, Volume 48, Issue 4, pp 1451–1472 | Cite as

Contraceptive Method Choice Among Youth in the United States: The Importance of Relationship Context

  • Yasamin Kusunoki
  • Dawn M. Upchurch


We examine the relationship characteristics associated with contraceptive method choice within young people’s nonmarital sexual relationships, using data from retrospective relationship histories available in the third wave (2001–2002) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Data-reduction techniques produce a detailed multidimensional characterization of relationship commitment for nonmarital sexual relationships. We then use multilevel analysis to estimate associations between two key relationship characteristics—relationship commitment and couple heterogamy—and the type of contraceptive method used at last sexual intercourse within each relationship. Results indicate that for a given individual, contraceptive method choice varies across relationships as a function of these characteristics, even after we account for important individual and family characteristics and prior relationship experiences.


Romantic and sexual relationships Contraceptive behavior Adolescents and young adults Commitment Age and racial/ethnic heterogamy 



The research on which this article is based was supported by a pre-doctoral fellowship to Yasamin Kusunoki from the California Center for Population Research Training Program while she was a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, which was supported by a grant from NICHD (T32 HD007545) and by two research grants to Dawn M. Upchurch funded by NICHD (R01 HD36993 and R01 HD41886). An NICHD Postdoctoral Fellowship (T32 HD007339) at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan provided additional support to Yasamin Kusunoki. The authors thank Jennifer Barber, N.E. Barr, Sarah Burgard, David Harding, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America in Philadelphia, March 31–April 2, 2005. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant (P01-HD31921) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516–2524 ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

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Copyright information

© Population Association of America 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Population Studies Center and Survey Research Center, Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.School of Public HealthUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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