Predictors and Correlates of Abortion in the Fragile Families and Well-Being Study: Paternal Behavior, Substance Use, and Partner Violence

  • Priscilla K. ColemanEmail author
  • Charles David Maxey
  • Maria Spence
  • Charisse L. Nixon


This study was designed to identify predictors of the choice to abort or deliver a child within 18 months of a previous birth and to compare mothers who chose to abort or deliver relative to substance use and adverse partner behavior. Using a systems perspective, data from the Fragile Families and Well-Being Study were examined. The sample included participants from 16 cities, and within the selected cities, hospitals with high rates of unmarried births were chosen for inclusion in the survey. The data analysis process entailed two steps: 1) predictors of the choice to abort were identified statistically; 2) mothers who chose to abort and deliver were compared relative to heavy drinking, cigarette smoking, and adverse partner behavior after controlling for potentially confounding factors identified in step one. The results indicated that several variables pertaining to the father's commitment to raising a previously born child and to his relationship with the mother predicted the choice to abort. Further, a recent abortion was related to substance use and partner perpetrated physical aggression after the effects of confounding variables were removed.Professionals who work with women from impoverished environments facing an unplanned pregnancy should be encouraged to sensitively explore the woman’s support system. If the father is unavailable, counselors can assist women in identifying other sources of support within and outside the family.


