William and Mary Law Professor Warns Child Marriage Robs American Youth of Education and Prosperity

This month, the AHA Foundation spoke with William & Mary Law Professor, Vivian Hamilton. Professor Hamilton received her Bachelor’s from Yale University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She then clerked for Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C., and later practiced law at Steptoe & Johnson LLC and D.C. Legal Aid Society. She has taught law at several colleges, such as American University Washington College of Law and West Virginia University School of Law. She now specializes in teaching Civil Procedure, Education Law, Family Law, and Race & Law at William & Mary Law School.

Her research is interdisciplinary and examines law and policy affecting adolescents and emerging adults. She is author of one of the renowned publications on the dangers of child marriage in the United States, The Age of Marital Capacity: Reconsidering Civil Recognition of Adolescent Marriage. We had the opportunity to ask her about her thoughts on child marriage in the United States and particularly the legislation on child marriage being discussed in Florida.

AHA Foundation: What made you interested in researching child marriage?

Professor Vivian Hamilton: I research adolescents’ competencies and deficiencies in a range of decision-making contexts (voting, for example), and the ways in which our laws do or don’t account for the characteristics typical of this developmental stage. Entering marriage has been one of the decision-making contexts that I’ve studied.

AHA Foundation: Could you describe some of the work you have done surrounding child marriage?

Professor Vivian Hamilton: In addition to writing about it, I’ve helped draft bills raising the minimum marriage age. I’ve spoken to lawmakers and also testified at committee hearings to share my research with them.

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