Define the Relationship: The Correlation Between Women’s Relationship Context and Contraceptive Behaviors




Lonon, Karissa

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Throughout American history, relationship status has been tied to contraception. For 100 years, state and federal laws limited contraceptive distribution only to married couples; for the past 50 years, however, it has been legal for all people in the United States—regardless of relationship status—to access and use contraceptives at their own discretion. Contraceptive use trends are well-documented in the National Survey of Family Growth, which reveals that a correlation between relationship status and contraceptive use still exists today among American women. In addition to nationally representative NSFG data, which show that relationship status has some bearing on the use of specific contraceptive methods, smaller studies have shown that more nuanced relationship factors and partner dynamics are also related to the use of specific methods, nonuse, and contraceptive inconsistency. While many variables are connected to contraception, relationship context has emerged as a particularly complex yet important aspect of women’s contraceptive behaviors.