Clark, S., Kabiru, C., Zulu, E.
CONTEXT—It is generally believed that men and women misreport their sexual behaviors, which undermines the ability of researchers, program designers and health care providers to assess whether these behaviors compromise individuals’ sexual and reproductive health.
METHODS—Data on 1,299 recent sexual partnerships were collected in a 2007 survey of 1,275 men and women aged 18–24 and living in Kisumu, Kenya. Chi-square and t tests were used to examine how sample selection bias and selective partnership reporting may result in gender differences in reported sexual behaviors. Correlation coefficients and kappa statistics were calculated in further analysis of a sample of 280 matched marital and nonmarital couples to assess
agreement on reported behaviors.
RESULTS—Even after adjustment for sample selection bias, men reported twice as many partnerships as women (0.5 vs. 0.2), as well as more casual partnerships. However, when selective reporting was controlled for, aggregate gender differences in sexual behaviors almost entirely disappeared. In the matched-couples sample, men and women exhibited moderate to substantial levels of agreement for most relationship characteristics and behaviors, including type of relationship, frequency of sex and condom use. Finally, men and women tended to agree about whether men had other nonmarital partners, but disagreed about women’s nonmarital partners.
CONCLUSIONS—Both sample selection bias and selective partnership reporting can influence the level of agreement between men’s and women’s reports of sexual behaviors. Although men report more casual partners than do women, accounts of sexual behavior within reported relationships are generally reliable.