What are the effects on the child of being born unwanted because his/her mother wanted an abortion but was prevented from having one? A Czechoslovakian study, known as The Prague Study, spanning over thirty years and involving 220 children was conducted to investigate this question.
The study involved 220 individuals and, of these:
- 110 were unwanted (born to mothers prevented from having an abortion).
- 110 were wanted by their parents.
(The families of BOTH groups of children were of good socioeconomic status and all the parents from both groups were the biological parents of their child, as opposed to step-parents or non-biological primary carers; in technical terms, therefore, the families of both the wanted and unwanted children were ‘matched’ in order to reduce the effect of potentially contaminating variables. Mothers denied abortions were denied by the authorities for a number of reasons including being more than twelve weeks pregnant and having had a previous abortion within the 6 months prior to their new request.)
Data for the study was collected through interviews and the checking of official records.
FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY RELATING TO PRENATAL CARE, BODY WEIGHT, PREMATURITY AND NURSING/BREASTFEEDING OF THE ‘WANTED’ AND ‘UNWANTED’ BABIES.
- The mothers of the ‘unwanted’ children received less prenatal care than the mothers of the ‘wanted’ children due to registering for such care later and attending fewer of the prenatal care sessions.
- There was no significant difference in birth weight between the wanted and unwanted babies.
- There was NO significant difference in premature births between the two groups.
- The unwanted babies received significantly less nursing from their mothers, including being breastfed less and for shorter time periods than the wanted babies.
FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY RELATING TO THE SCHOOL PERFORMANCE OF THE ‘WANTED’ AND ‘UNWANTED’ CHILDREN::
- By 3rd grade, the ‘unwanted’ children disliked school significantly more than the ‘wanted’ children.
- ‘Unwanted’ children were described by their teachers as less diligent, having the poorer concentration and showing less initiative.
- By age 9 many of the ‘unwanted’ children had experienced rejection by their peers.
- By age 14-17 the ‘unwanted’ children were performing significantly academically worse at school than the ‘wanted’ children despite the fact that there was no significant difference in I.Q. between the two sets of young people.
FINDINGS OF STUDY RELATING TO LIFE PROBLEMS AND DYSFUNCTIONAL BEHAVIOURS OF ‘UNWANTED’ YOUNG PEOPLE COMPARED TO ‘WANTED’ YOUNG PEOPLE WHEN BOTH GROUPS WERE IN THEIR EARLY TWENTIES:
By their early twenties, the ‘unwanted’ children were significantly more likely to:
- suffer from alcoholism or other substance misuses
- have a criminal record
- have become psychiatric patients
- derive less satisfaction from their jobs
- come into conflict with authorities at work
- experience greater relationship problems (both with romantic partners and friends).
FINDINGS OF STUDY RELATING TO LIFE PROBLEMS OF ‘UNWANTED’ COMPARED TO ‘WANTED’ CHILDREN IN ADULT LIFE:
- the ‘unwanted’ children grew up to have less good marriages
- individuals from both groups, in adulthood, had similar numbers of children BUT those from the ‘unwanted’ group were more likely to say that their own children were ‘unwanted’.’ (in relation to this, you may wish to read my article ‘Reducing The Risk Of Intergeneralization Transmission Of BPD.’)
Henry P David (Director) (2006) Born Unwanted, 35 Years Later: The Prague Study, Reproductive Health Matters, 14:27, 181-190, DOI: 10.1016/S0968-8080(06)27219-7
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).