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Best-Friend Reports: an instrument for Measuring the Prevalence of Sensitive Behaviors

Best-Friend Reports: an instrument for Measuring the Prevalence of Sensitive Behaviors

S. Yeatman and J. Trinitapoli jointly developed the tool that is best-friend. S. Yeatman developed the concept for the article, performed the analyses, and published almost all of the article. J. Trinitapoli recommended in the analysis and contributed to your writing for the article.


We introduce the best-friend methodology for utilizing studies to assess the populace prevalence of painful and sensitive actions. We display the potency of this device by comparing self-reports to best-friend reports of intimate behavior and abortion history among young feamales in Malawi (letter = 1493). Best-friend reports reveal higher and much more believable estimates of abortion and numerous partners that are sexual. In contexts for which close friends commonly discuss such actions, best-friend reports are a relatively inexpensive and simply implemented device.

Survey scientists battle to measure sensitive and stigmatizing actions that are crucial for understanding health threats, habits of condition transmission, and contraceptive need. 1–4 Novel methodological methods to reduce underreporting, including sound computer-assisted self-interviewing and confidential voting methods, have actually had limited success. These procedures can generate greater (and arguably more accurate 5 ) reports of particular intimate actions and abortion, however they produce reduced reports of other actions and may increase reporting errors. 6–11

To higher estimate the people prevalence of intimate danger behavior and abortion in a residential district in southern Malawi, we administered a study asking a number of questions regarding the habits of this respondent’s closest friend. This process leverages 2 sociological insights. The very first is that relationship sites are homogenous; friends are generally comparable with regards to sociodemographic traits and actions. 12 the second reason is that social desirability bias need less impact on reports regarding the painful and sensitive or stigmatizing behaviors of your buddies than on self-reports. 13 right right Here we provide the first outcomes acquired by utilizing this effortlessly implemented approach to review research on sensitive and painful subjects.

Malawi is within the midst of the general and AIDS that is mature epidemic. Young ladies are especially prone to become contaminated, with HIV incidence peaking in the mid-20s. 14 Premarital intercourse, although typical, is nonnormative, developing a social desirability bias that encourages people, and ladies in specific, to underreport extramarital partnerships and sex before wedding. 15,16

Abortion is unlawful in Malawi except to truly save living associated with the woman that is pregnant. 17,18 however, clandestine abortion—largely unsafe—is a typical reaction to undesirable or mistimed pregnancies throughout the united states. There are not any nationwide quotes of abortion in Malawi, but information from major hospitals claim that abortion problems will be the most reason that is common medical center admission to gynecological wards. 19,20


Tsogolo la Thanzi (TLT) is a unique and ongoing study that is longitudinal of (15–25 years) Malawians living in just a 7-kilometer radius for the southern town of Balaka. The standard information had been collected from the sample that is random of and males from June 2009 through August 2009. Just the information gathered through the test of females (N = 1493) are talked about right here.

Interviewers accumulated the info in face-to-face interviews that lasted approximately 80 mins each. The study contained questions regarding the respondent’s intimate behavior while the past history and results of each maternity she had ever skilled. Due to the painful and sensitive nature of these concerns, TLT complemented this direct approach with questions regarding the respondent’s friend that is best’s intimate behavior and abortion history. The interviewer introduced the section that is best-friend asking www.camsloveaholics.com/adultchathookups-review the respondent to “think regarding the best feminine friend in Balaka. Image her. Do this person is had by you at heart? ” Interviewers then asked the respondent a few questions regarding the companion, beginning with less sensitive and painful concerns and moving forward to more sensitive and painful concerns. Since the relationship between close friends is usually reciprocal, this process approximates an association that is 1-to-1.


Within the aggregate, TLT respondents’ answers to nonsensitive questions regarding their marriage that is own and closely mirrored the answers they provided towards the exact exact same questions regarding their utmost buddies ( Figure 1 ). As an example, 42.1% of participants reported being presently hitched, in contrast to 42.8% reporting that their utmost buddies were hitched. Exactly the same had been real for having young ones (49.2% for both) and present maternity (9.6percent for participants and 8.8% with their close friends). For lots more sensitive and painful concerns, nonetheless, significant differences emerged between self-reports and reports that are best-friend. The portion of participants whom reported having had intercourse in past times year (61.3%) had been a complete 11 portion points less than the portion whom stated that their utmost friends had had sex in past times year. Underreporting had been systematic by marital status; the essential difference between self-reports and best-friend reports ended up being minimal for married ladies and enormous with regards to their unmarried counterparts, reflecting prevailing norms discouraging premarital activity that is sexual.

Comparison of female respondents’ self-reports to reports on the close friends: Malawi, 2009 (n = 1493).

Note. BF = companion.

Also, although not many participants acknowledged having had significantly more than 1 partner that is sexual the last 12 months (1.7%), numerous lovers had been reported to be reasonably frequent among close friends (20.3%). Into the pregnancy that is retrospective, just 0.4percent of participants admitted to using had an abortion inside their life time. By comparison, 7.6% of participants stated that these people were confident their closest friend had ever endured an abortion, and an extra 0.5% suspected as much.


Best-friend reports try not to re solve all difficulties with self-reports on painful and sensitive dilemmas. These are typically inadequate for examining habits being unlikely to be talked about between buddies or even for developing mechanisms that are causal. However, best-friend reports can certainly offer better quotes associated with prevalence of delicate and underreported actions in populations. Soliciting a respondent’s reports regarding the faculties and behavior of his / her friend that is best (that is most most most likely much like the respondent) is an effectual and affordable option to gather all about delicate dilemmas. The best-friend approach could be validated with large-scale surveillance studies that compare patterns of sexual behavior as established by best-friend reports to observed trends in sexually transmitted infections at the population level. The best-friend approach could be validated with intensive network data attaching best-friend reports to biomarker data from respondents and their best friends at the individual level. As soon as reports that are best-friend been validated completely, they might have substantial applications, including gauging the precision of self-reported behavior and enhancing epidemiological models of this spread of sexually sent infections by enhancing their inputs.

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