White Female Undergraduates’ Perceptions of Black Pregnant Adolescents: Does Control Over Pregnancy Matter?

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Adolescent pregnancy is often stigmatized. On the basis of Weiner’s (1993) attribution theory, observers were expected to make more compassionate judgments about adolescents who had more limited control over becoming pregnant. However, because of negative stereotypes about Black femininity, Black pregnant adolescents were expected to be perceived negatively regardless of how they became pregnant. White female undergraduates (N = 135) were randomly assigned to read one of six vignettes in which an adolescent (either “LaToya” or “Lauren”) became pregnant after contraceptive nonadherence (i.e., not using a condom), a contraceptive accident (i.e., the condom broke), or contraceptive sabotage (i.e., her partner secretly removed the condom during sex). Results were generally consistent with attribution theory, and overall, participants perceived “LaToya” and “Lauren” in similar ways. However, compared with “Lauren,” participants judged “LaToya” as more responsible for pregnancy after (uncontrollable) contraceptive sabotage. In addition, “Lauren” was seen as similarly trustworthy across different contraceptive problems whereas “LaToya” was seen as most trustworthy after a contraceptive accident. These results suggest that, in addition to pregnancy controllability, race/ethnicity also may affect the stigmatization of pregnant adolescents.

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