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Moving targets: (In)stability in U.S. women’s fertility intentions and pregnancy attitudes

Rachel Jones, PhD, Guttmacher Institute, 2015

Project abstract

Findings from behavioral research have demonstrated the crucial role that fertility intention and pregnancy attitudes play in determining contraceptive behavior. Yet most of this research is cross-sectional, and there is little information on the extent to which U.S. women’s fertility intentions and motivations change over time.

This project will use panel data gathered from a national sample of U.S. women over an 18-month period to examine change and stability in women’s (1) desire to have children, (2) desire to avoid pregnancy and (3) happiness if they found out they were pregnant. The analysis will determine which characteristics and (time-varying) circumstances are associated with stability and with the most common trajectories of change in these outcomes. We are particularly interested in gaining a better understanding of ambivalent or ambiguous intentions and attitudes. We will also examine how intentions and attitudes, and the change in them, influence women’s contraceptive use patterns.

Findings from this project will inform policy and practice by increasing understanding of the complexities around pregnancy motivation, including identifying subgroups of women more likely to have difficulty avoiding unplanned pregnancy because of consistently low motivation or ambivalent feelings about preventing pregnancy or because their attitudes about pregnancy are more likely to change over time; and, elucidating which characteristics and factors in women’s lives contribute to changing pregnancy prevention attitudes.

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