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Measuring Sexual Behaviour: methodological challenges in survey reserach


K A Fenton, A M Johnson, S McManus, et al.

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Journal Name

Sexually Transmitted Infections

Publication Date


PubMed Search


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The study of sexual behaviour lies at the heart
of understanding the transmission dynamics of
sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Academic
investigation into sexual behaviour dates
back to the 18th century and, over time, has
employed a variety of approaches including the
medical and psychiatric investigation of sexual
disorders, anthropological investigations, and
survey research based largely on volunteer
samples.More recent studies, driven largely by
the public health response to HIV/AIDS, have
focused on large scale probability sample
survey research.1–5 Key areas of inquiry have
shifted towards describing population patterns
of risk behaviours for STI/HIV transmission,
understanding how epidemics of STIs are
generated, and informing disease control
Sexual behaviour is a largely private activity,
subject to varying degrees of social, cultural,
religious, moral and legal norms and constraints.
A key challenge for all sex survey
research is to generate unbiased and precise
measures of individual and population behaviour
patterns.Methods are needed to minimise
measurement error which may be introduced
by participation bias, recall and comprehension
problems, and respondents’ willingness to
report sensitive and sometimes socially censured
attitudes or behaviours.6 7 This paper
briefly considers the role of different types of
study in understanding STI epidemiology. It
then focuses on potential sources of measurement
error in survey research and strategies for
assessing and limiting them.






Created at 9/13/2011 10:38 AM by Davis, Gregory P
Last modified at 9/13/2011 10:38 AM by Davis, Gregory P