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Demographic diversity in the measurement and meaning of unintended pregnancy

Abigail Aiken, University of Texas at Austin, 2013

Project abstract

The overarching aim of the proposed research is to inform strategies for the prevention of unintended pregnancy by providing a better understanding of women’s future childbearing intentions and feelings about pregnancy, particularly when these two concepts appear to be mismatched.

When women report feeling happy at the prospect of pregnancy, but at the same time report wanting no more children, current theoretical perspectives interpret these incongruent feelings and intentions as ambivalence (i.e. the lack of a clear and strong desire to avoid pregnancy). Going a step further, ambivalence is assumed to be a marker of decreased quality of contraceptive use, and thereby increased likelihood of getting pregnant, and is also more common among Latinas.

The proposed research investigates the hypothesis that incongruent intentions and feelings are not a reflection of ambivalence, but rather two distinct concepts: women may be quite resolute about avoiding future pregnancies, yet still express happiness at the prospect of pregnancy. Classifying these women as ambivalent leads to inaccurate measurement of unintended pregnancy, hinders understanding of the difficulties these women might face in obtaining effective contraception, and limits the ability to address disparities in unintended pregnancy across racial and ethnic groups.

The specific objectives of the proposed research are to:

  1. Determine whether incongruent pregnancy intentions and feelings are more prevalent among Hispanic women than among Non-Hispanic White women
  2. Assess whether women with incongruent intentions and feelings less likely to choose more effective methods of contraception
  3. Measure whether women with incongruent intentions and feelings more likely to become unintentionally pregnant in the future
  4. Describe whether women with incongruent intentions and feelings are equivocal about their desire to avoid pregnancy
  5. Describe the factors influencing happiness at the prospect of an unintended pregnancy among women who are not ambivalent about their intention to avoid conception.


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