Induced Abortion and Intimate Relationship Quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey – Priscilla Coleman, Vincent Rue, Catherine Coyle

This study was conducted to examine associations between abortion experience and relationship functioning.The data source was the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey and data were derived from interviews with an ethnically diverse urban sample of men (n=658) and women (n=906).

For both men and women the experience of an abortion in a previous relationship was related to negative outcomes in the current relationship: perceptions of improved quality of life if this relationship also ended and intimate partner violence. Experience of an abortion within a current partnership was associated with a 116% and a 196% increased risk of arguing about children for women and men respectively.

Among females, a current relationship abortion was associated with increased levels of risk for various forms of sexual dysfunction (122% to 182%), a 75% increased risk of money arguments, an 80% increased risk of conflict over the partner’s relatives, and a 99% increased risk of arguing about the respondent’s relatives.

Men whose current partners had an abortion were more likely to report jealousy (96% greater risk) and conflict about drugs (385% greater risk). These results suggest that abortion may play a vital role in understanding the etiology of some relationship problems.

The strengths of this study included the use of a large, diverse sample, professional data collection, inclusion of men, and controls for a wide range of demographic and personal history variables predictive of the choice to abort.

Although the precise mechanisms explaining associations between abortion history and relationship difficulties were not examined in this study, there are a number of logical reasons for the associations detected. Relationship conflicts arising from an abortion experience may emerge during the decision-making process, adding to earlier conflicts or new relationship problems may emerge after the procedure. Specific sources of abortion-related stress that could potentially cause relationship problems include the following: 1) psychological distress taking the form of anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, or substance abuse; 2) guilt for terminating the pregnancy or not wanting/feeling  ready to assume the responsibilities of parenting; 3) belief that the relationship is not strong enough to endure raising children; 4) lack of confidence in the other’s ability to parent, and/ or 5) moral or religious objections to abortion.   

Priscilla K. Coleman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Human Development

and Family Studies

16D FCS Building

Bowling Green State University Bowling Green, OH 43403

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