Premarital contraceptive behavior: attitudes among adolescents




Nelson-Wernick, Eleanor

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Texas Woman's University


The review of the literature on contraceptive behavior among adolescents suggested the following: (a) while a sizable proportion of adolescent females have engaged in sexual intercourse, many have not used effective means of contraception; (b) little has been known about the contraceptive attitude among adolescents or about the relationship between contraceptive knowledge and behavior; (c) there has been some evidence for contraceptive attitude-behavior consistency; (d) perception of responsibility for contraception may be related to contraceptive behavior; (e) relationships between demographic variables and contraceptive behavior were evident and worthy of further investigation; and (f) data concerning the relationships among contraceptive attitudes, knowledge, and behavior would suggest strategies for promoting contraception among adolescents. This study investigated attitudes toward personal use of premarital contraception among sexually active adolescent males and females. Contraceptive effectiveness behavior was measured in relation to several factors: contraceptive attitudes, knowledge about contraception, age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, frequency of intercourse, and percep- tion of whether primary responsibility for contraception belongs to males or females, or whether it is shared jointly. In addition, an examination of the relationships between demographic variables, contraception behavior, attitudes, and knowledge was presented. Subjects were 101 males and 105 females from 14 to 19 years of age who were drawn from a public high school near Charleston, South Carolina. All students within the selected classrooms were asked to complete questionnaires assessing attitudes toward contraception, contraceptive knowledge, and sociodemographic and sex-related life history variables. Only unmarried, sexually active (i.e., those who had engaged in sexual intercourse) students were selected as subjects. Safeguards were taken to ensure complete confidentiality and anonymity of responses. Subjects were rated with regard to their effectiveness of contraception (high, moderate, or low). Ratings were determined according to the degree of risk for pregnancy associated with the reported contraceptive behavior. Results of stepwise discriminant analyses revealed contraceptive attitudes and knowledge were related to contraceptive behavior. However, the most important variable overall in terms of discriminating between contraceptive effectiveness groups was contraceptive attitudes. Age, gender, race, frequency of intercourse, and years of sexual experience also contributed significantly to prediction of contraceptive effectiveness. Separate univariate analyses indicated the following: The high contraceptive effectiveness group scored higher on a test of contraceptive knowledge than the moderate effectiveness group. There was no difference found between scores of high and low effectiveness groups. The low effectiveness group was more likely to perceive responsibility for contraception as belonging to the "opposite gender." "Same gender" and "joint" responsibility groups had more favorable attitudes toward contraception than the "opposite gender" group. Contraception attitudes and knowledge were positively related. A low to moderate correlation was found between these variables. A positive relationship was also found between age and contraceptive knowledge. Females were more knowledgeable about contraception and has more favorable attitudes than males. Also, more females than males were classified into the high contraceptive effectiveness group. The results of this study demonstrated strong evidence for contraceptive attitude-behavior consistency. These findings suggest that adolescent contraceptive programs and high school sex education classes that are most likely to be effective in terms of preventing unwanted pregnancy are those that influence the adolescents attitudes toward use of contraception.



Contraception -- United States, Teenagers -- United States -- Sexual behavior, Teenagers -- United States -- Attitudes