Reducing behavior problems in children born after an unintended pregnancy: the generation R study

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Objectives: To examine differences in behavior problems between children from intended versus unintended pregnancies, and to estimate how much the difference in problem behavior would be reduced if postnatal depression was eliminated and social support was increased within 6 months after birth. Methods: Data from the Generation R Study were used, a population-based birth cohort in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (N = 9621). Differences in child internalizing and externalizing behavior at ages 1.5, 3, 6, 9 and 13 years between pregnancy intention groups were estimated using linear regression. Associations of postnatal depression and social support with internalizing and externalizing problems were also estimated using linear regression. Child behavior outcomes where compared before and after modelling a situation in which none of the mothers experienced a postnatal depression and all mother experienced high social support. Results: Most pregnancies (72.9%) were planned, 14.8% were unplanned and wanted, 10.8% were unplanned with initially ambivalent feelings and 1.5% with prolonged ambivalent feelings. Children from unplanned pregnancies had more internalizing and externalizing problems at all ages as compared to children from a planned pregnancy, especially when ambivalent feelings were present. Hypothetically eliminating on postnatal depression reduced the differences in internalizing and externalizing problems by 0.02 to 0.16 standard deviation. Hypothetically increasing social support did not significantly reduce the difference in internalizing and externalizing problems. Conclusions: Children from an unplanned pregnancy have more behavior problems, in particular when mothers had prolonged ambivalent feelings. Eliminating postnatal depression may help to reduce the inequality in child behavior related to pregnancy intention.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 May 2024

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