HistoryThe 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.