Relationship Between Induced Abortion and Child Abuse and Neglect: Four Studies
Four studies designed to investigate any association between induced abortion and child abuse found a number of positive correlations. These findings appear to run counter to popular opinion and some professional declarations that making abortion freely available would terminate unwanted children and thus lower the incidence of child mistreatment. There is no evidence that the incidence of child abuse has declined with more readily available abortion. We found unwanted children were not more often abused, but that women who had previous pregnancy losses were more likely to abuse or neglect their children. There are a number of possible explanations for this, but the one which most closely fits the data is that pregnancy losses, particularly abortion, tend to make a woman more anxious during a subsequent pregnancy, and more depressed after the child is born. The anxiety and depression interfere with the parentinfant bonding process, thus leaving a child more exposed to periods when the parents are unconcerned about his/her needs or are enraged by irritating behavior. Mothers who physically or verbally abuse their children tend to react with anger to the infant's cry. Those who neglect their children tend to react with anxiety or feelings of helplessness. We also found that women not supported by their partners are more likely to miscarry or terminate a pregnancy. Lack of support by husbands and lack of breast-feeding also appear to contribute to abuse and neglect. It is possible that husbands are less supportive because they fear that their infants might be aborted and they are powerless to stop it.
Benfield, D.B. (1978). Grief response of parents to neonatal death and parent participation in deciding care. Pediatrics 62: 171-177.
Bergstrand, G.G., Forslund, M., & Stibner, E. (1979). Child abuse in Malme. Acta Scand Suppl 275: 108-111.
Bowlby, J. (1960). Grief and mourning in infancy and early childhood. Psychoanal Study Child 15: 9-52.
Bradley, C.F. (1984). Abortion and subsequent pregnancy. Can JPsych 29(10): 494-498.
Calef, V. (1972). Hostility of parents of children: some notes on fertility, child abuse, and abortion. Int J Psychoanal Psychother 1: 79-96.
Cavenar, J.O., Mallbie, A.A. & Sullivan, J.L. (1978). Aftermath of abortion: anniversary depression and abdominal pain. Bull Menninger Clin 41: 433-438.
Colman, A.D. & Colman, L.L. (1971). Pregnancy: the psychological experience. New York: Herder and Herder.
Culberg, J. (1971). Mental reactions of women to perinatal death. In S. Karger (Ed.) Psychosomatic Medicine in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Basel.
Dennis, M. (1976). Necessity and sorrow, life and death in an abortion hospital New York: Basic Books.
Egeland, B., & Sroufe, L.A. (1981). Attachment and early maltreatment. ChildDev 52(1): 44-52.
Fergusson, D.M., Horwood, L.J., Shannon, F.T., and Lawton, J.M. (1989). The Christchurch Child Development Study: a review of epidemiological findings. Paeditr Perinat Epidemial 3: (3) 302-25.
Fontana, V.J. & Bersharov, D.J. (1977). The maltreated child. Springfield: Charles C. Thomas.
Forrest, J. (1987). Unintended pregnancy among American women. Family Planning Perspectives 19: 76-77.
Forssman, H. & Thuwe, I. (1966). One hundred and twenty children born after application for therapeutic abortion refused. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 42: 71-88.
Freud, S. (1917). Mourning and melancholia. J. Strachey (Ed.), standard edition, vol. 14, p. 249. London: Hogarth.
Greenland, C. (1973). Child abuse in Ontario. Research Report III. Toronto: Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Herrenkohl, B.C. & Herrenkohl, R.C. (1979). A comparison of abused children and their nonabused siblings. J Child Psychiatry 18: 260-269.
Kempe, C.H. & Helfer, F.C. (1972). Helping the battered child and his family. Philadelphia and Toronto: R.B. Lippincott.
Kent, I., Greenwood, R.C. & Loeken-Nicholls, W. (1978). Emotional sequelae of elective abortion. B.C. Med J 20: 118-119.
