Black, young, and low-income women disproportionately experience unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies are common among reproductive aged females experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). Reproductive coercion—the pressure men put on their female partners to become pregnant, sabotage birth control, and force women to keep pregnancies they do not want—is closely related to IPV and affects 8% to 16% of women in the United States. Yet little research has investigated how men’s attitudes and perceptions may influence women’s exposure to reproductive coercion.
To address this gap, Dr. Kamila Alexander and colleagues conducted a qualitative study to explore the relationship between reproductive coercion and childbearing motivations among young, Black men in Baltimore city. The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 25 men between ages 18 and 25. Researchers asked the following questions to better understand the men’s motivations to become fathers: Have you ever wanted one of your sex partners to get pregnant?; What does fatherhood or having a child mean to you?; How have you expressed your desire to have a child with a sexual partner in the past?; Do you currently want your partner to become pregnant?
“I feel the stories from young women that are so predominant in our examinations of violence in relationships really only gives us a partial picture of the circumstances in which sexual decisions are made.”
Just over half of the participants had biological children and most were in a sexual relationship at the time of the interview. Establishing personal legacies and creating bonds with partners and children emerged as key motivators for wanting a child among nearly half of the young men. As one participant explained, “Maybe just to have that last name carried on to the next generation or just to have something, someone to love unconditionally, no matter what, because men need it, too.” Additionally, many of the participants described that having a child gave them the chance to escape and correct their past. “You do better, you know. I want my kids to have what I ain’t had,” another participant expressed.
Reports of personally using coercion toward an intimate partner were low. Most of the men referred to peers’ coercive behaviors rather than their own. They talked about common tactics men use to pressure female partners to become pregnant such as taking off a condom during sex.
“I wanted to learn more about what young men were saying about their experiences,” Alexander told PHP. “I feel the stories from young women that are so predominant in our examinations of violence in relationships really only gives us a partial picture of the circumstances in which sexual decisions are made.”