THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VARIOUS TYPES OF PARENTAL LOSS AND PREGNANCY IN ADOLESCENT GIRLS
WELSH, SYLVIA SWIER
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Three hundred and twenty seven adolescent girls, mostly Black, in the low to lower middle class of income, between the ages of 12 and 20, were studied to investigate the relationship between various types of parental loss and pregnancy in adolescent girls. Specifically, the focus of the study was to compare those girls who had suffered losses of parenting figures through death to those who had suffered losses of parenting figures through separation and/or divorce on the following variables: risk for pregnancy, resolution of pregnacy, risk for multiple pregnancies and ego developmental level. Girls were divided into four categories or groups of parental loss; No Loss, Separation Only Losses; Death Only Losses; and Death and Separation Losses.;It was hypothesized that a continuum of risk on the above variables would be observed between the four groups of loss, with the least risk condition being the No Loss group and the highest risk condition being the Death and Separation group. Adolescent girls who suffered losses of parental figures through death were considered to be at greater risk on these variables because of lower levels of ego development having been found to be associated with disruptive early caretaking as well as inadequate mourning which enacts a powerful restitutive fantasy and leads to a drive to actually and concretely replace the lost parent. Adolescents whose family lives were disrupted through separation and/or divorce of parenting figures were seen as potentially at risk on these variables because of the inadequate ego development tied to poor early caretaking.;The results indicated that the groups differed significantly in risk for pregnancy, risk for a full term resolution of a pregnancy and risk of multiple pregnancies with girls who had suffered parental losses through death more at risk on these variables than girls who had suffered losses through separation. Furthermore, losses of maternal figures were more likely to lead to a full term resolution than losses of paternal figures. Finally, losses of either sex parenting figure through death were nearly twice as likely to lead to such a resolution than losses through separation.;The data did not support the hypothesis that adolescents who suffer parental losses would be at lower levels of ego development than those who did not. However, further investigation revealed that those girls within each experimental group who became pregnant were at lower levels of ego development than those who did not. These differences reached significance in all cases except where the loss was of the mother.;Hence, ego developmental level was understood to be an important intervening variable determining, to some degree, whether the adolescent will respond to a parental loss with a pregnancy. When the loss is of the mother, however, it seems the dynamic need to recover and replace her outweighs the intervening effect higher levels of ego development may have.
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