Substance use Partner violence Induced abortion 


  1. Adler, N. E. (1975). Emotional responses of women following therapeutic abortion: How great a problem? J Appl Soc Psychol, 6, 240–259. doi: 10.1111/j.1559-1816.1976.tb01329.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adler, N. E., David, H. P., Major, B. N., Roth, S. H., Russo, N. F., & Wyatt, G. E. (1990). Psychological responses after abortion. Science, 248, 41–44. doi: 10.1126/science.2181664.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahluwalia, I. B., Morrow, B., Hsia, J., & Grummer-Strawn, L. M. (2003). Who is breastfeeding? Recent trends from the pregnancy risk assessment and monitoring system. J Pediatr, 142, 486–491. doi: 10.1067/mpd.2003.199.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Altfed, S., Handler, A., Burton, D., & Berman, L. (1997). Wantedness of pregnancy and prenatal health behaviors. Women Health, 26, 29–43. doi: 10.1300/J013v26n04_03.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Allanson, S., & Astbury, J. (1995). The abortion decision: Reasons and ambivalence. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol, 16, 123–136. doi: 10.3109/01674829509024461.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Allanson, S., & Astbury, J. (1996). The abortion decision: Fantasy processes. Psychosom Obstet Gynecol, 17, 158–167. doi: 10.3109/01674829609025677.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Allanson, S., & Astbury, J. (2001). Attachment style and broken attachments: Violence, pregnancy, and abortion. Aust J Psychol, 53, 146–151. doi: 10.1080/00049530108255137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnett, W., Freudenberg, N., & Wille, R. (1992). Partnership after induced abortion: A prospective controlled study. Arch Sex Behav, 21, 443–455. doi: 10.1007/BF01542269.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bianchi-Demicheli, F., Kulier, R., Perrin, E., & Campana, A. (2001). Sexuality, partner relations, and contraceptive practices after termination of pregnancy. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol, 22, 83–90. doi: 10.3109/01674820109049958.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bracken, M. B., & Kasi, S. (1975). First and repeat abortions: A study of decision-making and delay. J Biosoc Sci, 7, 473–491. doi: 10.1017/S0021932000010336.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bracken, M. B., & Swigar, M. E. (1972). Factors associated with delay in seeking induced abortions: A review and theoretical analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 121, 1008–1019.Google Scholar
  12. Bradshaw, Z., & Slade, P. (2003). The effects of induced abortion on emotional experiences and relationships: A critical review of the literature. Clin Psychol Rev, 23, 929–958. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2003.09.001.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1989). Ecological systems theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.), Annals of child development, Vol 6, (pp. 187–249). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  14. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1993). The ecology of cognitive development: Research models and fugitive findings. In R. Wozniak, & K. Fischer (Eds.), Development in context: Acting and thinking in specific environments (pp. 3–44). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  15. Burgdorf, K., Chen, X., Walker, T., Porowski, A., & Herrell, J. M. (2004). The prevalence of prognostic significance of sexual abuse in substance abuse treatment of women. Addict Disord Their Treat, 3, 1–13. doi: 10.1097/00132576-200403000-00001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1994). Abortion surveillance: preliminary data-United States, 1992. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 43, 930–939.Google Scholar
  17. Cohen, T., & Roth, S. (1984). Coping with abortion. J Human Stress, 10, 140–145.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Coleman, P. K., Reardon, D. C., Rue, V., & Cougle, J. (2002). Prior history of induced abortion and substance use during pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol, 187, 1673–1678. doi: 10.1067/mob.2002.127602.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Coleman, P. K., Reardon, D. C., Strahan, T., & Cougle, J. (2005). The psychology of abortion: A review and suggestions for future research. Psychol Health, 20, 237–272. doi: 10.1080/0887044042000272921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dugger, K. (1998). Black women and the question of abortion. In L. J. Beckman, & S. M. Harvey (Eds.), The new civil war: The psychology, culture, and politics of abortion (pp. 107–131). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. England, L., Brenner, R., Bhaskar, B., Simons-Morton, B., Das, A., Revenis, M., et al. (2003). Breastfeeding practices in a cohort of inner-city women: The role of contraindications. Public Health, 3, 28–36.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Faria, G., Barrett, E., & Goodman, L. M. (1985). Women and abortion: Attitudes, social networks, decision-making. Soc Work Health Care, 11, 85–99. doi: 10.1300/J010v11n01_06.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fergusson, D. M., Horwood, J., & Ridder, E. M. (2006). Abortion in young women and subsequent mental health. J Child Psychol Psychiatry, 47, 16–24. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.01538.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Freeman, E. (1980). Emotional distress patterns among women having first or repeat abortions. Obstet Gynecol, 55, 630–636.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Fleming, A. S., Ruble, D. N., Flett, G. L., & Van Wagner, V. (1990). Adjustment in first-time mothers: Changes in mood and mood content during the early postpartum months. Dev Psychol, 26, 137–143. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.26.1.137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Franco, K. N., Tamburrino, M., Campbell, N., Pentz, J., & Jurs, S. (1989). Psychological profile of dysphoric women post abortion. J Am Med Womens Assoc, 44, 113.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Glander, S. S., Moore, M. L., Michielutte, R., & Parsons, L. H. (1998). The prevalence of domestic violence among women seeking abortion. Obstet Gynecol, 91, 1002–1006. doi: 10.1016/S0029-7844(98)00089-1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gould, N. B. (1980). Postabortion depressive reactions in college women. J Am Coll Health Assoc, 28, 316–320.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Hall, E. J., & Marx-Ferree, M. (1986). Race differences in abortion attitudes. Public Opin Q, 50, 193–207. doi: 10.1086/268974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hedin, L. W., & Janson, P. O. (2000). Domestic violence during pregnancy: The prevalence of physical injuries, substance abuse, abortions and miscarriages. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 79, 625–630. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0412.2000.079008625.x.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hellerstedt, W. L., Pirie, P. L., Lando, H. A., Curry, S. J., McBride, C. M., Grothaus, L. C., et al. (1998). Differences in preconceptual and prenatal behaviors in women with intended and unintended pregnancies. Am J Public Health, 88, 663–666.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Henshaw, S. K. (1998). Unintended pregnancy in the United States. Fam Plann Perspect, 30, 24–30. doi: 10.2307/2991522.