How the Practice of ‘Brideprice’ Contributes to International Terrorism

A new study led by Valerie Hudson of Texas A&M University examines the practice of “brideprice” and how this practice can contribute to worldwide terrorism. Widespread in several African nations as well as the Middle East and Asia, the custom of brideprice involves the groom paying the bride’s family for the expenses they incurred while raising her. The authors’ position is that young men’s inability to marry due to lack of funds for brideprice affects their level of grievance, their standing in the community, and has led to violence and even recruitment by anti-government and terrorist groups.

Dr. Hudson, a professor of political science at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, notes that “our research demonstrates that brideprice is essentially a regressive tax and disproportionally affects groups of young men from which violent groups can more easily recruit. With limited or nonexistent job options and no income, they cannot get a wife and be regarded as so-called “real men” in their society. For many, the only way to accumulate the assets needed to marry may be looting, raiding, or joining a rebel or terrorist group.”

The authors conclude that “marriage market obstruction” and other male/female relationships should be considered in any comprehensive security analysis of conflict, since they can destabilize nations by incentivizing violence and facilitating recruitment into insurgent groups.

Dr. Hudson joined the faculty at Texas A&M University in 2012, after teaching at Brigham Young University in Provo Utah. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Brigham Young University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in international relations from Ohio State University. She is the co-author of The Hillary Doctrine: Sex and American Foreign Policy (Columbia University Press, 2015).

The research, “In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage Between Brideprice and Violent Conflict,” was published in the journal International Security. It may be accessed here. The study was co-authored by Hilary Matfess, a Ph.D. student in political science at Yale University.

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