The demographics of forced marriage of people with learning disabilities: findings from a national database

Clawson R, Patterson A, Fyson R, McCarthy M

The Journal of Adult Protection 2020, 22, 2: 59—74

Available online 13 Mar 2020


The purpose of this study is to compare the UK demographics of forced marriage of people with learning disabilities and people without learning disabilities to inform effective safeguarding practice.

An analysis of all cases of forced marriage reported to the UK Government’s Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) between 2009 and 2015.

People with learning disabilities are at five times greater risk of forced marriage than people without learning disabilities. Men and women with learning disabilities are equally likely to be forced to marry, whereas amongst the general population, women are more likely than men to be forced to marry. Patterns of ethnicity, geographic location within the UK and reporters are the same for people with and without learning disabilities.

Research limitations/implications
The analysis is based on cases reported to the FMU, and for some cases, data held was incomplete. More importantly, many cases go unreported and so the FMU data does not necessarily reflect all cases of forced marriage in the UK.

Practical implications
Forced marriage of people with learning disabilities is a safeguarding issue. Practitioners across health, education, criminal justice and social care need to better understand the risk of forced marriage for people with learning disabilities. Links to practice resources developed as part of the wider project are provided.

This is the first time that researchers have been given access to FMU data and the first time that a statistical analysis of cases of forced marriage involving someone with a learning disability have been analysed.