Academic journal article
By LaBrie, Joseph W.; Earleywine, Mitchell
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 37, No. 4
Alcohol consumption and sexual behavior often correlate. Researchers interested in HIV/AIDS and other STDs have tried to capitalize on this association in looking for factors that covary with behavior that puts people at risk for these negative outcomes. Many believe that alcohol consumption contributes to risky sexual behavior. Alcohol-related interventions might help increase safer sex behaviors such as condom use. However, determining the nature of the relationship between alcohol and risky sex has been difficult. Studies have yielded mixed results. Dingle and Oei (1997) reviewed 20 articles that dealt directly with the link between alcohol and risky sexual behavior. Seven studies (35%) supported and five studies (25%) partially supported the hypothesis that alcohol use may influence risky sexual behavior, while eight studies failed to support the hypothesis. Base rates for drinking combined with sexual risk taking are also difficult to determine. Problems in assessing sexual behavior may contribute to the inconsistency in findings on the relationship between risky sex and alcohol. Higher base rates than have previously been reported might mean that the association between drinking and risky sex is stronger and more consistent than research has determined. Accurate base rates for sexual risk behaviors after drinking might also help in developing targeted interventions among populations where the risk is greatest. This information could enhance the design of interventions aimed at increasing condom use.
Assessing Sexual Behavior
Most studies of sexual behaviors rely on self-reports. Researchers have questioned the validity of these self-reports ever since Kinsey first embarked on his sexual surveys. Sexual behavior is often highly private. Risky sexual behavior is often laden with negative evaluation. Thus, people might give socially acceptable responses when asked to reveal what they do, think, and feel when engaging in sexual activity (Catania, Gibson, Chitwood, & Coates, 1990). Brody (1995) claimed that the use of self-report data for sexual behaviors that confer risk for HIV is suspect, suggesting that participants in behavioral research are prone to intentional misrepresentations. Despite these concerns, self-reports remain the most prevalent method for assessing the topography of sexual behavior because of the ethical and practical problems involved in the use of more direct methods (Weinhardt, Forsyth, Carey, Jaworski, & Durant, 1998).
Two reviews of methodological issues in risky sexual behavior research have appeared in the past few years (Catania et. al., 1990; Weinhardt et al., 1998). Catania et al. urged researchers of HIV and other STDs to be rigorous in trying to find accurate assessment instruments. They conclude that current estimates of high-risk sexual behavior are underestimates. Weinhardt et al. reviewed the empirical literature since Catania et al., concluding that self-reports of sexual behavior still remain problematic. The authors made a number of recommendations to improve the validity of self-reported sexual behavior, including using appropriate measures for behaviors of interest, using easily understood language, using techniques that improve recall of behavior, and asking questions in a direct fashion. Nevertheless, generating accurate base rate estimates for risky sexual behavior and understanding the relationship between risky sexual behavior and drinking remains difficult. The sensitive nature of assessing for risky sexual behavior is the likely cause for these difficulties.
A Sensitive Behavior--Employee Theft
Wimbush and Dalton (1997) studied base rates for employee theft. Previous studies had found widely varying rates of employee theft, determining that it was difficult to assess (Camara & Schneider, 1994; Dalton & Daily, 1994; Murphy, 1993). Camara and Schneider noted base rate estimates of between 3% and 62%. Since employee theft is so negatively evaluated, people likely provided untrue and evasive answers (Chaudhuri & Mukerjee, 1988). …