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Retrospective Reports of Pregnancy Wantedness and Birth Outcomes in the United States


Hummer, Robert A.; Schmertmann, Carl P.; Eberstein, Isaac W.; & Kelly, Susan (1995). Retrospective Reports of Pregnancy Wantedness and Birth Outcomes in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 76(2), 402-418.


Maternal attitudes reflected in concepts such as pregnancy wantedness are often thought to comprise an important component of the birth outcome process. The purpose of this research is to examine the association between retrospectively reported pregnancy wantedness and three measures of birth outcome. This research uses nationally representative samples of births and infant deaths from the National Maternal and Infant Health Survey to study this association. Sociodemographic and behavioral control variables are employed to best isolate the effects of pregnancy wantedness on birth outcome. The results suggest a weak association between pregnancy wantedness and both forms of low birth weight (intrauterine growth retardation and prematurity), and they suggest a counterintuitive association between pregnancy wantedness and infant mortality. Other variables display strong associations with birth outcomes in expected directions. The analysis raises questions about the utility of using retrospectively reported pregnancy wantedness when analyzing determinants of infant mortality. More importantly, the analysis suggests that both sociodemographic factors and attitudes and behaviors are important for low birth weight and, indeed, that background characteristics may be of even greater significance than more proximate maternal attitudes and behaviors. Thus, it is important that the attitudes people have and the behavioral choices they make not eclipse a recognition of the constraints they face.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Science Quarterly


Hummer, Robert A.
Schmertmann, Carl P.
Eberstein, Isaac W.
Kelly, Susan