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Brad Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia who studies marriage and families in the United States, said that while people tended to date and marry younger in the 1970s and 1980s, when Moore allegedly was dating teenagers, an age gap such as that between Moore and the girls would still have been highly unusual. "You don't have 30-year-old guys dating a 14-year-old. But for the vast majority of evangelicals, that's not accepted behavior," he said. You don't know if somebody's embellishing," Brinson said.

"In the South, in general, younger marriages would have been more common. It may have happened in some occasional context, but it would not have been a cultural norm." He said the reaction of most Southern evangelical communities would be "extraordinarily negative. He said he's not sure what to make of the report about Moore, and he's not sure whether he'll vote for him. "I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and say let's see what the truth is." He said he wants to talk to Moore and his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, and then send his personal conclusion to his email list of 3 million evangelical Alabama voters.

Every state allows youths under 18 to marry in certain circumstances, such as with parental consent or judicial approval.

"Their lives are very difficult now that they've gotten free.

At least 31 percent of those children married a spouse who was older than 21 years old, according to a Washington Post article from February.

In the 1970s, when Moore was in his 30s and reportedly dating teenagers, the laws on child marriage were changing, Syrett said.

Of course that's untrue, but surely somebody could internalize that shame," she said.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot of abuse in those patriarchal communities," she said.

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