Use of a Respondent-Generated Personal Code for Matching Anonymous Adolescent Surveys in Longitudinal Studies

Lisa Ripper, Samantha Ciaravino, Kelley Jones, Maria Catrina D Jaime, Elizabeth Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Research on sensitive and private topics relies heavily on self-reported responses. Social desirability bias may reduce the accuracy and reliability of self-reported responses. Anonymous surveys appear to improve the likelihood of honest responses. A challenge with prospective research is maintaining anonymity while linking individual surveys over time. Methods: We have tested a secret code method in which participants create their own code based on eight questions that are not expected to change. Results: In an ongoing middle school trial, 95.7% of follow-up surveys are matched to a baseline survey after changing up to two-code variables. The percentage matched improves by allowing up to four changes (99.7%). Conclusions: The use of a secret code as an anonymous identifier for linking baseline and follow-up surveys is feasible for use with adolescents. While developed for violence prevention research, this method may be useful with other sensitive health behavior research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 15 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Anonymous surveys
  • Confidentiality
  • Longitudinal survey research
  • Privacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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