Asking young people about sexual and reproductive behaviours
Illustrative questionnaire for interview-surveys with young people
By John Cleland
This instrument is intended to be no more than a point of departure for investigators wishing to study the sexual and reproductive health of young people. It should always be adapted to local circumstances and priorities and, wherever possible, be used in conjunction with qualitative methods of investigation
The instrument is designed to be suitable for teenagers and young people who have reached puberty but have not yet married or entered stable cohabiting relationships. It is intended to be equally appropriate for males and females, for those who are attending school and those who have left school, and for individuals with experience of sexual intercourse and those without. In surveys that are likely to include married or cohabiting respondents, radical alterations will be needed.
The instrument is designed to document knowledge, beliefs, behaviour and outcomes in the domain of sexual and reproductive health. It is thus best viewed as a tool to assess the needs and problems of young people, an essential preliminary to intervention or advocacy.
The questionnaire will yield information on the following, overlapping topics.
- Sources of information on sexual and reproductive health
- Sexual and reproductive health knowledge
- Sexual conduct including number and types of sexual partner and details of first sexual partnership
- Sexual ideology/attitudes to gender
- Protective, or risk, behaviour
- Condoms (knowledge, attitudes, use)
- Characteristics of current (most recent) boy/girl friend
- Sexual and reproductive health services (knowledge, use, evaluation)
- Sexual and reproductive health outcomes
- Background characteristics
A detailed list of variables is available.
The questionnaire is designed to be used as a verbatim instrument, where the interviewer reads out each question exactly as it appears in print. It will require careful translation into local languages and pre-testing to ensure that respondents easily understand the meaning of each and every question. The English version here is a 'unisex' instrument, equally applicable to male and female respondents with minor alterations in certain words. In some languages, however, it may be advisable to have separate questionnaires for male and female respondents.