Children born after unplanned pregnancy are slower to develop

July 26, 2011

Children born after unplanned pregnancies tend to have a more limited vocabulary and poorer non-verbal and spatial abilities; however this is almost entirely explained by their disadvantaged circumstances, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal today. The same study reported no adverse effects of infertility treatment on the children.

In the UK, as many as 30-40% of pregnancies that end in childbirth are unplanned, while the number of children born after assisted reproductive technologies is growing every year.

It is already known that children born after a prolonged time to conception or are at greater risk of poor , such as preterm birth, , and congenital anomalies, and some researchers have reported lower cognitive (mental) scores in such children.

Unplanned pregnancies also have poorer outcomes, but there has been little research to assess whether child development is associated with pregnancy planning.

So a team of UK researchers set out to investigate how pregnancy planning, time to conception, and infertility treatment influence a child's cognitive development at three and five years old.

They analysed data from approximately 12,000 children from the Millennium Cohort Study, a large UK study of families and infants born in 2000-2. Parents who took part were interviewed when their child was nine months old and then revisited when the child was three and five years old.

Mothers reported whether the pregnancy was planned, their feelings when first pregnant, time to conception, and details of any .

Each child's verbal, non-verbal and spatial abilities were tested at age three and five using the British Ability Scales.

Initial analyses showed that children born after an were four to five months behind planned children in verbal abilities, while children born after assisted reproduction were three to four months ahead.

However, these differences all but disappeared when the researchers took into account the socioeconomic circumstances of each child.

The authors conclude: "These differences are almost entirely explained by socioeconomic factors, providing further evidence of the influence of socioeconomic inequalities on the lives of children in the UK. To help children achieve their full potential, policy makers should continue to target social inequalities."

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1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2011
But, hang on, socio-economic status is also fairly strongly correlated with parental primary intelligence, and with what they then get from their education. Is there not a recursion here? i.e. its not riches that produce brains, but brains that produce riches that produce brains.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2011
This is dangerous territory of course, but i would be cautious of "throwing money" at the problem, hoping that increased socio-economic status will be a wonder-cure. Here in Britain the champions of the S-E disadvantaged looked longingly at the apparent advantages of a university education, but graduates did well because they were already the top 5-10% of their generation. Suddenly opening universities to 50% of the population didn't put those 50% into the top 5-10%, of course it didn't. Actually it has made the government finance model - which worked when it subsidised only 5% of the population, untenable. Now we have university affordable only by the very rich or the very poor.
not rated yet Jul 27, 2011
Children born after unplanned pregnancies tend to have a more limited vocabulary and poorer non-verbal and spatial abilities; however this is almost entirely explained by their disadvantaged circumstances...

I find it somewhat odd that they don't include children who were unplanned but given up for adoption. I'm willing to bet they don't fit this pattern, precisely because they aren't being (or haven't been) raised in "disadvantaged circumstances".

It is always pointless to generalize from a very small number of examples, but I'm going to anyways because the two children I know of who were both (A) unplanned, and (B) adopted, are actually ahead of the game and have been developing abilities and skills a bit earlier than normal. I'm pretty sure this also holds true for the adults I know who were adopted as children.
not rated yet Jul 27, 2011
The researchers looked at this backwards. Children whose parents plan and anticipate their future might be healthier than children whose parents 'wing it'.

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