Preferences Against Nonmarital Fertility Predict Steps to Prevent Nonmarital Pregnancy
With nonmarital births comprising roughly 40% of all births, nonmarital childbearing has become a major part of the family formation landscape in the U.S. These elevated rates of nonmarital childbearing form the context in which young women both establish individual preferences about their own future family formation behaviors, and embark on their own sexual trajectories. Although previous research has shown that girls’ and young women’s attitudes about sex, contraception, and pregnancy predict their likelihood of having sex and using contraception, no research to date has investigated whether their preferences specifically about nonmarital childbearing may predict their sexual and contraceptive behavior. I use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, with a total of 6288 observations, to address this question. I investigate marital versus nonmarital sexual debut, and consistency of contraceptive use when never married and sexually active, by whether girls state a preference against nonmarital childbearing at ages 11–16. I find that girls who state a preference against nonmarital childbearing are relatively more likely to marry before first intercourse, to delay first intercourse while unmarried, and to use contraception consistently if they have sex while being never married.
KeywordsSexual debut timing Contraception Nonmarital fertility
I am grateful for helpful comments from participants at the 2017 American Sociological Association annual meeting, as well as the published version’s anonymous reviewers. I am also grateful for support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under population research infrastructure Grant R24-HD41041.
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