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CSDE Seminar Series

Population Research Discovery Seminars

Childbearing Worldviews and Contraceptive Behavior among Young U.S. Women

Emily A. Marshall, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Health, Franklin and Marshall College Sociology Department

12:30-1:30 PM PT


UW Department of Global Health and UW Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Contraceptive behavior among young women in the United States illustrates an often puzzling relationship between attitudes and behavior. This study argues that considering sets of attitudes relevant to childbearing in relation to each other can explain apparent contradictions between attitudes and contraceptive behavior. We classify young women into groups based on shared childbearing worldviews—patterns of attitudes about domains related to childbearing—and test whether these groups predict contraceptive behavior. Using data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life study, we use latent class analysis to measure childbearing worldviews and to partition survey respondents into meaningful groups. We then use multinomial logistic regression analysis to examine the relationship between group membership and contraceptive behavior. We find six classes of young women that share childbearing worldviews, three of which were predicted by the existing literature. Membership in these classes is then shown to predict contraceptive behavior, an important behavioral outcome. We argue that the concept of worldviews and the method for identifying them will allow researchers to identify meaningful groups in a population, as well as to generate theories about childbearing and contraceptive behavior. In an extension of this analysis, we engage critiques of Second Demographic Transition theory and debates over its relevance to the U.S., comparing attitudes and fertility of the childbearing worldview groups in our sample to the predictions of the theory.

Emily A. Marshall’s research interests include fertility, culture, comparative and historical sociology, and quantitative methods. Her current research explores how measuring cognitive processes and individual attitudes can illuminate the mechanisms by which social and cultural contexts influence individuals’ fertility behavior. In another line of research, she examines cross-national variation in concern about low fertility, asking how national contexts affect the construction of low fertility as a social problem. She uses a wide variety of research methods, including qualitative and archival methods, digital text analysis, and experimental survey design. Marshall received her PhD in Sociology from Princeton University with a specialization in Demography, and was an NICHD post-doctoral fellow at the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan. She is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department and Public Health Program at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania.

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