More than 200,000 children were married in the US over the past 15 years, new figures have revealed.

Three 10-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy were among the youngest to wed, under legal loopholes which allow minors to marry in certain circumstances.

The minimum age for marriage across most of the US is 18, but every state has exemptions – such as parental consent or pregnancy – which allow younger children to tie the knot.

In May, the high-profile Republican governor for New Jersey declined to sign into law a measure that would have made his state the first to ban child marriage without exception. Chris Christie claimed it would conflict with religious customs.

At least 207,468 minors married in the US between 2000 and 2015, according to data compiled by Unchained At Last, a group campaigning to abolish child marriage, and investigative documentary series Frontline.

The true figure is likely to be much higher because 10 states provided no or incomplete statistics.

Fraidy Reiss, the founder of Unchained at Last, said she was “literally shaking” when she first obtained data for New Jersey, where her group is based.

Nearly 3,500 children married in the state between 1995 and 2012.

“That number was so much higher than I had thought it would be,” she told Frontline. “Then, the fact that the children were as young as 13 and the fact that it was mostly girls married to adult men.”

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Eight-seven per cent of the minors who married across the country between 2000 and 2015 were girls, with the majority either 16 or 17.

The youngest wedded were three 10-year-old girls in Tennessee who married men aged 24, 25 and 31 in 2001. The youngest groom was an 11-year-old who married a 27-year-old woman in the same state in 2006.