Born unwanted, 35 years later: the Prague study

Reprod Health Matters. 2006 May;14(27):181-90. doi: 10.1016/S0968-8080(06)27219-7.


A long-held belief among mental health practitioners is that being born unwanted carries a risk of negative psychosocial development and poor mental health in adulthood. The Prague Study was designed to test this hypothesis. It followed the development and mental well-being of 220 children (now adults) born in 1961-63 in Prague to women twice denied abortion for the same unwanted pregnancy. The children were individually pair-matched at about age nine with 220 children born from accepted pregnancies when no abortion had been requested. This article brings together in one place the theoretical assumptions and hypotheses, the criteria for selecting the study participants and major findings from five follow-up waves conducted among the children around the ages of 9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-31 and 32-35 years, plus a sub-study of married unwanted pregnancy subjects and accepted pregnancy controls at ages 26-28. To control for potential confounding factors in data interpretation, all siblings of all subjects were included in the last two waves. It was found that differences in psychosocial development widened over time but lessened at around age 30. All the differences consistently disfavoured the unwanted pregnancy subjects, especially only children (no siblings). They became psychiatric patients (especially in-patients) more frequently than the accepted pregnancy controls and also more often than their siblings. The overall findings suggest that, in the aggregate, denial of abortion for unwanted pregnancy entails an increased risk for negative psychosocial development and mental well-being in adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Unwanted / psychology*
  • Czech Republic
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / psychology