The paper presents a hierarchical discrete time survival model for the analysis of the 2000 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey data to assess the determinants of transition to marriage among women in Malawi. The model explicitly accounts for the unobserved heterogeneity by using family and community random effects with cross-level correlation structure. A nonparametric technique is used to model the base-line discrete hazard dynamically. Parameters of the model are computed by using a Markov chain Monte Carlo algorithm. The results show that rising age at marriage is a combination of birth cohort and education effects, depends considerably on the family and to some extent on the community in which a woman resides and the correlation between family and community random effects is negative. These results confirm a downward trend in teenage marriage and that raising women's education levels in sub-Saharan Africa has the beneficial effect of increasing age at marriage, and by implication reducing total fertility rates. The negative correlation between family and community random effects has policy implications in that targeting communities with an intervention to increase age at first marriage may not necessarily yield reduced fertility levels in individual families. A campaign that is geared towards individual families would achieve the desired goals. Overall, the findings point to the need for the Government in Malawi to enact public policies which are geared at vastly improving women's education at higher levels. The variation in marriage rates over families poses problems in delivering the policy, since particular policies must be devised for specific groups of families to accomplish the required social and health objectives. Copyright 2005 Royal Statistical Society.