For Immediate Release
New Study Shows Negative Impact of Abortion
on Relationships for Women, Men
One of the First to Look at Abortion's Impact on
Men's Relationships and on Future Relationships
Springfield, IL (April 16, 2009) -- A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Public Health has found that abortion can impact relationships for both women and men.
The study, headed by Priscilla Coleman of Bowling Green State University, is one of the first to examine the impact of abortion on men's relationships, as previous studies have mostly looked at abortion's impact on women. It is also the first study that looked at how having an abortion with a previous partner can impact subsequent relationships.
"No studies to date have compared the relative psychological or relational impact of a history of one or more abortions prior to the current relationship with an abortion occurring in the context of the current partnership," the authors wrote, noting that previous studies have found that some women may "carry the pain of a difficult abortion experience for years."
"If negative emotions associated with an abortion are not acknowledged or resolved, dysfunctional coping can carry over into relationships," causing additional problems, they added.
The study data was drawn from the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey, which is designed to study sexual behavior among adults in the U.S. Respondents were from the Chicago area and included an ethnically and socially diverse group of women and men. It included both married and unmarried respondents who had been involved in an abortion either in their current relationship or with a previous partner.
For both women and men, abortion was associated with problems in the current relationship, whether the abortion had taken place with one's current partner or a previous partner. Compared to those who had no history of abortion, those who underwent an abortion with a current partner were more likely to report domestic violence and to feel that their lives would be better if the relationship ended. Having an abortion with a previous partner was more likely to lead to arguments about children in the current relationship for both men and women.
Differences for Women and Men
On the other hand, the study also found differences in women's and men's responses to abortion.
Compared to those with no history of abortion, women who had an abortion with their current partner reported that the couple was more likely to argue about: money (75 percent more likely), children (116 percent more likely), the woman's relatives (80 percent more likely) or her partner's relatives (99 percent more likely), while men were 96 percent more likely to report arguing about jealousy, 195 percent more likely to argue about children and 385 percent more likely to argue about drugs.
Women having an abortion in a current or previous relationship were more likely to suffer from various forms of sexual dysfunction afterwards, while men tended to have difficulty with jealousy or conflicts over drug use. Previous studies have shown that women tend to feel anxious or disinterested in sex after pregnancy loss and the authors speculated that the same factors could apply after abortion.
The authors also suggested that men's problems with jealousy and drug use after an abortion may also be related to differences in coping with bereavement. Studies of other forms of pregnancy loss have found that men's grief tends to be less easily resolved, possibly due to the fact that they often receive little support, thereby leading men to feel less secure and to “self-medicate” by turning to drugs.
The authors noted that the inclusion of men in the data collection was one of the study's strengths, but called for more long-term studies to compare problems in relationships both before and after abortion. They pointed out that discovering how abortion effects relationships and helping women and men resolve those problems before entering into a new relationship is an important goal for those who work with couples.
“By recognizing the valence of unresolved pain associated with a past abortion, pastoral, mental health, and marriage and family therapists will be better able to help couples to prevent problems from overwhelming their intimate partnerships,” the authors wrote.
P.K. Coleman, V.M. Rue, C.T. Coyle, "Induced abortion and intimate relationship quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey," Public Health (2009), doi:10,1016/j.puhe.2009.01.005.