An Assessment of the Sealed Envelope Method to Measure Reports of Sensitive Behaviors among Women and Men in Nigeria and Zambia

Ann E. Biddlecom, United Nations Population Division
Akinrinola Bankole, Guttmacher Institute
Odun Akinyemi, University of Ibadan
Kumbutso Dzekedzeke, Independent Consultant
Allison Grossman, Guttmacher Institute
Isaac Adewole, University of Ibadan
Adesina Oladokun, University of Ibadan

Accurate self-reports of sensitive behaviours are critical for measuring levels and trends in reproductive health, evaluating interventions and implementing effective policies and programmes. This study draws on household-based survey data collected in 2009-2010 in Nigeria and Zambia to compare reproductive-age women’s and men’s reports of induced abortion, multiple sex partners and perceptions of HIV status from questions in a face-to-face (FTF) interview versus a sealed envelope method (SEM) that was administered at the end of the survey interview. The levels and consistency of self-reports across the two approaches, associated respondent characteristics and patterns by sex and country are examined. Preliminary results show small increases in reports of abortion, multiple sex partners and being HIV-positive in Nigeria, but not in Zambia, when using the more confidential SEM approach compared to FTF. The results raise questions about the suitability and implementation of the SEM method for reducing bias in self-reported sensitive behaviours.

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Presented in Session 62: Advances in Measures and Models of Sexual Behavior