Klaus, M.H. & Kennell, J.H. (1976). Maternal-infant bonding. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby Company.
Knudsen, D.D. (1988). Child maltreatment over two decades, chance or continuity. Violence Vict 3(2): 129-144.
Kotelchuck, M. (1982). Child abuse and neglect: prediction and misclassification. In R.H. Starr, Jr. (Ed.) Child abuse prediction; policy implications (pp. 67-104), Cambridge MA: Ballenger Publishing Company.
Kumar, R. & Robinson, K. (1978). Previous induced abortion and ante-natal depression in primiparae: a preliminary report of a survey of mental health in pregnancy. Psychol Med 8: 711-715.
Lewis, E. (1979). Mourning by the family after a stillbirth or neonatal death. Arch Dis Child 54: 303-306.
Lieh-Mak, F., Chung, S.Y., & Liu, Y.W. (1983). Characteristics of child-battering in Hong Kong: a controlled study. Br J Psychiatry 142: 89-94.
Martin, H.P. (Ed.) (1976). The abused child. Cambridge: Ballinger Publishing Company.
Matejcek, Z., Dytrych, Z. & Schuller, V. (1978). Children from unwanted pregnancies. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 42: 71-88.
Ney, P.G. (1979). Relationship between abortion and child abuse. Can J Psychiatry 24: 610-619.
_____ (1983). A consideration of abortion survivors. Child Psychiatr Human Den 14: 158-179.
_____ (1987). Does verbal abuse leave deeper scars: a study of children and parents. Can J Psychiatr 32: 371-378.
_____ (1988a). Triangles of child abuse: a model of maltreatment. J Child Abuse and Negl 12: 363-373.
_____ (1988b). Transgenerational child abuse. Child Psychiat Hum Dev 18: 151-168.
_____ (1989). Child mistreatment: possible reasons for its transgenerational transmission. Can J Psychiatr 34: 594-601.
_____ (1992). Transgenerational triangles of abuse: a model of family violence: In Emilio C. Viano (Ed.) Intimate Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. Washington: Hemisphere Publishing Corporation.
Ney, P.G., Fung, T. & Wickett, A.R. (1992). Causes of child abuse and neglect. Can J Psychiatry 37(6): 401-405.
Ney, P.G. & Herron, J.A. (1985). Children in crisis: to whom should they turn? NZ Med J 98: 283-286.
Ney, P.G., McPhee, J., Moore, C. & Trought, P. (1986). Child abuse: a study of the child's perspective. Child Abuse and Negl 10: 511-518.
Ney, P.G. & Wickett, A.R. (1989). Mental health and abortion: review and analysis. Psych Journal U of Ottawa 14: 506-516.
Pare, C.B. & Hermione, R. (1970). Follow-up of patients referred to termination of pregnancy. Lancet 1: 635-637.
Tonkin, R. (1979). Mortality in childhood. B.C. Med Assoc J 21: 212.
Troisi, A., Aureli, F., Piovesan, P. & D'Amato, F.R. (1989). Severity of early separation and later abusive mothering in monkeys: what is the pathogenic threshold? J Child Psychol Psychiatry 30(2): 277-284.
Zuravin, S.J. (1987). Unplanned pregnancies, family planning problems, and child maltreatment. Family Relations 36: 135-139.
Zuravin, S.J. (1991). Unplanned childbearing and family size: their relationship to child neglect and abuse. Fam Plann Perspect 23(4): 155-161.
Philip G. Ney, MA, MD, FRCP(C), FRANZCP, Tak Fung, PhD, and Adele Rose Wickett, BSN
Dr. Philip Ney is clinical professor in the Department of Family Practice, University of British Columbia. Dr. Tak Fung is with the Computing Services at the University of Calgary. Adele Rose Wickett is a research assistant to Dr. Ney. Address correspondence to Dr. Philip Ney, Box 24003, 4440 West Saanich Road, Victoria, BC, CANADA V8Z 7E7.