Young Adult Unintended Pregnancy and Their Contraceptive Knowledge and Attitudes

In Young Adults’ Contraceptive Knowledge, Norms and Attitudes: Associations with Risk Of Unintended Pregnancy, published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, authors Jennifer J. Frost, et al, highlight how important it is to understand what characteristics are associated with risky contraceptive use practices among women aged 18–29, as they have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy.

Authors surveyed 1,800 unmarried women and men aged 18–29 by telephone in 2009 in order to assess risk for unintended pregnancy.  The authors assessed associations between contraceptive knowledge, norms and attitudes and selected risky contraceptive behaviors.

Results showed that more than half of young men and a quarter of young women received low scores on contraceptive knowledge, and six in 10 underestimated the effectiveness of oral contraceptives.  For each correct response on a contraceptive knowledge scale, the odds of expecting to have unprotected sex in the next three months decreased by 9%.  Fear of side effects, norms and attitudes that favor nonmarital pregnancy, pregnancy ambivalence and mistrust of government’s role in promoting contraception were further associated with risky contraceptive use behaviors.

Authors conclude that, given the demonstrated link between method knowledge and contraceptive behaviors, programs aimed to increase young adults’ knowledge about contraceptive methods are essential when addressing risky behavior in young adults.

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