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Barriers to Mixed Methods Research: Non-heterosexual Behavior, Attraction, & Identity in Survey Research & Beyond

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Jamie Budnick

This project explores the implications of studying sexuality through survey research, and will
provide recommendations for best practices for the inclusion of sexual minorities. Until quite recently, most national and federally-funded demographic surveys did not explicitly include questions about sexuality or that were written with non-heterosexual respondents in mind, despite evidence that non-heterosexual young women were at an increased risk for a variety of health outcomes (including unintended pregnancy and some STIs). I examine this traditional exclusion in one new and methodologically innovative study (the Relationship Dynamics and Social Life Study), finding that the proportion of sexual minorities participating in the survey is significant and should be taken into account. In an earlier intervention, I found approximately one third of respondents indicating some level of non-heterosexual behavior, attraction, or identity (with a large proportion comprised of same-sex behavior in the absence of attraction or identity). Having completed preliminary descriptive analyses of the pool of non-heterosexual RDSL respondents, I will contact and interview 50 of these original RDSL participants to understand: (1) their motivations for continued participation in a research study that did not explicitly include them; (2) whether they interpreted or answered questions differently than their heterosexual counterparts; and (3) which of the three axes of sexuality were most salient for their attitudes, behaviors, and intentions. Demographers do not yet know much about how these axes of sexuality connect to important outcomes, but it is a timely interest: CDC’s Healthy People 2020 initiative includes LGBT health as an objective for the first time. This surge in attention to LGB health disparities requires improved measures of sexuality in survey research, which in turn necessitates the development of new integrative theories of bisexuality and fluidity and the extension of these theories to populations and practices often excluded from or understudied in sexuality research.

Funding Period: 03/01/2013 to 06/30/2014

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