Psychosocial Data and
Challenges to Anthropology
and Contraceptive Research
Mary S. Willis and Marion Pratt
Developing effective, safe and practical contraceptive methods requires an understanding of subjective feelings and sexual behaviours amongst different cultural or ethnic groups around the world. Such information is derived from psychosocial research findings, i.e. information gathered on the ways in which an individual's thoughts, feelings, and behaviours compare to and affect others (Brehm et al. 1999). Although a minimal method mix is now available in most developing countries (e.g. oral contraceptives, condoms, intrauterine devices, injectables, sub-dermal applications or foaming tablets), there are risks associated with each method. Certain methods can compromise the health and wellbeing of the individual and/or incur significant financial or personal costs to the user or the user's family. Thus, improvements in contraceptive technology are still needed. Moreover, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has created a need for the development of new contraceptive methods that provide an effective barrier to the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
In order to improve currently available contraceptive options or to design new multipurpose barrier methods, an in-depth understanding of people's past history and current sexual practices is critical. Such information can provide invaluable insights, enabling researchers and users to address multiple concerns. Identifying the influence of a particular contraceptive method on the frequencies and types of sexual behaviours practised enables researchers to make changes in the overall