Estimates of early marriage among Syrian refugees in Lebanon in 2016 compared to Syria pre-2011

Project description


In addition to its well-known negative health outcomes, early marriage (EM) places adolescent girls on a poor education and social trajectory. Limited evidence exists as to whether EM increases or decreases post-displacement. It has been compellingly argued that EM has increased among Syrian refugees compared to its rates before the Syria crisis. Yet, most of the available evidence relies on small, non-probability samples and does not draw comparisons between EM before and after displacement. We examined EM estimates and characteristics among Syrian refugees in Lebanon 2016 comparing it to EM in Syria 2009.


We utilized two datasets: 1) Syria PAPFAM 2009, a national survey of households and ever-married women; 2) a survey we fielded in summer 2016 among Syrian refugee communities in 3 towns in Bekaa, Lebanon. Our study utilized probability-sampling and was specifically designed to assess the prevalence and drivers of EM in displacement. We compared two EM measures – 1) the proportion of < 18 year old married girls and 2) the rate of EM among 20-24 year old married women.


The proportion of < 18 year old married girls is almost 3 times higher in the 2016 survey (23.7%) than it was in Syria 2009 (8.45%). Conversely, the EM rate among 20-24 year old married women is only slightly higher among refugees (46.2%) than it was in Syria 2009 (44.7%). EM associates with determinants of social mobility such as the woman’s education, and her husband’s education and work status. The association, however, is weaker among refugees compared to Syria 2009, highlighting that education loses some of its protective effects post-displacement.


Our study addressed some of the limitations inherent in EM research, showing that EM is indeed higher among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, than it was in Syria in 2009. The findings further highlight that EM associates with loss of social mobility for women and that this loss is more pronounced post-displacement.

Key messages:

Proportion of < 18 year old married girls is almost 3 times higher among refugees in 2016 than in Syria 2009.

Early marriage associates with loss of social mobility among early married 20-24 year old women.


First name Last name Gender Rank Affiliated Institution Country
Sawsan Abdulrahim Male American University of Beirut Lebanon




Scientific field

Public Health

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