Natural Family Planning and Marital Chastity: The Effects of Periodic Abstinence on Marital Relationships

Linacre Q. 2021 Feb;88(1):42-55. doi: 10.1177/0024363920930875. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Marital chastity is the practice of periodic abstinence with use of natural family planning (NFP). The purpose of this study was to determine the influence of the most common methods of contraception (female sterilization, oral contraceptive pills, and condoms) and NFP on divorce/separation and cohabitation rates among reproductive age women. The study involved an extensive review of the literature on the effects of practice of NFP on marital dynamics and a statistical analysis of 2,550 ever-married women in the (2015-2017) National Survey of Family Growth data set. Importance of religion and frequency of church attendance were included in the analysis. With ever-use of NFP, 14 percent were divorced or separated, and 27 percent to 39 percent were divorced or separated with ever-use of oral contraceptive pills. Stepwise logistic regression indicated that ever-use of contraception was associated with increased odds of divorce or separation (odds ratio [OR] = 2.05; confidence interval [CI]: 1.96-2.49) and cohabitation (2.95, CI: 2.20-3.95). Ever-use of NFP yielded 58 percent lower odds for divorce or separation. Frequent church attendance was associated with lower odds of divorce or separation and cohabitation. Although there are lower odds of divorce among NFP users, the reason might be due to their religiosity.

Summary: This study showed that ever-use of natural family planning (NFP) among ever-married women was associated with 58 percent lower odds of divorce than among women who never-used NFP. Ever-use of contraceptive methods was associated with two times the odds of divorce and four times for cohabitation compared to those women who never-used those methods. Use of periodic abstinence with NFP is the practice of marital chastity and is thought to strengthen the marital relationship.

Keywords: Cohabitation; Contraception; Divorce; Marriage; Natural family planning.