Guttmacher releases study – gives bad advice

father-and-baby-01This past summer, two Guttmacher Institute researchers published a study entitled “Exploring Men’s Birth Intentions” in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. It analyzed how likely — from the father’s perspective — that their partner’s pregnancy was either intended, mistimed, or unwanted. It also looked at the attitudes of fathers when their child was born. The study was thorough and rigorous. The authors used the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG) which gave them a nice dataset of over 2900 births to analyze. They were also able to hold constant a range of demographic variables.

Not surprisingly, married men were more likely more than single men to report that a pregnancy was intended – as opposed to mistimed or unwanted. This finding held for all racial groups. Overall, 74 percent of the pregnancies reported by married men were intended, as opposed to 49 percent for cohabiting men and 25 percent for single men.

Not surprisingly, older cohorts of men were more likely to report that a pregnancy was intended. Also men with a higher level of formal education were also more likely to indicate that a pregnancy was intended.

Fathers were usually very happy when their child was born. When fathers were asked to rate their level of happiness on a 1-10 scale — with 10 being the most happy – sixty two percent of births received a 10 on the happiness scale. However, there were some disparities based on whether or not the pregnancy was intended. Eighty-two percent of men whose pregnancies were intended rated the birth of their child a 10 on the happiness scale. This is compared to 31 percent of men who reported the pregnancy as mistimed and 18 percent of men who reported the pregnancy as unwanted

Overall, the lesson was clear. Fathers tend to be happier about a birth when the pregnancy was intended – and pregnancies are more likely to be intended when a couple is married. Oddly enough this lesson appears somewhat lost on the Guttmacher researchers. In their conclusion, they discuss “identifying ways of strengthening men’s ability to control their own reproduction without undermining the ability of women to control their lives.” They also mention finding better ways to provide reproductive health services to men. However, a far better way to ensure that a higher percentage of pregnancies are intended and that fathers are happier would be to discourage sexual activity outside of marriage. Such ideas, however, never merit a mention in Guttmacher studies.



  • Bekka

    And let’s not miss one thing: 18% of un-intended births still cause a 10/10 happiness! Nearly a fifth! Although they were unintended. That means you cannot really judge your happiness levels at the time of pregnancy. Another argument against abortion, I would think.

  • Patrick Fagan, Ph.D.

    The Guttmacher “wing” of the discourse has never seen marriage and children going together normatively. (At least not from Eisenstat vs. Baird onwards.) And they have worked hard to keep the disconnect “intact”.

  • Jacqueline C. Harvey, Ph.D.

    Redundant? No- because they ENCOURAGE sexual activity outside of marriage. Making conclusions based on the data is not playing God- it’s expected. Dr. New merely points out that they make the wrong conclusion. If a pregnancy is more likely to be intended, wanted and rejoiced in after marriage (also, the ideal and intended environment to raise a child) then the conclusion is not to enable sex outside of these circumstances that create children who suffer to fathers who are less happy. The conclusion is the encourage men to make a wife of a woman before making her a mother.

  • Michael New

    Eric,. thanks for your comment. Guttmacher offered recommendations after their report. Their recommendation was finding ways to provide better reproductive health services (contraceptives) for men. Based on their findings of the report, they could have also discouraged sexual activity outside of marriage. Interestingly, this did not merit a mention.

    • eric

      I stand corrected. Thank you.

  • Frank


    No, the researchers do provide some suggested remedies. They didn’t just share the data, as you suggest. Including the possibility of discouraging out of wedlock sexual activity is not playing God. It’s common sense.

  • eric

    Michael, the research concluded that married men are the happiest group when a pregnancy occurs and when a child is born. For the researchers to “discourage sexual activity outside of marriage” would have been redundant. True researchers study the data and share the data and allow the readers to make their own decisions based on the data. They don’t play God.

    • Jacob Alvarez

      Using reason isn’t playing God.

      Guttmacher isn’t forcing anyone to do anything. Neither is Mr. New. He’s just pointing out that based on the suggestion the Guttmacher researchers provided in this situation and those before it, the Guttmacher Institution is never open to promoting or suggesting that couples only celebrate the gift of sex and reproduction within the boundaries of marriage to achieve less unwanted/mistimed pregancies.



Receive our updates via email.