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Respondent's Understanding of The Words Used in Sexual Behaviour Questions


D. Binson, JA Catania

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Public Opinion Quarterly

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We assessed the difficulty respondents have in understanding
the vocabulary used in sexual behavior questions. We embedded
several questions related to respondents’ self-reported difficulty
in understanding the terms ‘‘vaginal intercourse’’ and ‘‘anal
intercourse’’ in a telephone survey of the general population (National
AIDS Behavioral Survey II, N 5 4,790). Most respondents
(95 percent) reported that these terms were easy to understand. However,
men were more likely than women to report difficulty, and
minority respondents were more likely than white respondents to
indicate that ‘‘vaginal intercourse’’ and ‘‘anal intercourse’’ were
difficult to understand. Most striking was the finding that 25 percent
of those with less than 12 years of education reported comprehension
difficulty with these terms. In addition, in the High Risk Cities
(HRC) sample, respondents who found the terms difficult to understand
were more likely to report ‘‘zero’’ when asked the number of
people they had vaginal or anal intercourse with. This has implications
for STD/HIV prevention policy in that some demographic
groups may appear less sexually active than they really are. Hence,
they may be ignored as likely candidates for intervention programs.
More research is needed to assess the various dimensions to this
problem. Especially needed are ways to facilitate understanding of
these basic sexual behavior terms for those with low levels of education






Created at 9/12/2011 2:46 PM by Davis, Gregory P
Last modified at 9/12/2011 2:46 PM by Davis, Gregory P