Non-Heterosexuality, Relationships, and Young Women's Contraceptive Behavior

Publication Abstract

Ela, Elizabeth, and Jamie Budnick. 2017. "Non-Heterosexuality, Relationships, and Young Women's Contraceptive Behavior." Demography, 54(3): 887-909.

Non-heterosexual young women have a higher rate of unintended pregnancy than their heterosexual peers, but their fertility behaviors are understudied. We use longitudinal data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study to investigate mechanisms contributing to non-heterosexual women's higher pregnancy risk. These data include weekly reports of relationships, sex, and contraceptive use over 30 months. We compare the relationships and fertility behaviors of three groups: exclusively heterosexual (consistent heterosexual behavior, identity, and attraction); mostly heterosexual (heterosexual identity with same-sex behavior and/or same-sex attraction); and LGBTQ (any non-heterosexual identity). We find that mostly heterosexual and LGBTQ women behave differently from exclusively heterosexual women in ways likely to elevate their risk of unintended pregnancy: more distinct partners during the study period, more sexual intercourse with men, less frequent contraceptive use, less use of a dual method (condom plus hormonal method), and more gaps in contraceptive coverage. Mostly heterosexual women resemble LGBTQ women in their contraceptive behavior but have significantly more intercourse with men, which may increase their pregnancy risk relative to both LGBTQ and exclusively heterosexual women. We conclude by considering implications for LGBTQ health and the measurement of sexual minority populations.


PMCID: PMC5580805. (Pub Med Central)

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