For more than two decades, the United States has reported significant declines in teen pregnancy, teen birth, and teen abortion rates, as much research and programmatic attention has been directed toward addressing these issues. Yet, rates of unintended pregnancies among teens and other age groups have remained largely unchanged, and the U.S. unintended pregnancy rates remain the highest in the industrialized world. Moreover, the issue of pregnancy risk among sexual minority (non-heterosexual) populations has been largely ignored in pregnancy prevention research.
Lisa Lindley, an associate professor in George Mason’s College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Global and Community Health, conducts research focused on sexual health promotion and the prevention of HIV/STIs and unintended pregnancies among underserved populations. Her most recent paper, "Congruence across Sexual Orientation Dimensions and Risk for Unintended Pregnancy among Adult U.S. Women," explored whether adult (aged 18 to 44 years) sexual minority women (SMW) were more likely to have unintended pregnancies compared with heterosexual women, examined the role of sexual identity-attraction congruence in unintended pregnancy risk, and evaluated possible mediators. Using data on pregnancies from the 2006-2013 National Survey of Family Growth (n=25,403), Lindley and colleagues found that SMW were more likely to have unintended pregnancies than heterosexual women and that the increased risk was concentrated, specifically, among women who were “incongruent” in their sexual identity and attraction (i.e., women who reported being sexually attracted to other women but who identified as heterosexual) Moreover, they found that elevated risk of unintended pregnancy among women with sexual identity-attraction incongruence was explained by their greater average number of male sex partners (and, to a lesser extent, earlier age at first sex), compared with heterosexual women.
Hartnett CS, Lindley LL, Walsemann KW. Congruence across Sexual Orientation Dimensions and Risk for Unintended Pregnancy among Adult U.S. Women. Women’s Health Issues. 2017 Mar-Apr; 27(2): 145-151. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.whi.2016.10.010
Dr. Lindley is available for interviews. Please contact Danielle Hawkins via email or at 703-993-1931. Journalists on deadline, or after hours, are advised to contact the Community Engagement office by email rather than office phone. Please put ON DEADLINE in the subject of the email, and be as specific as possible with your request.
Things To Know
In research, at least three dimensions of sexual orientation can be measured: 1) sexual attraction; 2) sexual behavior; and 3) sexual identity.
Sexual attraction refers to the feelings of romantic or sexual interest toward another person. Researchers measure the sex(es) or gender(s) to which individuals are attracted.
Sexual behavior refers to different activities (oral, vaginal, anal intercourse, etc.) that someone engages in with partners of the same sex, opposite sex, or both sexes. This is becoming a less accurate measure as more people are having sexual and romantic relationships with transgender individuals.
Sexual identity is how a person labels their sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual, or heterosexual). However, other identities are frequently used to label one’s sexual orientation (asexual, pansexual, and queer).
These three dimensions do not necessarily align in people. For example, a person may be attracted to someone of the same sex but not act on those feelings (only has sexual relationships with the opposite sex) and identifies as heterosexual, or someone may identify as bisexual and only have same sex partners.
Most people are concordant across the three dimensions; they are attracted to the opposite sex, only have opposite sex partners, and identify as heterosexual. However, many people, especially females, are discordant across the three dimensions.
Asking questions about the different dimensions of sexual orientation allows researchers to more comprehensively examine the role of sexual orientation as a predictor of health, social, and economic outcomes.