Journal of Biosocial Science

Research Article

THE ROLE OF RELATIONSHIP POWER IN COUPLE DECISIONS ABOUT CONTRACEPTION IN THE US

WILLIAM R. GRADYa1, DANIEL H. KLEPINGERa1, JOHN O. G. BILLYa1 and LISA A. CUBBINSa1

a1 Battelle Centers for Public Health Research and Evaluation, Seattle, Washington, USA

Summary

Most analyses of the contraceptive decision-making in which couples engage are based on the reports of only one partner, usually the female partner. This study uses information from the 2006 National Couples Survey conducted in the US, which was obtained from both partners in intimate heterosexual relationships to investigate the relative impact of the male and female partner's method preferences on the type of method they use together. It also investigates the extent to which differences in power between the partners, measured on multiple dimensions, may weigh the decision-making process toward one partner or the other. The results suggest that men's and women's method preferences are both significantly related to the couples' method choice. Further, there is no evidence of a significant gender difference in the magnitude of these relationships, although women in married and cohabiting relationships appear to have greater power over method choice than women in dating relationships. The analysis also finds that structural power as measured by relative education and income affects partner differences in the relationship between preferences and method choice, but is more important for married and cohabiting couples than for dating couples. In contrast, relationship-based power sources, including relative commitment and relative relationship alternatives, have significant effects only for dating couples.

(Online publication January 18 2010)