Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 40, Number 4, December 2008


A great deal of research has explored links between pregnancy intention and a variety of parental behaviors and infant health outcomes, but the focus has tended to be on the intentions and behaviors of the mother. Does this approach paint a complete picture? Maureen R. Waller and Marianne P. Bitler use a unique, couple-based measure of intendedness to tackle this question, and their findings, reported on page 194 of this issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, show that much is to be gained from including direct reports from men in assessments of the consequences of unintendedness.

Waller and Bitler employ data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, which comprised a sample of couples, both married and unmarried, who were interviewed shortly after having a baby; all participants were asked if they had considered abortion when learning of the pregnancy. The key finding was that both parents' responses were associated, although in different ways, with mothers' receipt of prenatal care and with fathers' provision of material support during the pregnancy. The study, according to the authors, not only highlights the value of obtaining data on fathers' intentions directly from fathers, but also suggests that increased knowledge of men's pregnancy intentions might inform discussions about how to involve men in family planning and in efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies.

Also in This Issue

• Low-income women of different racial, ethnic and language groups have very different preferences regarding their sexual and reproductive health care, as well as different perceptions of the quality of care, Davida Becker and Amy O. Tsui report (see article). The authors can only speculate as to the reasons for the differences, which emerged in analyses of data from a nationally representative sample of women surveyed in 1995, but they suggest that cultural mores, overall health disparities and inequities in care may all come into play. As these data are the most current available for the relevant analyses, it is clear that further research is essential to ensure the elimination of group differences in the delivery and perceptions of care.

• In their contribution to this issue (see article), Lisa L. Lindley and colleagues help close the gap in knowledge about STDs among lesbian and bisexual college women. Their findings, based on a 2006 survey conducted in 123 postsecondary institutions, show that bisexual students are the most likely to engage in several risky behaviors and to have had an STD. In several respects, lesbians have the lowest risk profile, but they also are the least likely to obtain regular gynecologic care. Moreover, students' sexual identity does not always predict their behavior. Sexual health programs on college campuses, the researchers write, should address the STD risks associated with particular behaviors, and "most important, health care providers should never make assumptions about students' sexual behaviors or STD risk on the basis of their orientation or identity."

• Not all "high-risk" groups of men are created equal, as Jacinda K. Dariotis and coauthors demonstrate in analyses of data from the National Survey of Adolescent Males (see article). For example, some men have sex with risky partners but use condoms fairly consistently, whereas others have multiple partners and frequently have unprotected sex. Furthermore, even men in "low-risk" groups are vulnerable to, and acquire, STDs. The good news that comes out of these analyses is that whereas some men move toward riskier behavior as they make the transition from adolescence to young adulthood, most either maintain a relatively low-risk profile or move in the direction of reducing their risk.

•  Daniel Wight and colleagues report (see article) that most sexually active teenagers have positive feelings about their sexual experiences, but a substantial proportion—30% in the British samples on which the study is based—regretted their first intercourse. Young people's background characteristics are associated with their views of their first experience of intercourse, but their sexual histories are more important in shaping their evaluations of recent sexual experiences and current partner relationships. Because the depth of a relationship emerged as a key to teenagers' satisfaction with sexual activity, the investigators conclude that young people should be encouraged to delay the start of intercourse and to restrict sexual activity to close relationships.

—The Editors