Does ambivalence about becoming pregnant explain social class differentials in use of contraception?

Eur J Public Health. 2007 Oct;17(5):477-82. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckl263. Epub 2006 Dec 21.


Background: Manual social class background has consistently been associated with markers of poorer sexual health. This study of adults examines contraceptive use across social classes and the role of ambiguity towards pregnancy in non-use.

Method: A nationally representative sample of Irish men and women aged 18-45 years were surveyed (n = 3317). Use of contraception in the last year and at the last occasion of vaginal sexual intercourse was queried. Reasons for non-use were examined.

Results: The consistency of contraceptive use in the last year was higher among women than men with lower use in unskilled manual social classes for both sexes. 'Not having planned for sex' was the most commonly cited reason for non-use (47% of men and 40% of women). 'Not caring if pregnancy occurred' was cited by 11% of women and 12% of men, while 'took a chance' was cited by 8% of both men and women. Results showed semi and unskilled manual women more likely to report that sex was unplanned or that they 'took a chance'. Among men, all other classes were more likely to report each of the ambivalence statements than the professional and managerial class.

Conclusions: The study provides evidence of social class differentials in use of contraception among adults, and shows that these may be due, in part, to higher levels of ambivalence about pregnancy among working class women. The article adds to the socio-demographic literature on class differentials in unwanted pregnancy and extends research on adolescents to cover patterns for adult women and men.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Contraception / psychology
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology*
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned / psychology*
  • Risk-Taking
  • Self Efficacy
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class*