A Baby Is Always a Blessing? The Effects of Unintended Childbearing on Health throughout the Life Course

Heather M. Rackin, Duke University
Melanie Sereny, Duke University

Very limited research examines the longer-term impacts of unintended childbearing on women’s physical and mental health. Our project will utilize the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to examine the relationship between unintended childbirth (either unwanted or mistimed) at various ages and mental and physical health outcomes in later life (near age 40). We are particularly interested in how the effects of unintended childbirth may differ by the age at which the event occurred. Our preliminary results show that younger (unintended) mothers are more likely to experience depressive symptoms at age 40 than women who never experienced an unintended birth. Similar results are found for self-rated health in older adulthood. Education may play a pivotal role in mediating the impact of an unintended birth on subsequent health. In our ongoing analysis we hope to disentangle the relationship between selection and causation for these respondents through propensity score matching.

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Presented in Session 145: Fertility Intentions, Reproductive Health and Fertility