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Arch Sex Behav. 1994 Apr;23(2):203-15.

The effect of question preface on response rates to a telephone survey of sexual experience.

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Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Ohio 43403.


Given the heavy reliance on self-report measures in research on sexuality, issues surrounding nonresponse rates are of particular importance. Phone interviews were conducted with 400 adults living in a midsized midwestern city. Rates of nonresponse and reported sexual experience were analyzed as a function of the type of preface statement provided for four questions related to sexual behavior. One preface was general; the other referred to public concern over AIDS. On questions regarding number of sexual partners in the past year and involvement in extramarital sex, women who were given the AIDS preface were significantly more likely to answer the questions than were women who received the general preface. However, for both men and women, reported rates of sexual experience did not differ as a function of the preface statement. Differences between responders and nonresponders were explored. Men were more likely to respond to the sexual items. Education, age, marital status, and religious affiliation were unrelated to rates of response to the sexual questions. For men, responders to the sexuality items reported greater yearly incomes than did nonresponders. Some differences in reported sexual behavior were also found between responders and nonresponders; nonresponders consistently reported less sexual experience. Implications for research on sexuality and future investigation of factors affecting response to sexual items are discussed.

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