Inconsistencies in self-reporting of sexual activity among young people in Nairobi, Kenya

J Adolesc Health. 2009 Dec;45(6):595-601. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2009.03.014. Epub 2009 May 29.


Purpose: Accurate and reliable data on the prevalence of adolescents' sexual behavior are paramount for effective sexual and reproductive health intervention. Adolescents' sexual behavior has been widely studied. However, scholars have raised concerns about the accuracy and reliability of self-reported sexual behavior by adolescents. Previous research shows high levels of adolescent sexual activity in urban informal settlements; yet, the accuracy of self-reported sexual experience in these settings is understudied.

Methods: The objective of this article is to assess consistency of self-reported sexual activity among 2324 adolescents living in slum and nonslum settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. We examine two forms of inconsistencies, namely, what we term "reborn virgins" and inconsistent timing of sexual debut, during two rounds of survey. Factors influencing inconsistent reporting are explored through logistic regression.

Results: A total of 469 (20%) adolescents gave inconsistent information on whether they have ever had sex (n = 190) or timing of first intercourse (n = 279). Males, slum residents, and adolescents attending school were more likely to give inconsistent sexual information. Among inconsistent reporters, slum residents, adolescents reporting substance use, and those with secondary (vs. primary) education were more likely to reclaim virginity status than to misreport the timing of first sex. However, older adolescents were less likely to reclaim virginity status.

Conclusions: We found significant differences between adolescents who provide consistent reports and those who misreport sexual behavior data. We argue that researchers should account for biases stemming from misreporting of sensitive information among young people and, in particular, should be cognizant of how reporting quality may vary across demographic groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Poverty
  • Reproducibility of Results*
  • Sexuality / ethnology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Truth Disclosure
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult