Relationship Dynamics and Contraception: The Role of Seriousness and Instability

Yasamin Kusunoki, University of Michigan

This paper examines the role of two dynamic dimensions of relationships, seriousness and instability, on young women’s contraceptive use, consistency of use, and specific contraceptive method used, using new, longitudinal data from a weekly journal-based study of 1003 18-19 year old women that spans two and half years. The results demonstrate that the type of relationship – casual, dating, serious, cohabiting, etc. – largely determines whether a couple uses contraception. However, the duration of the relationship – the total time together, and the amount of time they have been in that particular relationship type – determines how consistently they use their chosen method. Further, instability in these relationships – both temporary break-ups and decreases in the level of commitment – affects couples’ ability to consistently use contraception, and also leads to the use of less effective methods (e.g., withdrawal).

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Presented in Session 203: Romantic Relationships in Adolescence and Young Adulthood