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The Impact of Self-Interviews on Response Patterns for Sensitive Topics: A Randomized Trial of Electronic Delivery Methods for a Sexual Behaviour Questionnaire in Rural South Africa

51 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2017 Last revised: 5 Jul 2017

Guy Harling

University College London

Dumile Gumede

Africa Health Research Institute

Tinofa Mutevedzi

Africa Health Research Institute

Nuala McGrath

University of Southampton

Janet Seeley

University of East Anglia (UEA); London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Deenan Pillay

Africa Health Research Institute

Till W Bärnighausen

University of Heidelberg

Abraham J. Herbst

Africa Health Research Institute

Date Written: March 24, 2017

Abstract

Background: Self-interviews, where the respondent rather than the interviewer enters answers to questions, have been proposed as a way to reduce social desirability bias associated with interviewer-led interviews. Computer-assisted self-interviews (CASI) are commonly proposed since the computer programme can guide respondents; however they require both language and computer literacy. We evaluated the feasibility and acceptability of using electronic methods to administer quantitative sexual behaviour questionnaires in the Somkhele demographic surveillance area (DSA) in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Methods: We conducted a four-arm randomized trial of paper-and-pen-interview, computer-assisted personal-interview (CAPI), CASI and audio-CASI with an age-sex-urbanicity stratified sample of 504 adults resident in the DSA in 2015. We compared respondents’ answers to their responses to the same questions in previous surveillance rounds. We also conducted 48 cognitive interviews, dual-coding responses using the Framework approach.

Results: 340 (67%) individuals were interviewed and covariates and participation rates balanced across arms. CASI and audio-CASI were significantly slower than interviewer-led interviews. Item non-response rates were higher in self-interview arms. In meta-analysis of all questions, self-interviewed individuals reported more socially undesirable sexual behaviours. Cognitive interviews found high acceptance of both self-interviews and the use of electronic methods, with some concerns that self-interview methods required more participant effort and literacy.

Conclusions: Electronic data collection methods, including self-interview methods, proved feasible and acceptable for completing quantitative sexual behaviour questionnaires in a poor, rural South African setting. However, each method had both benefits and costs, and the choice of method should be based on context-specific criteria.

Keywords: Randomized Trial, Interview Methods, South Africa, Mixed-Methods, Sexual Behaviour

JEL Classification: I12

Suggested Citation

Harling, Guy and Gumede, Dumile and Mutevedzi, Tinofa and McGrath, Nuala and Seeley, Janet and Pillay, Deenan and Bärnighausen, Till W and Herbst, Abraham J., The Impact of Self-Interviews on Response Patterns for Sensitive Topics: A Randomized Trial of Electronic Delivery Methods for a Sexual Behaviour Questionnaire in Rural South Africa (March 24, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2945424 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2945424

Guy Harling (Contact Author)

University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.guyharling.com

Dumile Gumede

Africa Health Research Institute ( email )

719 Umbilo Road
K-RITH Tower Building, level 3
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal 4001
South Africa

Tinofa Mutevedzi

Africa Health Research Institute ( email )

719 Umbilo Road
K-RITH Tower Building, level 3
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal 4001
South Africa

Nuala McGrath

University of Southampton ( email )

University Rd.
Southampton SO17 1BJ, Hampshire SO17 1LP
United Kingdom

Janet Seeley

University of East Anglia (UEA) ( email )

Norwich Research Park
Norwich, Norfolk NR4 7TJ
United Kingdom

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine ( email )

Keppel Street
London, WC1E 7HT
United Kingdom

Deenan Pillay

Africa Health Research Institute ( email )

719 Umbilo Road
K-RITH Tower Building, level 3
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal 4001
South Africa

Till Bärnighausen

University of Heidelberg ( email )

Grabengasse 1
Heidelberg, 69117
Germany

Abraham Herbst

Africa Health Research Institute ( email )

719 Umbilo Road
K-RITH Tower Building, level 3
Durban, KwaZulu-Natal 4001
South Africa

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