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Early Family Environment, Reproductive Strategy, and Contraceptive Behavior: Testing a Genetic Hypothesis

  • Warren B. Miller
  • David J. Pasta

Abstract

Recently, Belsky, Steinberg, and Draper (1991) theorized that the amount of stress and discord experienced by children in their early family environment helped shape the timing and nature of their adolescent reproductive behavior. Here we examine that relationship and the affect it may have on contraceptive practice during the young adult period, unifying our approach with a theory of social bonding. We collected data on family background, adolescent development, and current contraceptive behavior from a convenience sample of 178 mostly unmarried couples. We used LISREL to construct a two-sex, constrained model of variable relationships across the three time periods, while simultaneously adjusting for selected social-demographic and personal traits and for major situational factors. We found that levels of both affection and abuse in the respondent’s family of origin had multiple effects on both adolescent development and adult contraceptive behavior, even when father absence and mother’s age at first birth were controlled. We interpret these findings as suggesting the action of a genetic switch that affects developmental timing. We discuss some possible cellular processes that could underly such a mechanism and the probable adaptive consequences of its effects on bonding. We then reconceptualized our findings in terms of the constructs of implicit and explicit motivation. We conducted a second LISREL analysis. The results indicate that our measure of implicit childbearing motivation, which is based on the adolescent development variables and is presumably in large part non-conscious, is far more important in the determination of pregnancy avoidance motivation than our measures of explicit childbearing motivation, which are self-attributive and mostly conscious. We discuss how these findings might relate to earlier work in which only explicit childbearing motivations were measured.

Keywords

early family environment reproductive strategy contraceptive behavior childbearing implicit social bonding 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Warren B. Miller
  • David J. Pasta

There are no affiliations available

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