The quality of the caregiving environment and child developmental outcomes associated with maternal history of abortion using the NLSY data

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2002 Sep;43(6):743-57. doi: 10.1111/1469-7610.00095.


Background: Studies suggest that experiencing a perinatal loss may leave women vulnerable to mental health problems and may compromise parenting. Unfortunately, compared to miscarriages and stillbirths, very little research has examined the potential for grief and feelings of loss associated with elective abortion. Therefore, the aim of this study was to compare the quality of the childcare environment and children's development among children of mothers with a history of abortion prior to childbirth (n = 672) and children of non post-abortive women (n= 4,172).

Method: Data were derived from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), with comparisons based on two assessments of the caregiving environment and scores on four child outcome variables. The sample was divided into three child age categories: 1-4 years (n = 1,502), 5-9 years (n = 2,121), and 10-13 years (n = 1,524).

Results: After controlling for numerous potentially confounding socio-demographic variables, lower scores were observed for the post-abortion group relative to the level of emotional support in the home among first-born children in the youngest age category. Further, among 5-9-year-olds, more behavior problems were revealed for the children of women with a history of abortion. Finally, no main effects were detected between the abortion history groups relative to the level of cognitive stimulation in the home.

Conclusion: Although it is widely recognized that at least 10% of post-abortive women experience negative psychological consequences, the potential effects of negative subjective experiences on parenting need more systematic attention.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Abortion, Induced / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Caregivers*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Support