Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Contraceptives: Predictors of Use, Role of Cultural Attitudes & Practices and Levels of Effectiveness, edited by Louis Bourgois and Samuel Cauchois (Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2014), pp. 157-182.


Copyright © 2014 Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Used by permission.


Emerging adulthood is marked by significant changes in interpersonal and sexual relationships with delays in marriage meaning that young adults are facing increasingly longer periods of nonmarital sexual engagement (Arnett 2000). Understanding factors that influence contraceptive use is critical because young adults experience the highest rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Drawing on the Toledo Adolescent Relationship Study (TARS) (n = 437) we examine how variations in the qualities of dating relationship are associated with consistent condom use and consider the reasons for inconsistent condom use. We find that negative relationship dynamics, such as verbal abuse, intimate partner violence, and infidelity, are associated with inconsistent condom use net of socioeconomic factors and prior contraceptive use.

Positive relationship qualities, such as love, intimate self-disclosure, and trust are not associated with condom use. Young adult daters most often report that inconsistent condom use is due to relational factors (e.g., partner and I know each other well, I trust my partner, and I am not worried partner is unfaithful) (40%). Less frequent reasons included sexual health of self or partner (30%) or use of other methods (23%). Relatively rare reasons for inconsistent use are aversion to condoms (2%) or access to condoms (5%). Thus, assessments of the relationship context will move forward our understanding of young adult condom use. The results show that those young adults in the lowest quality relationships are least often effectively protecting themselves against STIs and pregnancy. These findings have implications for programs targeted at young adults.