Limited detraditionalization of intimacy. Growing socioeconomic differences in contraceptive use at first intercourse in Italy


This paper investigates links between social inequality and reproductive behavior. It complements the extensive research on the stratification of young adults’ life chances in education and the labor market by considering changes over time in the stratification of contraceptive use at first intercourse by parental background. We seek to understand detraditionalization trends in young people’s sexually intimate behavior by investigating whether these trends were driven by particular social groups and how they were supported by policy initiatives. We study Italy from 1950 to 2006, which shows strong regional and socioeconomic disparities, and comparatively slow changes in religiosity and gender norms. Data from the “Survey on Italians’ Sexual Behavior” (2006) and macro indicators on family planning centers are used. The findings show a steep increase in contraceptive use at first sexual intercourse over time, stratified by parental background, but only for condom use. We did not find that family planning centers intervened in these relationships.

Advances in Life Course Research - online first