More than 78,000 children in the U.S. are married or have been married, according to a report released by the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health on Tuesday.
The researchers looked at data collected between 2010 and 2014 that recorded the marital status of teens between ages 15 and 17. An average of 6.8 out of every 1,000 girls and 5.7 out of every 1,000 boys were married or had been married at the time they were surveyed, according to a university press release.
The legal age minimum for marriage is 18 in the U.S., but every state can grant exceptions to this rule for situations such as parental consent.
Alissa Koski, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral student, said in the press release she thinks the U.S. is inconsistent in its policies regarding child marriage because it attempts to prevent child marriage abroad but continues to allow it domestically.
The study also found child marriages to be unstable, with almost a quarter of married children divorcing or separating before reaching age 18. At least 14 states have enacted or considered changes to marriage laws that would place further limits on child marriages, according to the press release.
The study is published online by Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a research journal.