Littlejohn’s research focuses on how culture shapes reproductive health outcomes in contraception and abortion. Her work lies at the intersection of health and medicine, race and gender, and social inequality. Two of her current projects investigate gender and women’s experiences using birth control across relationships and how medical providers talk about birth control in contraception counseling visits (with Katrina Kimport).
Analyzes just over 100 contraception counseling visits to understand how clinicians discuss side effects with patients. Finds that while some present the uncertainty of side effects in a straightforward, patient-accessible way, others negotiate their predictions by suggesting that positive side effects are likely and negative side effects are unlikely and, presenting the risk of serious side effects as controllable.
Examines the effects of race and education on the likelihood that women have ever used particular types of hormonal contraception and have ever discontinued hormonal contraception because of dissatisfaction.
Argues that the gendered emphasis on women’s appearance and emotionality shapes women’s perceptions about the seriousness of hormonal contraceptive side effects, like weight gain and emotional volatility, and their propensity to stop use as a result.
Analyzes rich qualitative data from interviews with 51 unmarried women, age 20-29, including complete sexual histories with detailed narratives on each partner regarding contraceptive use and discontinuation.
Presents quantitative and qualitative evidence that contraceptive inconsistency sometimes results from having too little efficacy, a concept that includes the subconcepts of planfulness, self-regulation, assertiveness, and believing that one can affect one’s goals.