Differential impact of abortion on adolescents and adults

Adolescence. 1992 Spring;27(105):161-72.


The purpose of this study was to compare adolescent and adult reactions to abortion. A sample of 252 women from 42 states was obtained from a national survey of organizations serving as support groups for women who have had negative reactions to abortion. The age analysis was run using t-tests. Results indicated that the adolescents were significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with the choice of abortion than were the older subjects, to have abortions later in the gestational period, to be dissatisfied with services at the time of the abortion, to feel forced by circumstances to have the abortion, to report being misinformed at the time of the abortion, and to report greater severity of psychological stress. The conclusions suggest that the adolescents' problems may be due to a combination of developmental limitations and the nature of counseling at the time of the abortion.

PIP: Date from 252 members of support groups of Women Exploited by Abortion from 42 states in the US were analyzed to determine factors that characterize this distressed group and compare adolescent and adult reactions to abortion. Most were young and unmarried at the time of the abortion. Women whose self-image suffered after the abortion were much more likely to have reported being dissatisfied with the abortion experience, feeling pressured to have the abortion, and feeling misinformed. Women who felt rushed to decide to have an abortion had at the most 1 week to make the decision and had the greatest severity of psychological problems (p.003). Women who were adolescents at the time of abortion were more likely to have had the abortion a longer time ago than those who were adults at the time of the abortion (p.03). They also tended to have the abortion at a greater gestational age (p.04) and were more unsatisfied with the abortion services at the time of the abortion (p.01) than adults. Adolescents were much more likely to feel that circumstances coerced them to have an abortion (p.0008), they tended to believe that they were misinformed at the time of the abortion (p.04), and they claimed to have suffered much more psychological stress than adults (p.006). In addition, prior to their own abortion, they tended to view abortion negatively (p.057). Adolescents stated that they had wanted to complete the pregnancy (p.003) and keep the infant (p.056). It is concluded that adolescents may be developmentally limited by immature decision making abilities, idealism, egocentricism, and belief in a personal fable which places them at greater risk for postabortion stress. Inadequate counseling appears to also contribute to this stress. Therefore, counselors need to realign their counseling skills to take into account these results.

MeSH terms

  • Abortion Applicants / psychology
  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health
  • Attitude*
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology
  • Psychology, Adolescent*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology