may fetch.