Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Beaudry, James A.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Sociology


Birth control


Contemporary Americans have the capability of deciding on how many children to have and when they shall have them. For many, temporary or permanent childlessness is a viable alternative to parenthood. Many national and regional studies have documented the contraceptive practices of American couples, and much has been written about ideal family size. However, the principal provider of effective contraceptive methods--the physician--has been largely overlooked in terms of research. Over the past thirty years a handful of studies have been conducted which examine the role of the physician in the provision of contraceptive services. Such studies have been interested in several variables which help explain why some physicians offer a wider array of services than others and why certain patients tend to receive more services than others. Variables such as the age, medical specialty, and religion of the physician and the age, marital status, and family size of the patient have been the most frequently examined. In an attempt to verify the findings of previous researchers, this thesis uses a questionnaire to replicate the types of data gathered in previous studies. The questionnaire elicits information from physicians in Rockford, Illinois on their age, medical specialty, and form of practice as well as their relative interest in providing contraceptive services. Physicians are asked if they consider the provision of contraceptive services to be a routine procedure in their medical practice, or if it should be a supplementary one provided at the request of the patient. They also are queried on whether they would initiate a discussion of contraception to eight different types of female patients during the course of a general physical examination; such patients represent various histories of sexual activity and marital status. On the basis of these questions, the dependent variables are formulated, and they are examined in light of three independent variables: medical specialty, age of physician, and form of practice. Form of practice has not been analyzed in previous studies. Three sets of research hypotheses are developed on the basis of the literature. Each research hypothesis states that physicians will tend to regard the provision of contraceptive services as a routine medical procedure and tend to initiate contraceptive services in the same way as observed in earlier studies. For medical specialty this means that the most highly specialized physician (obstetrician/gynecologist) will fare better than those less specialized (family practitioner, general practitioner, and internist, respectively). For age of physician the tendency to provide contraceptive services should decrease with increasing age. For form of practice the solo practitioner is expected to provide fewer services than the group practitioner. The findings reveal that for both the medical specialty and form of practice variables the hypothesis referring to the routine provision of contraceptive services is not supported, while the hypothesis pertaining to the initiation of contraceptive services is supported by the data. Neither hypothesis is supported by the data for the age of physician variable unless the effects of medical specialty are controlled.


Includes bibliographical references.


3, vi, 79 pages




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