, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 201–228 | Cite as

Dimensions of Reproductive Attitudes and Knowledge Related to Unintended Childbearing Among U.S. Adolescents and Young Adults

  • Karen Benjamin GuzzoEmail author
  • Sarah R. Hayford
  • Vanessa Wanner Lang
  • Hsueh-Sheng Wu
  • Jennifer Barber
  • Yasamin Kusunoki


Measures of attitudes and knowledge predict reproductive behavior, such as unintended fertility among adolescents and young adults. However, there is little consensus as to the underlying dimensions these measures represent, how to compare findings across surveys using different measures, or how to interpret the concepts captured by existing measures. To guide future research on reproductive behavior, we propose an organizing framework for existing measures. We suggest that two overarching multidimensional concepts—reproductive attitudes and reproductive knowledge—can be applied to understand existing research using various measures. We adapt psychometric analytic techniques to analyze two data sets: the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) and the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study (RDSL). Although the specific survey measures and sample composition of the two data sets are different, the dimensionality of the concepts and the content of the items used to measure their latent factors are remarkably consistent across the two data sets, and the factors are predictive of subsequent contraceptive behavior. However, some survey items do not seem strongly related to any dimension of either construct, and some dimensions of the two concepts appear to be poorly measured with existing survey questions. Nonetheless, we argue that the concepts of reproductive attitudes and reproductive knowledge are useful for categorizing and analyzing social psychological measures related to unintended fertility. The results can be used to guide secondary data analyses to predict reproductive behavior, compare results across data sets, and structure future data collection efforts.


Attitudes Contraception Measurement Unintended fertility 



This research was supported from a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD078412; Guzzo and Hayford, PIs) as well as center grants to Bowling Green State University’s Center for Family and Demographic Research (P2C-HD050959), Ohio State University’s Institute for Population Research (P2C-HD058484), and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center (R24 HD041028). This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant No. P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. This research also uses data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life project, which was funded by two grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R01 HD050329, R01 HD050329-S1, PI Barber) and a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (R21 DA024186, PI Axinn). We gratefully acknowledge the Survey Research Operations (SRO) unit at the Survey Research Center of the Institute for Social Research for their help with the data collection, the intellectual contributions of the other members of the original RDSL project team (William Axinn, Mick Couper, Steven Heeringa, and Heather Gatny), as well as the National Advisory Committee for the project: Larry Bumpass, Elizabeth Cooksey, Kathleen Mullan Harris, and Linda Waite.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Benjamin Guzzo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah R. Hayford
    • 2
  • Vanessa Wanner Lang
    • 1
  • Hsueh-Sheng Wu
    • 3
  • Jennifer Barber
    • 4
  • Yasamin Kusunoki
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of SociologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Center for Family and Demographic ResearchBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA
  4. 4.Department of SociologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.Department of Systems, Populations and Leadership, School of NursingUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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