Objectives To explore teenagers’ beliefs about emergency contraception (EC) within a Theory of Planned Behaviour (TPB) framework.
Methods Six single sex focus groups comprising a total of 25 female and 23 male pupils aged 13–16 years conducted in schools in Central England.
Results Attitudes to emergency contraception (EC) were mainly positive about the rewards of avoiding teenage pregnancy. Participants had positive beliefs about the effectiveness of EC, although knowledge of crucial time limits varied. EC use was more socially acceptable than teenage pregnancy, yet both outcomes were perceived negatively. Motivation to comply with social pressure was influenced by the appraisal of individuals’ intentions. Participants reported high self efficacy in accessing EC, but had concerns over confidentiality and access.
Conclusions Desire to avoid pregnancy was high in this group, but practical factors and attitudes may be more important for those ambivalent about pregnancy. Adolescents perceive accessing EC as difficult, are concerned about confidentiality, and anticipate negative reactions from staff. Data support the TPB as a suitable framework for understanding attitudes to EC use. Further research should apply quantitative TPB measures to EC use in a wider teenage sample in order to identify potential psychological factors to target in an intervention.