Religion’s Multifaceted Association with Attitudes and Behaviors That Raise the Risk of Early Pregnancy

Lisa D. Pearce, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Elyse Jennings, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Religion is thought to be an important protector against unplanned, nonmarital pregnancy among young adults. We use data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life (RDSL) study to investigate how different dimensions of religiosity of young, unmarried women (ages 18 to 19) may influence their knowledge regarding pregnancy risk and their pregnancy motivations. Preliminary results suggest that religiosity can offer both risks and protections against pregnancy, depending on the dimension of religiosity. Specifically, we find that young women who believe the Bible is the literal word of God know less about pregnancy risk, are more consistent and less ambivalent in their pregnancy motivations, and are more motivated to avoid pregnancy than their counterparts. Measures of personal religiosity—importance of religion and frequency of prayer—are also associated with less ambivalence about pregnancy motivations. But, the motivations of young women who attend religious services more frequently are less consistent and more ambivalent.

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 Presented in Session P9. Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, and Reproductive Health