The Long Arm of Adolescence: Gender Differences in the Impacts of Early Reproductive Attitudes and Knowledge on Adult Unintended and Nonmarital Fertility

Karen B. Guzzo , Bowling Green State University
Sarah R. Hayford, The Ohio State University

Theory and evidence suggest strong short-term effects of attitudes toward childbearing and knowledge about reproduction on women’s fertility. Adolescent attitudes and knowledge may have long-term implications for the contexts people perceive as appropriate for childbearing and their capacity to manage fertility. These processes should also apply to men, but gender differences in the meaning of sex, contraception, and reproduction may shape associations. We analyze the relationship between reproductive attitudes and knowledge in adolescence and adult unintended and nonmarital fertility, using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 9,452). Adolescent reproductive attitudes, especially the perceived consequences of early childbearing, predict both adult unintended and nonmarital fertility. Reproductive knowledge is generally unrelated to adult fertility. Effects do not differ by gender but seem to be stronger for women than men. Results suggest that fertility schemas appear as early as the teen years and influence behavior well into adulthood.

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 Presented in Session 141. Men’s Fertility, Family Planning, and Sexual and Reproductive Health