McFarlane M, St Lawrence JS. Adolescents' recall of sexual behavior: consistency of self-report and effect of variations in recall duration

Behavioral Interventions and Research Branch, Division of STD Prevention, National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30333, USA.
Journal of Adolescent Health (Impact Factor: 3.61). 10/1999; 25(3):199-206. DOI: 10.1016/S1054-139X(98)00156-6
Source: PubMed


To describe the relationship between adolescents' 2-week, 2-month, and 12-month recall of sexual behavior; to assess the variability of adolescents' self-reported sexual behaviors over a period of 1 year; and to draw conclusions regarding the use of recall periods in measuring self-reported sexual behavior in adolescents.
Data from 296 African-American adolescents (age 12-19 years; 28% male) were analyzed. Baseline data comprise 2-week, 2-month, and 12-month recall of number of partners and frequency of condom-protected and unprotected vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Self-reported frequency of refusal of unprotected sex during the 2-week and 2-month recall periods are also included. To assess variability in self-reports of number of partners and frequency of behaviors over time, repeated measures of 2-week and 2-month recall were collected from a subset of the sample (n = 129; 24% male).
The strength of correlation among responses from the three recall periods was dependent upon (a) the difference in length of the recall periods, and (b) the nature of the construct being recalled (e.g., number of partners vs. number of behaviors). Longitudinally, the variability of 2-week recall responses was generally larger than the variability in 2-month recall responses.
Consistent estimates of adolescents' sexual behavior over a 1-year period may be obtained from several assessments of 2-week recall, or from relatively fewer assessments of 2-month recall data.

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    • "Number of sex partners was measured by separately assessing respondents' number of vaginal and oral sex partners in the last 3 months, a recall period found reliable in previous studies [28] [29]. There were too few cases of anal sex partners to allow analyses on this outcome. "

    Journal of Adolescent Health 01/2010; 47:12-19. · 3.61 Impact Factor
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    • "1995; McFarlane and Lawrence 1999 "
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    ABSTRACT: Few studies have investigated the optimal length of recall period for self-report of sex and drug-use behaviors. This meta-analysis of 28 studies examined the test-retest reliability of three commonly used recall periods: 1, 3, and 6 months. All three recall periods demonstrated acceptable test-retest reliability, with the exception of recall of needle sharing behaviors and 6-months recall of some sex behaviors. For most sex behaviors, a recall period of 3 months was found to produce the most reliable data; however, 6 months was best for recalling number of sex partners. Overall, shorter periods were found to be more reliable for recall of drug-use behaviors, though the most reliable length of recall period varied for different types of drugs. Implications of the findings and future directions for research are discussed.
    AIDS and Behavior 06/2009; 14(1):152-61. DOI:10.1007/s10461-009-9575-5 · 3.49 Impact Factor
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    • "While the findings are compelling and should be taken into consideration in aiding youth to delay sexual onset, study limitations include issues around teen self-reporting. However, studies suggest that self-reporting may actually underestimate true attitude toward sexual behavior and sexual behavior itself for adolescents (Brown & Zimmerman, 2004; McFarlane & St. Lawrence, 1999). Also, this was a cross sectional study which suggests correlations however, it does not allow for establishing causality. "
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    ABSTRACT: The intentions of 614 adolescents to have sex were examined in conjunction with their participation in risky behaviors (hard drugs, violence and suicide, alcohol and marijuana use) and protective factors (community connected and against teen sex, educational aspirations, emotional support from family, friends and girlfriend/boyfriend or sexual partner). Key findings from bivariate and linear regression analyses revealed that alcohol and marijuana use were correlated with intention to have sex among adolescents, as was emotional support from a boyfriend/girlfriend or sexual partner. This study offers insights regarding intentions to have sex among adolescents, pointing particularly to the issue of emotional support in a dating relationship as a motivation for having sex. Findings from this study can be used to develop health education and promotion programs focusing on delaying sexual intercourse.
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