The relationship between abortion and depression : evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/ww72bf15q

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  • A majority of states require parental consent or notification before a minor may have an abortion. Parental involvement laws are based in part on the assumption that abortion poses a risk to the psychological health of adolescents. Previous research has catalogued the risks to adolescent mothers and their children posed by early childbearing, the alternative to abortion. The health risks of delaying abortion also have been documented. Few studies, however, have attempted to quantify the risks of abortion to adolescents' mental health. Research suggests that associations between abortion and depression demonstrated in some studies of adult women may be spurious and reflect unmeasured covariates, such as intendedness of the pregnancy. This study used secondary data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) to test whether having an abortion put adolescent women at risk for developing depression in the short term and over time. Respondents were interviewed three times, in 1994-1995 (Wave I), 1996 (Wave II), and in 2001 (Wave III). Logistic regression was used to test whether adolescents who had an abortion between Waves I and II had an increased risk for developing depression. Adolescents who had an abortion were compared with adolescents who also became pregnant but did not have an abortion and with the larger sample of female adolescents. Abortion was not associated with developing depression, either in the short term or over time. Unintended pregnancy between Waves I and II also was not significant in predicting depression. Prior pregnancy (before Wave I), however, did predict depression five years later. Thus, this study found no evidence to support legal restrictions on abortion for minors on the basis of increased risk of depression. However, findings do suggest that pregnancy in early adolescence may be a risk factor for developing depression in young adulthood. The relationship between adolescent pregnancy and later depression underscores the need for effective pregnancy prevention programs in early adolescence.
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