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Does interviewer gender influence a mother’s response to household surveys about maternal and child health in traditional settings? A qualitative study in Bihar, India

Vollmer, Nancy, Singh, Mansha, Harshe, Navika and Valadez, Joseph ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6575-6592 (2021) 'Does interviewer gender influence a mother’s response to household surveys about maternal and child health in traditional settings? A qualitative study in Bihar, India'. PLoS ONE, Vol 16, Issue 6, e0252120.

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Abstract

Background
Two probability surveys, conducted in the same districts of Bihar, India (Aurangabad and Gopalganj) at approximately the same time in 2016 using identical questionnaires and similar survey methods, produced significantly different responses for 37.2% (58/156) of the indicator comparisons. Interviewers for one survey were men while for the other they were women. Respondents were mothers of children aged 0–59 months living in a traditional rural setting. We examined the influence of interviewer gender on mothers’ survey responses and their implications for interpreting survey results.
Methods
We used qualitative methods including 10 focus group discussions (FGDs) and 33 in-depth interviews (IDIs) in the same locations as the 2016 surveys. FGD participants were purposefully selected mothers with children 0–59 months, husbands and other in-law family members. IDIs were carried out with frontline health-workers, enumerators and supervisors from the two previous household surveys.
Results
Findings revealed a preference for female interviewers for household surveys in study districts as they facilitated access to mothers and reduced their discomfort as survey participants. However, this gender preference was related to the survey question. Regardless of age, caste and educational level, most mothers were not permitted to communicate with men (aside from husbands) about female-specific health topics, including birth preparedness, delivery, menstrual cycles, contraception, breastfeeding, sexual behaviour, sexually transmitted disease, and domestic violence. Mothers in higher castes perceived these social restrictions more acutely than mothers in lower castes. There was no systematic direction of the resulting error. Mothers were willing to discuss child health issues with interviewers of either gender.
Conclusions
Interviewer gender is an important consideration when designing survey protocols for maternal and reproductive health studies and when selecting and training enumerators. Female interviewers are optimal for traditional settings in Bihar as they are more likely to obtain accurate data on sensitive topics and reduce the potential for non-sampling error due to their reduced social distance with maternal respondents.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 310 Maternal welfare
WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 395 Health in developing countries
WA Public Health > Statistics. Surveys > WA 900 Public health statistics
WQ Obstetrics > WQ 100 General works
Repository link:
Item titleItem URI
Qualitative dataset for the article entitled “Does interviewer gender influence a mother’s response to household surveys about maternal and child health in traditional settings? A qualitative study in Bihar, India”https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/17754/
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > International Public Health Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI): https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0252120
Depositing User: Stacy Murtagh
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2021 10:08
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2022 09:45
URI: https://archive.lstmed.ac.uk/id/eprint/18598

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