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

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

S. Yeatman and J. Trinitapoli jointly developed the best-friend device. S. Yeatman developed the concept for the article, performed the analyses, and composed a lot of the article. J. Trinitapoli suggested regarding the analysis and contributed to your writing for the article.


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

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

To raised estimate the people prevalence of intimate danger behavior and abortion in a residential area in southern Malawi, we administered a study asking a few questions regarding the actions of this respondent’s closest friend. This technique leverages 2 insights that are sociological. The very first is that relationship systems are homogenous; buddies are usually comparable with regards to characteristics that are sociodemographic habits. 12 the second reason is that social desirability bias must have less impact on reports regarding the stigmatizing or sensitive behaviors of the buddies than on self-reports. 13 Here we provide the first outcomes acquired by utilizing this easily implemented approach to review research on delicate subjects.

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

Abortion is unlawful in Malawi except to save lots of living regarding the woman that is pregnant. 17,18 nevertheless, clandestine abortion—largely unsafe—is a response that is common undesirable or mistimed pregnancies throughout the united states. There are not any nationwide quotes of abortion in Malawi, but information from major hospitals declare that abortion problems would be the most reason that is common medical center admission to gynecological wards. 19,20


Tsogolo la Thanzi (TLT) is a unique and ongoing longitudinal research of young (15–25 years) Malawians residing within a 7-kilometer radius of this southern city of Balaka. The standard information had been gathered from a sample that is random of and males from June 2009 through August 2009. Just the data gathered through the test of females (N = 1493) are talked about right right here.

Interviewers obtained the information in face-to-face interviews that lasted more or less 80 minutes each. The study included questions regarding the respondent’s intimate behavior therefore the history and results of each maternity she had ever skilled. Due to the delicate nature of these questions, TLT complemented this direct approach with questions regarding the respondent’s closest friend’s intimate behavior and abortion history. The interviewer introduced the section that is best-friend asking the respondent to “think regarding the most useful feminine buddy in Balaka. Image her. Do this person is had by you in your mind? ” Interviewers then asked the respondent a number of questions regarding the friend that is best, beginning with less sensitive and painful concerns and moving forward to more sensitive and painful concerns. Due to the fact relationship between best friends is usually reciprocal, this process approximates a 1-to-1 association.


Within the aggregate, TLT respondents’ answers to nonsensitive questions regarding their marriage that is own and closely mirrored the responses they provided towards the exact exact same questions regarding their finest buddies ( Figure 1 ). As an example, 42.1percent of participants reported being presently hitched, weighed against 42.8% reporting that their finest buddies had been hitched. Exactly the same ended up being real for having kiddies (49.2% both for) and pregnancy that is current9.6percent for participants and 8.8% with regards to their close friends). For lots more sensitive and painful concerns, but, significant distinctions emerged between self-reports and best-friend reports. The portion of participants whom reported having had sex within the previous year (61.3%) had been a complete 11 portion points less than the portion who stated that their finest 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 females and enormous because of their unmarried counterparts, reflecting prevailing norms discouraging premarital activity that is sexual.

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

Note. BF = best friend.

Also, although hardly any participants acknowledged having had significantly more than 1 partner that is sexual the last year (1.7%), numerous lovers had been reported to be fairly frequent among close friends (20.3%). Within the retrospective maternity history, only 0.4percent of participants admitted to using had an abortion inside their lifetime. In comparison, 7.6% of participants stated that they certainly were confident their friend that is best had ever endured an abortion, and yet another 0.5% suspected as much.


Best-friend reports don’t re solve all nagging difficulties with self-reports on painful and sensitive dilemmas. These are generally inadequate for examining habits being not likely to be talked about between buddies or even for developing causal mechanisms. Nevertheless, best-friend reports can certainly provide better estimates associated with prevalence of delicate and underreported habits in populations. Soliciting a respondent’s reports regarding the faculties and behavior of his or her friend that is best (who’s most most likely much like the respondent) is an efficient and affordable option to collect information about sensitive and painful dilemmas adultchathookups. com. During the population degree, the best-friend approach might be validated with large-scale surveillance studies that compare habits of intimate behavior as established by best-friend reports to noticed styles in sexually transmitted infections. 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 could have considerable applications, including gauging the precision of self-reported behavior and enhancing epidemiological models of this spread of intimately sent infections by improving their inputs.

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