Compernolle, Nell. 2017. "Disentangling Perceived Norms: Predictors of Unintended Pregnancy During the Transition to Adulthood." Journal of Marriage and Family 79(4):1076-1095.
Using data from the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life Study, this study examines the role of perceived norms in predicting undesired pregnancy among young women aged 18 to 22 years. First, it compares the relative influence of the content (injunctive [approval] versus descriptive [prevalence]) and referent (parents versus friends) of fertility-related norms. Second, in identifying entrance into motherhood as an important life course event, particularly during the transition to adulthood, it explores how these influences vary by parity. Third, it tests two potential mechanisms: conformity via internalization and superficial conformity. Findings support injunctive norms: Nonmothers' risk of undesired pregnancy is largely influenced by friends' approval, whereas parents' approval best predicts that of young mothers'. The effects are independent of respondents' own attitudes, suggesting superficial conformity. The study sheds light on how young women's perceptions of what is “normal” among important others influence a consequential early-life event: becoming a parent.