The relationship between attitudes toward love, attitudes toward sex, and contraceptive behavior
Adler, Nancy L
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Recent research has indicated that there is currently a problem with unintended pregnancies in the United S t a t e s. In 1982, Forrest (1987) found that 54% of the pregnancies that occurred ware unplanned. Henshaw (1987) reported that approximately 30% of the pregnancies in 1983 were aborted. Although a large percentage of the abortions were performed on teenagers (27%), the majority involved woman in the 18-to-24 age range. The purpose of the present study was to explore the variables that appeared to be related to contraceptive use. It was an attempt to ascertain variables that need to be addressed during contraceptive counseling and sex education programs. Reiss, Banwart, and Foreman (1975) and Rains (1971) have developed theories to explain woman's contraceptive behavior. Although they approach the problem differently, both theories agree on the importance of self-esteem and sexual self-esteem (a woman's feelings about her sexual self and her sexual behavior) on contraceptive behavior. These theories also indicate that attitudes toward love and attitudes toward sex may affect contraceptive behavior. Other scholars (Cacioppo, Patty, Kao, & Rodriquez, 1986; Handrick & Handrick, 1987b) have highlighted other variables that may impact on contraceptive behavior (specifically, need for cognition and sensation seeking). The present study used undergraduate introductory psychology students from Texas Tech University to test hypotheses based on the research and theories mentioned above. Sexually active men and woman were used to test these hypotheses, despite the fact that previous research has mainly focused on woman. Results of the present study found statistical support for the proposed relationships between self-esteem and contraceptive behavior, and between dyadic commitment (as measured by various love and sex attitudes) and reliable contraceptive use. Support for sexual self esteem was mixed. There was no support for the hypotheses proposing relationships between contraceptive behavior and either the Sensation Seeking Scale or the Need for Cognition Scale. These results indicate that during contraceptive counseling and sex education programs, exploring relationship variables and fostering self-esteem may help to improve reliable contraceptive use.