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Abstract

Latina teens have lower rates of contraceptive use and higher rates of pregnancy compared to other racial/ethnic groups. Differences in attitudes about contraceptive responsibility have been suggested as reasons for these disparities. We conducted 36 gender- and race/ethnicity-specific focus groups with young women aged 15 to 21 years and young men aged 18 to 24 in four large Texas cities. To explore youths’ attitudes about contraceptive responsibility, we analyzed transcripts using thematic analysis and compared themes across race/ethnicity and gender. Across all groups, youth often reported that young women were primarily responsible for contraception because of the physical implications of pregnancy and perceptions that women have more self-control. While youth also stated both partners should take responsibility, this was often offered as an ideal. There were few differences across race/ethnicity, but Latina young women more often discussed the greater implications of pregnancy for women, and Latino young men less frequently acknowledged the financial and legal obligations of raising a child. These findings suggest that attitudes likely operate in conjunction with other beliefs and structural disadvantages that contribute to disparate reproductive health outcomes. Our results also point to important areas for sexual health and development for all youth.

Key Take Away Points

Across all racial/ethnic groups, attitudes towards who is responsible for contraception are linked to perceptions of who shoulders the majority of the burdens following an unplanned pregnancy.

Youth often reported that young women were primarily responsible for contraception because of the physical implications of pregnancy and perceptions that women have more self-control.

Youth stated both partners should take responsibility, but this was often offered as an ideal.

Attitudes toward contraceptive responsibility likely interact with other beliefs, as well as structural disadvantages that vary more sharply across race/ethnicity, resulting in differences in Latino teens’ contraceptive use and rates of pregnancy.

Author Biography

Kari White, PhD MPH, is an Assistant Professor in Health Care Organization & Policy at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research focuses on immigrant women’s reproductive health, with an emphasis on contraceptive attitudes and access.

Kristine Hopkins, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include reproductive health issues in the US, with a focus on contraceptive availability among Mexican-origin women and the determinants of teen pregnancy in Texas.

Emily Schiefelbein, MPH, is a Senior Healthcare Analyst at Lone Star Circle of Care. Her research interests include Maternal and Child Health, with a focus in adolescent health and family planning.

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services (Contract # 2009-031039), and supported by the Population Research Center (Grant # 5 R24 HD042849 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) and the Center for Social Work Research at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Responses to this Article:

Silvia T. Linares and Lisa M. Hollier, Understanding Perceptions about Contraceptive Responsibility Among Adolescents (December 2013)