A large body of research has focused on the incidence of unintended pregnancy, but relatively little has focused on its consequences for women, men and children. The Guttmacher Institute has recently completed a multiyear research project, funded by the National Institutes of Health, designed to improve the health and well-being of American families by detailing how unintended childbearing affects women’s and men’s lives during and after pregnancy, as well as the effects on the health and well-being of infants and children whose births were unplanned. Taken together, this body of new work represents significant progress in advancing research on the consequences of unintended childbearing, by evaluating the evidence linking pregnancy intentions to the health and well-being of infants, children, mothers, fathers and families, as well as by identifying new avenues for future work.

The latest study in this body of work examines the relationship between fathers’ pregnancy intentions and various aspects of their parental involvement. In “The Role of Men’s Childbearing Intentions in Father Involvement,” by Laura Lindberg, Kathryn Kost and Isaac Maddow-Zimet, published this week in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the authors used nationally representative data from the National Survey of Family Growth to examine these relationships and found that the intention status of a birth is associated with some measures of paternal involvement, including whether men live with their child and how they think of themselves as fathers. This study helps address the growing need for research on men’s, as well as women’s, reproductive experiences and desires.

To learn more about this issue, we encourage you to explore the following related articles from this project:

Pregnancy intentions, maternal behaviors, and infant health: investigating relationships with new measures and propensity score analysis, by Kathryn Kost and Laura Lindberg, published in Demography. The authors analyzed data from the 2002 and 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth and found that compared with women having intended births, those who have births from unwanted pregnancies are less likely to recognize their pregnancy early, to receive early prenatal care or to breast-feed, and they are more likely to have low-birth-weight babies.

Exploring U.S. men’s birth intentions, by Laura Lindberg and Kathryn Kost, published in Maternal and Child Health Journal. About 40% of births are reported by men as unintended, mirroring rates of unintended births among women. The authors’ analysis of data from the 2006–2010 National Survey of Family Growth also found that rates of unintended births vary significantly by fathers’ union status, age, education level, and race and ethnicity.

Pregnancy intentions and maternal and child health: an analysis of longitudinal data in Oklahoma, by Laura Lindberg, Isaac Maddow-Zimet, Kathryn Kost and Alicia Lincoln, published in Maternal and Child Health Journal. Data from the 2004–2008 Oklahoma Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System survey and The Oklahoma Toddler Survey 2006–2010 were used to examine associations between pregnancy intentions and maternal behaviors and child health outcomes in infancy and early childhood. The authors found that most of the statistically significant associations with these measures were concentrated among women with births mistimed by two or more years or births from unwanted pregnancies; associations were strongest in the prenatal period and during infancy, with almost no significant associations between pregnancy intentions and childhood health at age two.     

Are pregnancy intentions associated with transitions into and out of marriage? by Isaac Maddow-Zimet, Laura Lindberg, Kathryn Kost and Alicia Lincoln, published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Analyzing data from the 2004–2008 Oklahoma Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and The Oklahoma Toddler Survey 2006–2010, the authors found that women’s pregnancy intentions at the time of conception were associated with marital formation and dissolution in the two years following a birth.

Additional studies in this series, including qualitative studies  on men and women’ experiences of unintended pregnancy and fathers’ pregnancy ideations, as well as an analysis of the impact of mistimed births, are forthcoming.

This research was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01HD068433, and grant R40 MC 25692 from the Maternal and Child Health Research Program, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (Title V, Social Security Act), Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additional support was provided by the Guttmacher Center for Population Research Innovation and Dissemination (NIH grant 5 R24 HD074034). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.