A primary goal of the Alliance for Post-Abortion Research and Training is to conduct objective, scientific research concerning the relationship between mental health and elective abortion. Past, ongoing, and future projects are summarized below:
APART has been in the forefront of research on the psychological aftermath of induced abortion. In 2009, Drs. Catherine Coyle & Vincent Rue, in collaboration with Dr. Priscilla Coleman published the first research study on the population attributable mental health risks of abortion in the U.S. The study was published in the JOURNAL of PSYCHIATRIC RESEARCH ("Induced abortion and anxiety, mood, and substance abuse disorders: Isolating the effects of abortion in the National Comorbidity Survey," Vol. 43: 770-776). This research, spearheaded by Dr. Coleman, reported: "Abortion was found to be related to an increased risk for a variety of mental health problems" including panic attacks, panic disorder, agoraphobia, PTSD, bipolar disorder, major depression (with and without heirarchy), and substance abuse disorders after statistical controls were instituted for a wide range of personal, situational, and demographic variables. Calculation of population attributable risks (incidence of women exposed to mental health problems who would not otherwise be if they had not elected abortion) was 4.3% to 16.6%.
APART completed a web-based survey study involving 374 women and 198 men who experienced abortion. Two professional publications are based on that research:
Coyle, C.T., Coleman, P.K. & Rue, V.M. (2010). Inadequate preabortion counseling and decision conflict as predictors of subsequent relationship difficulties and psychological stress in men and women. TRAUMATOLOGY, 16 (1), 16-30. DOI: 10.1177/1534765609347550
Coleman, P.K., Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V.M. (2010). Late term elective abortion and susceptibility to posttraumatic stress symptoms. JOURNAL OF PREGNANCY. DOI: 10.1155/2010/130519
In 2010, a qualitative study involving male partners of women who elect to abort was published in the Journal of Pastoral Counseling. In-depth interviews revealed a predominant theme of profound loss and this was further evident in several subthemes including relationship problems, helplessness, grief, and guilt. Each of the men’s relationships with their partners ended and the men unanimously identified the abortion experience as the cause of relationship failure. All of the men reported feelings of helplessness and grief and a majority of men experienced guilt as well. Clinical assessments revealed clinically significant levels of anxiety and intense grief.
Citation information is as follows:
Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V. M. (2010). Men’s Experience of Elective Abortion: A Mixed Methods Study of Loss. The Journal of Pastoral Counseling, XLV, 4-31.
More recently, two studies were published concerning men's experience with a partner's abortion. The first of these studies utilized a thematic analysis of men's comments and identified three salient themes: loss and grief, helplessness and/or victimization, and spiritual healing. Findings are discussed in terms of future research and counseling practices as they relate to pregnancy outcome decisions. The second study investigated the positive and negative aspects of men's disclosure of their abortion experience. Positive aspects included: relief, spiritual benefits, support, acceptance, empathy, forgiveness, helping others, acknowledgment of child, and increased understanding. Negative aspects included: lack of empathy, pain of facing reality, lack of resolution, and condemnation. For this group of men, disclosure was perceived positively more often than negatively. Implications for counseling are discussed.
Coyle, C. T. & Rue, V. M. (2015). A thematic analysis of men's experience with a partner's elective abortion. Counseling and Values, 60, 138-150. doi:10.1002/cvj.12010
Coyle, C.T. & Rue, V. M. (2015). Men's perceptions concerning disclosure of a partner's abortion: Implications for counseling. The European Journal of Counselling Psychology, 3 (2), 159-173. doi: 10.5964/ejcop.v3i2.54
Current projects include:1) a qualitative study of women who have experienced induced abortion (for this project, the data has been collected and is currently being analyzed) and 2) a research project involving the male partners of women who opt for abortion which is in the development phase and will include both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Progress updates will be available at this site.
In the future, we plan on conducting more web-based studies as they offer considerable benefits. When one or more of these studies is begun, we will include information at this website for those who may be interested in participating. We also welcome inquiries from other researchers who would like to collaborate with us.
Web-based research has become increasingly common and the benefits of collecting data online are numerous. The advantages of web-based surveys include: time & cost efficiency, 1,2 access to difficult-to-reach-populations, 3,4 diverse, representative samples, 5,6,7 and increased comfort and motivation of survey respondents. 8,9 Furthermore, the voluntary nature of participation in web research results in superior responses in terms of both clarity and completeness, 10,11 as well as in responses that are less likely to be contaminated by social desirability. 12 Researchers have found evidence that data collected online is equivalent to that collected by more traditional methods. 13,14,15 Ethical considerations are the same as with other research methods and the risk of psychological harm has not been found to be greater than that of offline surveys provided that initial instructions clearly inform respondents of their right to withdraw from participation at any time. 16
1 Duffy, E. (2000). Web-based research: An innovative method for nursing research. Journal of Canadian Oncology Nursing, 10, 45-49.
2 Wilson, R. (2003). The Internet makes gathering data quick, easy, and cheap. Nursing Standard, 18, 20.
3 Mangan, M.A. & Reips, U. (2007). Sleep, sex, and the Web: Surveying the difficult-to-reach population suffering from sexsomnia. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 223-236.
4 Yeaworth, R. (2001). Use of the Internet in survey research. Journal of Professional Nursing, 17, 187-193.
5 Gosling, S.D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S. & John, O.P. (2004). Should we trust Web-based studies? American Psychologist, 59, 93-104.
6 Mathy, R.M., Schillace, M., Coleman, S.M. & Berquist, B.E.(2002). Methodological rigor with Internet samples: New ways to reach underrepresented populations. Cyber Psychology and Behavior, 5, 253-266.
7 Smith, M.A. & Leigh, B. (1997). Virtual subjects: Using the Internet as an alternative source of subjects and research environment. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers, 29, 494-505.
8 Adler, C.L. & Zarchin, Y.R. (2002). The "virtual focus group": Using the Internet with pregnant women on home bed rest. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 31, 418-427.
9 Gosling, S.D., Vazire, S., Srivastava, S. & John, O.P. (2004). Should we trust Web-based studies? American Psychologist, 59, 93-104.
10 Petit, F.A. (2002). A comparison of World Wide Web and paper-and-pencil personality questionnaires. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 34, 50-54.
11 Walsh, J.P., Kiesler, S., Sproull, L.S. & Hesse, B.W. (1992). Self-selected and randomly selected respondents in a computer network survey. Public Opinion Quarterly, 56, 241-244.
12 Richman, W., Kiesler, S., Weisb, S. & Drasgow, F. ( 1999). A meta-analytic study of social desirability distortion in computer-administered questionnaires, traditional questionnaires, and interviews. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 754-775.
13 Ballard, C. & Prine, R. (2002). Citizen perceptions of community policing: Comparing Internet and mail survey responses. Social Science Computer Review, 20, 485-493.
14 Hewson, C. & Charlton, J.P. (2005). Measuring health beliefs on the Internet: A comparison of paper and Internet administrations of the Multidimensional Health Locus of Control Scale. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 691-702.
15 Knapp, H. & Kirk, S.A. (2003). Using pencil and paper, Internet, and touch-tone phones for self-administered surveys: Does it really matter? Computers in Human Behavior, 19, 117-134.
16 Kraut, R., Olson, J., Banaji, M., Bruckman, A., Cohen, J. & Couper, M. (2004). Psychological research online: Report of board of scientific affairs' advisory group on the conduct of research on the Internet. American Psychologist, 59, 105-117.