Pregnancies without Partnership: Evidence of Prenatal and Neonatal Health Effects

Cynthia A. Osborne, University of Texas at Austin
Robert Brill, University of Texas at Austin

More than 40% of children are born to unmarried parents, and more than one in five unmarried parents were in an inchoate or unformed relationship when they became pregnant . Although research on the effects of partnership instability on young children and adolescents is extensive, and prenatal stress has been linked to poor maternal health outcomes, no research has examined how weak or unformed relationships that result in pregnancy affect maternal health. This study uses data from a new birth cohort study of unmarried parents in Texas (N=800) to determine the characteristics associated with weak relationships at pregnancy, and the extent to which these relationships are associated with maternal and infant health. We find that inchoate relationships are associated with approximately twice the odds of mothers experiencing serious health complications during pregnancy and poor health outcomes for newborns. These findings have important implications for study of prenatal health and relationships.

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Presented in Poster Session 1: Marriage, Unions, Families and Households