Emotional barriers to contraception.

Fisher WA; Byrne D; White LA
In: Byrne D, Fisher WA, ed. Adolescents, sex and contraception. Hillsdale, New Jersey, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1983. 207-39.

In addition to ignorance and anticontraception beliefs, it is proposed that adolescents' emotional responses to sexuality may affect their use of contraception. A teenager who is somewhat anxious and ambivalent about sex will be uneasy about acquiring and using contraception, while an adolescent who is emotionally more at ease about sex should also be more relaxed about obtaining and using birth control. Several hypotheses are proposed concerning the link between sex-related emotions and contraceptive behavior, describing research that is pertinent to each of these assumptions and discussing possible applications of what has been learned about adolescent contraception. Data suggest that those individuals with a negative emotional response to sex may have difficulty in learning what they need to know about conception and contraception. The findings also indicate that erotophobic young adults may not accurately anticipate future intercourse, and this may prevent them from taking contraceptive precautions in advance. Erotophobic individuals appear to find discussion of sexual topics aversive and hold relatively negative attitudes about birth control; they are inconsistent contraceptive users. Across a series of studies, erotophobic persons seem to be less likely to engage in each behavior that is required for effective contraception. Evidence exists that erotophobia/erotophilia may have quite general effects on approach or avoidance of sexuality. The negative emotions which seem to inhibit contraceptive use also seem to inhibit performance of sex related health care practices. 3 strategies that might be pursued to improve adolescent contraception are considered: educating for change in erotophobia/erotophilia; changing the emotional tone of contraceptive learning, acquisition, and use; and changing beliefs and expectancies. Educating for change in erotophobia/erotophilia involves desensitizing persons to alleviate their negative emotional responses to sex, and the systematic association of sexual cues with positive emotions in order to foster the development of an erotophilic disposition. It is also necessary to change the feelings about the specific behaviors that are required for effective contraception. Also necessary are interventions that focus on changing relevant beliefs and expectancies in addition to emotional changes.

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