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Contraception Tension: How Culture, Society and Narrative Inform Consumer Identity and Contraceptive Use



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Contraceptive advertising and use is a widely accepted practice within North America, and yet has received little attention within the scope of marketing research. For a mass consumption product considered to be highly private and individualized yet tied to significant social, political, and environmental outcomes, it is important to understand how these messages and outcomes are interpreted at the individual level of the consumer. The current study was undertaken to explore the relationship between consumer identity and contraceptive use; how user identities are constructed in contraceptive advertising and how this impacts consumers; and the ways in which social agents like healthcare providers influence consumer health identities and contraceptive uptake. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seventeen community-based participants and five healthcare providers to gain a better understanding of the intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics that impact consumer perceptions of contraceptives and decisions to incorporate contraceptives into their reproductive plans. Using a grounded theoretical approach, the findings resulted in a theoretical framework that outline the key social agents and identity narratives that are reproduced within these social agents that directly inform consumer health identities, beliefs, and contraceptive use. Peers, healthcare providers, parents and partners were identified as primary social agents that informed consumer health identities and contraceptive use, and are fed by larger cultural scripts that are enacted through media and advertising. The concepts of autonomy and control emerged in participant accounts as diametric, or oppositional identity narratives that are reproduced within the level of each social agent and result in conflict that women must negotiate. As a result of this conflict, women develop perspectives and practices that inform their self-concepts around their health which then dictate their contraceptive use and larger contraceptive beliefs. The findings present an agenda to pivot contraceptive marketing away from traditional advertising strategies to a social marketing approach that incorporates stakeholders including healthcare providers and public health bodies in promoting transparency, ethicality, and consumer agency in contraceptive use.



contraceptive, consumer identity, marketing, advertising



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Edwards School of Business




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