D., Muth, S. Q., Roberts, J. M., Jr., & Potterat, J. J.
Reliability of reported sexual partnership dates and measures
of concurrency. Invited presentation at the Workshop on the
Current Chlamydia Epidemic in Western Societies, August 31,
2007, Stockholm; also presented at the 28th International
Sunbelt Social Networks Conference, St. Pete Beach, FL,
Presentation available at SSRN:
The timing of sexual
partnerships constrains the potential flow of sexually
transmitted infections (STIs). It is crucial to determine the
quality of reported data on sexual partnership timing for both
scientific and practical purposes. Temporal data on
partnerships are used in contact tracing for STIs to identify
sex partners at risk, prioritize partners for intervention,
and classify source and spread cases.
We observed fairly good test-retest (consistency of repeated
reports) and interpartner (agreement between partners in a
dyad) reliability of reported partnership timing in six
contact tracing data sets and one study of sexual networks.
Interviewees reported dates of last sex more reliably than
dates of first sex. Heaping in the differences between dates
reported in repeated interviews corresponded to the temporal
units used in reporting dates (week, month, year). We found
modest forward telescoping (reporting date of first sex in the
second interview as having occurred more recently than
reported in the first interview) in one data set involving
primarily young adults whose intervals between interviews
tended to be several months or more. Recent events, shorter
intervals between interviews, and having the same interviewer
across interviews were independently associated with higher
test-retest reliability. Also, females were more perfectly
reliable (identical reports in repeated interviews) than
males, but not more reliable overall. Reliability of reported
partnership duration, ordering, and concurrency was moderately
high to high.
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