Psychosocial conventionality, health orientation, and contraceptive use in adolescence

Frances M. Costa, Richard Jessor, J. Dennis Fortenberry, John E. Donovan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to determine psychosocial and behavioral factors that are associated with variation in contraceptive use among adolescents. Because regular use of contraception may be seen both as a conventional behavior and as a health-protective behavior, analyses assess the association between psychosocial conventionality and health orientation, on the one hand, and variation in contraceptive use, on the other. Methods: Analyses are based on an urban sample of 971 white, African-American, and Hispanic male and female sexually active high school students. Study participants filled out a 38-page questionnaire that included a wide range of measures derived from Problem-Behavior Theory. Results: Correlational analysis and hierarchical regression analysis indicate that more regular contraceptive use is associated with greater psychosocial conventionality and also with greater orientation toward health for both male and female adolescents. These relationships hold when the sociodemographic characteristics of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, grade in school, family composition, and pregnancy experience are controlled. The linkages of psychosocial conventionality and health orientation to contraceptive behavior are stronger for African-American than for white and Hispanic adolescents. Conclusions: The present findings establish a more comprehensive and more distal set of influences on regularity of contraceptive use. In its negative relationship to problem behavior and its positive linkage with health behavior, contraceptive behavior may be seen as part of a larger, organized system of behavior in this stage of development (i.e., a more conventional adolescent lifestyle).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)404-416
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Contraception
  • Health orientation
  • Problem-Behavior Theory
  • Psychosocial conventionality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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