Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Psychological knowledge production about abortion: the politics of location and representation


Background Despite considerable psychology research being conducted on abortion, there has been no study of the history of psychological knowledge production on the topic. The aim of our research was to analyse journal articles published in English language psychology journals using a politics of location and of representation analytical lens.

Study design A systematic search for articles published on abortion in psychology journals from 1960 to 2015 was conducted. A mixed-method approach (content analysis and narrative review) was used to analyse the dataset. Articles were coded according to: decade of publication, region, types of research conducted, and main issues focused on. A narrative review of the dominant issue researched – psychological consequences – in two decades (the 1970s and 2000s) was conducted.

Results Knowledge production began in the 1970s in most regions featured in the dataset and in the 1990s in South Africa. Research is dominated by quantitative studies conducted in North America and Europe concerning the demarcation of psychological consequences of abortion performed under safe conditions. In the 1970s, abortion was viewed as leading to benign psychological consequences, but by the 2000s traumatology talk was firmly entrenched. Only one article, emanating from South Africa, addressed the question of unsafe abortion.

Conclusions Knowledge production in psychology needs to move beyond a narrow focus on the psychological consequences of abortion and attitudes to abortion. Nuanced, contextualised research of the psychology of both safe and unsafe abortion is necessary.

  • history
  • psychology
  • abortion
  • termination of pregnancy
  • reproduction
View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Highlights from this issue
    British Medical Journal Publishing Group