Adolescents: their futures and their contraceptive decisions

J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2014 Oct;27(5):301-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2013.12.009. Epub 2014 Jul 9.


Purpose: Pregnancy prevention counseling addresses future goals as a motivator for contraceptive use, but this is often unsuccessful. This study investigated how adolescent females define success and whether they believe teen childbearing will be a barrier to their success.

Methods: A racially and ethnically diverse group of 84 nulliparous, high-risk adolescent females in teen clinics completed a survey asking about how they define success, future plans, and barriers to their success and future plans.

Results: Most respondents defined a successful person as one who has a higher education (73%) and/or a good job (73%). Most saw themselves finishing high school (70%), in college (62%), or working at a job (75%) in 3-5 years. Participants who left with a prescription contraceptive method were not more likely to feel that education/career were important for success. Most reported that having a child would have no (52%) or a positive effect (30%) on their education. The majority felt childbearing would have a negative impact on many aspects of their life. But feeling their finances would be negatively affected was the only predictor of obtaining contraception.

Conclusions: We found that high-risk adolescents did not differ in conventional goals and aspirations regardless of their contraceptive choice. Although most girls felt that education/career was important, many of them felt that childbearing would not be a barrier to or may even improve their educational attainment. This challenges counseling that uses conventional goals as a motivator to remain non-pregnant. Further study of novel motivators for contraceptive use is needed.

Keywords: Adolescent; Ambivalence; Contraception; Conventional goals; Pregnancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Aspirations, Psychological*
  • Contraception Behavior / psychology*
  • Female
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult