Born unwanted: mental health costs and consequences

Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2011 Apr;81(2):184-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1939-0025.2011.01087.x.


Grounded in the concepts of intendedness and wantedness and research on children born to women denied abortion, this article focuses on the Prague Study, which followed the development and mental well-being over 35 years of 220 children born between 1961 and 1963 in Prague, Czech Republic, to women twice denied abortion for the same unwanted pregnancy. Children were individually pair-matched at age 9 with 220 children born from accepted pregnancies. Five follow-up waves were conducted at ages 9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-31, and 32-35 years. A substudy was also conducted of married unwanted pregnancy and accepted pregnancy participants at ages 26-28 years. To control for potential confounding factors, the study included all siblings of all subjects in the last 2 waves. Differences in psychosocial development widened over time but lessened around age 30. All the differences were consistently in disfavor of the unwanted pregnancy participants, especially for only children (no siblings). They became psychiatric patients more frequently than the accepted pregnancy controls and also more often than their siblings. In the aggregate, denial of abortion for unwanted pregnancies entails an increased risk for negative psychosocial development and mental well-being in adulthood. Implications for public health policy are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Czech Republic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Policy
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unwanted / psychology*