This paper presents the results from an interview-mode experiment conducted by the Population Council with unmarried young women in rural southern Malawi. To collect data on sexual behavior and the dynamics of HIV transmission, respondents were randomly assigned to either an audio computer-assisted self-interview (ACASI) or a conventional face-to-face (FTF) interview. Clear evidence indicates that the mode of interviewing and probing concerning various sexual partnerships affects respondents’ reporting of their sexual activity, yet the results are not always in accordance with expectations. Reporting for “ever had sex” and “sex with a boyfriend” is higher in the FTF mode, whereas, when we ask about other partners as well as multiple lifetime partners, the reporting is consistently higher with ACASI, in many cases significantly so. The interview-administered mode produced more consistent reporting of sexual activity between the main interview and a subsequent interview. Finally, the association between infection status and reporting of sexual behavior is stronger in the FTF mode, although in both modes, some young women who denied ever having had sex tested positive for STIs/HIV.
Mensch, Barbara, Paul C. Hewett, Richard Gregory, and Stephane Helleringer. 2008. "Sexual behavior and STI/HIV status among adolescents in rural Malawi: An evaluation of the effect of interview mode on reporting," Poverty, Gender, and Youth Working Paper no. 8. New York: Population Council. Version of record: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1728-4465.2008.00178.x