Friday, March 11, 2016

Do Reports of Age and Circumstances of First Intercourse Differ in a Birth Cohort When Asked Seventeen Years Apart?

Conclusions about temporal changes in age and circumstances of first intercourse are generally derived from retrospective reports by people of various ages in cross-sectional studies, with an inherent assumption of no bias stemming from time since the event. We examined this assumption through repeated questions on age and circumstances of first heterosexual intercourse (FHI) at ages 21 and 38 in a birth cohort. 

Despite considerable movement in individual reports, there was no bias in reported age of FHI. However, a greater proportion of both men and women stated at the later assessment both partners had been equally willing (versus persuading or persuaded). The distribution of current views of the appropriateness of the timing did not differ markedly between assessments, although there were many individual changes. 

Reports of contraceptive usage were similar at the two assessments for men but differed among women, mainly through more reporting that they could not remember. T

hese findings imply that among cohorts born in the 1970s, there is no bias in reports of age of FHI many years after the event, and views on the appropriateness of timing persist. However, time biases reports in favor of a more mutual willingness.

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  • 1 Department of Preventive and Social Medicine , University of Otago.
  •  2016 Mar-Apr;53(3):321-30. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1058891. Epub 2015 Oct 12. 

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