Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Involvement and Young Women's Contraceptive Use

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Parental Involvement and Young Women's Contraceptive Use

Article excerpt

Young adult women in the United States tend to delay family formation, pursue higher education and professional jobs, and become sexually active before marriage. Using effective contraception is the best way to ensure that nonmarital parenthood does not disrupt educational and career plans. Because parental involvement in education shapes teenagers' attitudes about school and work by encouraging achievement and by providing a home environment that values education, this study assesses whether it may also influence contraceptive choices during early adulthood. Analysis of data from 3,828 young women who participated in the National Education Longitudinal Study indicates that parental involvement not only increases the odds that young adult women use contraception, but it is also tied to the likelihood of using specific birth control methods.

Key Words: contraceptive use, parental involvement, transition to adulthood.

During early adulthood, more young women than ever pursue goals that foster opportunity, such as higher education, vocational training, or first jobs. They also delay marriage longer than previous generations and are more likely to have sexual intercourse before matrimony. This results in the risk of nonmarital parenthood, an event that disrupts academic attainment and occupational success (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1999; Hayes, 1987; Luker, 1996). Using contraception minimizes this risk, and certain birth control methods, such as condoms, help decrease the risk of contracting many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV (Division of STD Protection, 1998).

Young women become increasingly independent from families of origin as they transition to adulthood, but parents' current and previous guidance still likely influences daughters' decision making. Many studies indicate that parent-child relationships and communication, parenting style, and parental control are linked to adolescent sexual behavior and contraceptive use (e.g., Crosby et al., 2001; Dittus & Jaccard, 2000; Pittman & Chase-Lansdale, 2001; Rodgers, 1999), but no attention has been given to whether parenting affects contraceptive decisions beyond adolescence. In addition, no research has assessed whether parental involvement in education is related to contraceptive use despite its known influence on school success and the pursuit of future opportunity (Crosnoe, 2001; Ma, 1999; Muller, 1998), key factors that lead young women to delay childbearing and avoid nonmarital parenthood (Luker, 1996). This study addresses these gaps in the literature by investigating how parental involvement in education during adolescence is related to young women's contraceptive use and method used during early adulthood.


Contraceptive Use and Method Chosen

More than 77% of women experience first sex by age 19 (Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1999), and over 90% are sexually active (defined in this study as having had heterosexual sexual intercourse) by their 23rd birthday (Amba, Chandra, Mosher, Peterson, & Piccinino, 1997). As noted, contraceptive use is the best way for sexually active young women to ensure that unplanned parenthood will not interfere with educational and occupational goals during early adulthood.

Some contraceptive methods are more effective than others, so understanding whether and what type of contraception young women use is necessary. Multiple method use is more likely to prevent pregnancy than use of a single method, oral contraceptives, when taken correctly, are more effective than condoms, and both methods are more effective than withdrawal (Hatcher, Trussell, Stewart, & Cates, 1998). Contraception, condom use in particular, is also important for reducing young women's risk of exposure to STDs, which are easier for women than men to contract, but harder to diagnose in women because they are often asymptomatic (Division of STD Protection, 1998).

Parental Involvement and Contraceptive Use in Early Adulthood

Parental involvement in education has largely been studied in the context of academic success (Crosnoe, 2001; Ma, 1999; Muller, 1995, 1998). …

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