Volume 22 - Article 11 | Pages 237-288

Reporting on first sexual experience: The importance of interviewer-respondent interaction

By Michelle Poulin

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Date received:07 May 2007
Date published:03 Mar 2010
Word count:6159
Keywords:adolescents, Africa, AIDS/HIV, data quality, Malawi, measurement error, qualitative methods, sexual behavior
DOI:10.4054/DemRes.2010.22.11
 

Abstract

Survey methodologists typically seek to improve data on sensitive topics by standardizing surveys and avoiding the use of human interviewers. This study uses data collected from 90 never-married young adults in rural Malawi to compare reports on first sexual encounters between a standard survey and an in-depth interview. A significant fraction of young women who claimed in the survey to have never been sexually active affirmed sexual experience during the in-depth interview, fielded shortly thereafter. Two elements of the in-depth interview, flexibility and reciprocal exchange, foster trust and more truthful reporting. The findings contradict the long-standing presumption that face-to-face interviews are inherently threatening when the topic is sex.

Author's Affiliation

Michelle Poulin - University of North Texas, United States of America [Email]

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