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You are here The Grattan Scholars > Meet the Scholars > 2023 Grattan Scholar

We are delighted to introduce the 23rd Grattan Scholar, Doireann O’Brien, who has joined Trinity this September. Doireann is a valuable addition to the Department of Economics, where she will be working under the supervision of Professor Nicola Fontana. We recently had the opportunity of sitting down with Doireann to learn more about her fascinating research project.


Research Project
The Economic Consequences of Child Marriage for Girls and their Children

Educational Background:

2020-2023 |MSc in Economics (international development) TCD (1st class hons)
2014-18 |BA in PPES at TCD (Single Honours Economics) (1st class hons)


What led you to choose child marriage as the focal point of your research, and why is it an important topic to explore?

I chose child marriage as the focal point as it is a human rights violation which affects approximately one in five young women alive today. Existing research documents a range of devastating consequences of child marriage on girls: from a heightened likelihood of school dropout to a greater risk of death due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

As a Grattan Scholar, how do you envision the scholarship supporting your research efforts? Are there specific resources or opportunities that will enhance your work?

This Scholarship will enable me to explore exciting and novel applications of big data methodologies to the study of this topic with the guidance and expertise of my supervisor Professor Nicola Fontana. The opportunities offered by the Grattan Scholarship are fantastic - from the Continuous Professional Development supports delivered by the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy to the invaluable teaching training I will undertake. I am incredibly grateful to the Grattan Scholarship for enabling me to undertake this research at Trinity.

Could you share the main questions and objectives you aim to address with your research?

Research already shows that the children of child marriages are detrimentally affected in terms of their educational attainment and their chance of survival past the age of one year. Little research exists however on the mechanisms underlying these intergenerational effects, and I saw this as a gap that I could try to fill.

Your use of rainfall exposure during adolescence is quite unique. Could you explain how you came up with this idea and why it's a promising approach to studying child marriage?

Child marriage can be seen by parents as a protective measure, providing security for their daughters in times of economic vulnerability. Because of this, in agricultural settings, unfavourable levels of rainfall can increase a girl’s likelihood of marriage in childhood. Rainfall can therefore be used as a random cause of child marriage, allowing us to isolate its effects.

In your proposal, you mention examining household bargaining power dynamics. What are your expectations regarding the impact of child marriage on household dynamics, and why is this an important aspect to explore?

The bargaining power held by any member of a household depends on their ability to survive outside of that household. Girls who enter marriages as children will therefore experience significantly unbalanced spousal power dynamics, limiting the share of household resources they control.

Your research delves into the intergenerational effects of child marriage. What initial findings or insights have you gained about how child marriage affects both girls and their children?

Research has indicated that money in the hands of mothers is more likely to be spent on investments in children, like education, than money in the hands of fathers. In child marriage situations, mothers are likely to have less control over household resources and therefore it is possible that less money is invested into children. This can have long lasting intergenerational consequences in terms of educational attainment. I can see indications of this being borne out in the data from Assam, India at these early stages.