January 21, 2019

The relationship between interviewer-respondent familiarity and family planning outcomes in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a repeat cross-sectional analysis

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Authors: Philip Anglewicz, Pierre Akilimali, Linnea Perry Eitmann, Julie Hernandez, & Patrick Kayembe

Journal: British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open, 9(e023069). January 2019

This article examines the relationship between interviewer-respondent familiarity and family planning outcomes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and whether this relationship changes over time. Population surveys typically use interviewers who are not from the study site and do not know the participants, yet the implications of this approach on data quality have seldom been investigated.

The researchers conducted a repeat cross-sectional analysis using two waves of data from the Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) survey conducted in Kongo Central, DRC in 2015 and 2016. One of the important features of PMA2020 is the use of local data collectors who reside in the enumeration areas, ‘Resident Enumerators’ or ‘REs’. It is likely that some respondents and REs are acquainted with one another. In contrast, the standard in many large-scale surveys is to use interviewers from outside the community. Findings from this research show that interviewer–respondent acquaintance is associated with a range of family planning outcomes; therefore, authors recommend that the approach to hiring interviewers be examined and reconsidered in survey data collection efforts. Researchers found:

  • The level of acquaintance between interviewer and respondent is significantly associated with contraceptive use, infertility, age at first sex and last birth unintended.
  • The impact of acquaintance on survey responses changes over time for some outcomes (e.g. respondents who were well acquainted with the RE and interviewed in round 2 were more likely to report contraceptive use and modern contraceptive use).
  • The relationship is most common for RE–respondents who are well acquainted, instead of very well acquainted, suggesting that the relationship between familiarity and outcomes may be non-linear.

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