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

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.