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Dorius, Cassandra. 2012. "Does MPF Put Women at Risk? Theories of Multipartnered Fertility and Health." PSC Research Report No. 12-770. August 2012.
Though having children with more than one person (a.k.a. multipartnered fertility or "MPF") has been depicted as a social problem with many negative correlates, research has not clearly demonstrated whether multipartnered fertility has direct effects on well-being or if these negative outcomes result from selection into this family form. I address this puzzle by proposing a thought experiment which holds constant selection effects and other confounders while assessing three theoretical mechanisms by which MPF could negatively influence the health of women, including: Boundary Ambiguity, Social Stress, and Social Support. Assessment of the theories suggest that even if women had identical socioeconomic histories prior to childbearing and the same number of partners and children throughout the life course, women with multipartnered fertility remain at greater risk for mental and physical health problems over time compared to their single partner fertility counterparts. Implications for future work are discussed.
Country of focus: United States.