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Teen Birth Control: Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Contraception Decision-Making


Updated May 30, 2013

Teen Birth Control: Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Contraception Decision-Making

Teen Pregnancy Prevention

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Understanding what contributes to teen pregnancy and teenage sexual decisions can help keep teen pregnancy rates down. The year 2007 saw the teen pregnancy rate rise for first time in 14 years. Researchers are constantly trying to learn more about teenage sexual behavior as this knowledge can assist in teen pregnancy prevention. So far, research has uncovered that the quality of adolescent relationships can influence teenage contraception decisions. Researchers are beginning to determine that certain characteristics of teenage relationships, partner attributes, and teens’ sexual relationship histories are connected to higher and more consistent birth control use. Results of such research lend further support to previous related studies by demonstrating that there are patterns of teen birth control use, and that several relationship-specific and partner characteristics exist that play a significant role when it comes to adolescent decisions about contraceptive use.

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The beginning of romantic relationships represents a key part of adolescent development as a majority of high school students have had a romantic relationship while almost half of high school-age adolescents have had at least one sexual experience. Understanding teen relationships and their association with birth control use can assist parents, program providers, and teenagers in reducing the high rates of unintended teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Given that individual behavior can be understood only within the context of the relationships, many studies over the past decade have explored the link between relationship characteristics and contraceptive use.

A review of research suggests that among sexually active teens, several important relationship dimensions may affect contraceptive use:

  • Several studies have found that relationships with inequalities (such as different ages race/ethnicities, and social economic statuses, etc.) tend to be associated with lower contraceptive use and consistency.

  • In general, a consistent body of research reveals that condom use is more frequent with casual sexual partners rather than with more steady or serious partners.

  • Studies have indicated that consistent birth control use occurs in relationships where partners have discussed birth control prior to first having sex. Additionally, discussions between sexual partners about condoms and sexual histories are consistently linked with improved condom use.

  • Other research shows that the younger teenagers are at the time of sexual encounters with their partners, the less likely they are to use birth control.

  • Studies reveal that relationships with a higher level of intimacy seem to be linked with higher and more consistent contraceptive use. This may be due to the greater predictability that sex will occur.

  • Finally, research has established that family and individual characteristics such as higher family socioeconomic status, greater cognitive ability, living with both biological parents, and (sometimes) receiving sex education are associated with improved contraceptive use and consistency.
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