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Henshaw, S. K., & Silverman, J. (1988). Characteristics and contraceptive use of abortion patients. Fam Plann Perspect, 20, 158. doi: 10.2307/2135791.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jones, E. F., & Forrest, J. D. (1992). Contraceptive failure rates based on the 1988 NSFG. Fam Plann Perspect, 24, 12–19. doi: 10.2307/2135719.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Kero, A., Hoegberg, U., Jacobsson, L., & Lalos, A. (2001). Legal abortion: A painful necessity. Soc Sci Med, 53, 1481–1490. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(00)00436-6.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Klassen, A., & Wilsnack, S. (1986). Sexual experience and drinking among women in a U.S. national survey. Arch Sex Behav, 15, 363–392. doi: 10.1007/BF01543109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kost, K., Landry, D. J., & Darroch, J. E. (1998). Predicting maternal behaviors during pregnancy: Does intention status matter? Fam Plann Perspect, 30, 79–88. doi: 10.2307/2991664.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Leathers, S. J., & Kelley, M. A. (2000). Unintended pregnancy and depressive symptoms among first-time mothers and fathers. Am J Orthopsychiatry, 70, 523–531. doi: 10.1037/h0087671.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Lerner, R. (2002). Concepts and theories of human development (3 rd edition). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.Google Scholar
  40. Lewis, W. J. (1997). Factors associated with post-abortion adjustment problems: Implications for triage. Can J Hum Sex, 6, 9–17.Google Scholar
  41. Manning, W. D. (1999, March). Childbearing in cohabiting unions: Racial and ethnic differences. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Population Association of America, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  42. Major, B., & Cozzarelli, C. (1992). Psychological predictors of adjustment to abortion. J Soc Issues, 48, 121–142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Major, B., Cozzarelli, C., Cooper, M. L., Zubek, J., Richards, C., Wilhite, M., et al. (2000). Psychological responses of women after first-trimester abortion. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 57, 777–784. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.57.8.777.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Major, B., & Gramzow, R. H. (1999). Abortion as stigma: Cognitive and emotional implications of concealment. J Pers Soc Psychol, 77, 735–745. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.77.4.735.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Meyerink, R. O., & Marquis, G. S. (2002). Breastfeeding initiation and duration among low-income women in Alabama: The importance of personal and familial experiences in making infant-feeding choices. J Hum Lact, 18, 38–45. doi: 10.1177/089033440201800106.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Miller, W. B. (1992). An empirical study of the psychological antecedents and consequences of induced abortion. J Soc Issues, 48, 67–93.Google Scholar
  47. Miller, W. B., Pasta, D. J., & Dean, C. L. (1998). Testing a model of the psychological consequences of abortion. In L. J. Beckman, & S. M. Harvey (Eds.), The new civil war: The psychology, culture, and politics of abortion (pp. 235–267). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Moseley, D. T., Follongstad, D. R., Harley, H., & Heckel, R. V. (1981). Psychological factors that predict reaction to abortion. J Clin Psychol, 37, 276–279. doi: 10.1002/1097-4679(198104)37:2<276::AID-JCLP2270370208>3.0.CO;2-H.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Nelson-Zlupkom, L., Kauffman, E., & Dore, M. M. (1995). Gender differences in drug addiction and treatment: implications for social work intervention with substance abusing women. Soc Work, 40, 45–54.Google Scholar
  50. Olson, L. (1980). Social and psychological correlates of pregnancy decisions among adolescent women. Am J Orthopsychiatry, 50, 432–445.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Patterson, M. J., Hill, R. P., & Maloy, K. (1995). Abortion in America: A consumer-based perspective. J Consum Res, 21, 677–694. doi: 10.1086/209427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Poole, V. L., Klerman, L. V., Flowers, J. S., Goldenberg, R. L., Cliver, S. P. (1997). J Nurs Sci, 2, 133–141.Google Scholar
  53. Reardon, D. C., Coleman, P. K., & Cougle, J. (2004). Substance use associated with unintended pregnancy outcomes in the National Longitudinal Study of Youth. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 26, 369–383. doi: 10.1081/ADA-120037383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Reardon, D. C., & Ney, P. G. (2000). Abortion and subsequent substance abuse. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse, 26, 61–75. doi: 10.1081/ADA-100100591.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Roberts, R., O, , Connor, T., Dunn, J., & Golding, J. (2004). The effects of child sexual abuse in later family life; mental health, parenting and adjustment of offspring. Child Abuse Negl, 28, 525–545. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2003.07.006.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Rodgers, C. S., Lang, A. J., Twamley, E. W., & Stein, M. B. (2003). Sexual trauma and pregnancy: A conceptual framework. Journal of womens Health, 12, 961–970. doi: 10.1089/154099903322643884.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Rue, V. M., Coleman, P. K., Rue, J. J., & Reardon, D. C. (2004). Induced abortion and traumatic stress: A preliminary comparison of American and Russian women. Med Sci Monit, 10, SR5–S16.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Russo, N., & Denious, J. E. (2001). Violence in the lives of women having abortions: Implications for policy and practice. Professional Psychology Research and Practice, 32, 142–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2004). Results from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Finding. Rockville, MD: Office of Applied Studies.Google Scholar
  60. Soderberg, H., Andersson, C., Janzon, L., & Slosberg, N. O. (1997). Continued pregnancy among abortion applicants. A study of women having a change of mind. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 76, 942–947. doi: 10.3109/00016349709034906.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Soderberg, H., Janzon, L., & Slosberg, N. O. (1998). Emotional distress following induced abortion: A study of its incidence and determinants among adoptees in Malmo, Sweden. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol, 79, 173–178. doi: 10.1016/S0301-2115(98)00084-0.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Speckhard, A. (1987). Psycho-social stress following abortion. Sheed & Ward: Kansas City, Missouri.Google Scholar
  63. Wingood, G. M., & DiClemente, R. J. (1997). Child sexual abuse, HIV sexual risk, and gender relations of African American women. Am J Prev Med, 13, 380–384.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Zolese, G., & Blacker, C. V. R. (1992). The psychological complications of therapeutic abortion. Br J Psychiatry, 160, 742–749. doi: 10.1192/bjp.160.6.742.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Priscilla K. Coleman
    • 1
    Email author
  • Charles David Maxey
    • 2
  • Maria Spence
    • 3
  • Charisse L. Nixon
    • 4
  1. 1.Bowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social WorkUniversity of AkronAkronUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyPenn State ErieErieUSA

Personalised recommendations