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Factors influencing pregnant adolescents' decisions for abortion or motherhood

Bonnie Schwartz Garfield, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Factors influential in determining the decisions of 50 adolescents to terminate or continue pregnancy were explored via a structured interview and questionnaire at the time of pregnancy testing. Follow-up data were obtained in order to assess whether actual behavioral outcome was consistent with stated intention. The relationship between the adolescents' intention, attitudes, and beliefs about motherhood and abortion were analyzed in terms of the Ajzen-Fishbein Theory of Reasoned Action (1980). Demographic and psychosocial characteristics were also assessed as factors influencing decision outcome. Via qualitative analysis of individual case examples, the intersection of the pregnancy outcome decision with the adolescent developmental tasks of separation and identity consolidation was examined. Results revealed a highly significant, positive relationship between stated intention to abort or continue pregnancy and behavioral outcome. There were differential attitudes and beliefs between those planning to abort and those planning to continue pregnancy. Adolescents choosing abortion viewed themselves as less likely to experience guilt, more likely to finish school easily, be independent, and preserve peace in their families. In contrast, those intending to continue pregnancy wanted to take on the responsibility of parenting. They believed motherhood would result in having someone to love and care for, enable them to become closer to their boyfriends, and would impact only minimally on daily freedom and future plans. Of several sociodemographic and psychosocial variables examined in this study, presence of family conflict was a significant factor in the prediction of intention, as determined by a series of stepwise logistic regression analyses. A significantly greater number of subjects intending to continue pregnancy came from families characterized by highly conflictual relationships. Qualitative investigation revealed that the choice of motherhood could be seen as a solution to the adolescent developmental tasks of separation and identity consolidation. Family stability or conflict emerged as an important context within which the developmental process of separation and identity consolidation impacted on the pregnancy outcome decision.

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Recommended Citation

Garfield, Bonnie Schwartz, "Factors influencing pregnant adolescents' decisions for abortion or motherhood" (1988). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8813223.