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:adolescence, Africa, data quality, HIV/AIDS, Malawi, measurement error, qualitative methods, sexual behavior


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]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» An inquiry into the uneven distribution of women’s HIV infection in rural Malawi
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