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Collecting women's reproductive histories

Authors

  • Cynthia M. Beall,

    Corresponding author
    1. Anthropology Department, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
    • Correspondence to: Cynthia M. Beall, Anthropology Department, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA. E-mail cmb2@case.edu

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  • Paul W. Leslie

    1. Department of Anthropology and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
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ABSTRACT

The importance of women's reproductive histories for scientific questions mandates rigor in collecting data. Unfortunately, few studies say much about how histories were constructed and validated. The aim of this report, therefore, is to illustrate the elements of a rigorous system of data collection. It focuses particularly on potential sources of inaccuracy in collecting reproductive histories and on options for avoiding them and evaluating the results. A few studies are exemplary in their description of methods of data collection and evaluation of data quality because they clearly address the main issues of ascertaining whether or not an event occurred and, if so, its timing. Fundamental variables such as chronological age, live birth, or marriage may have different meanings in different cultures or communities. Techniques start with asking the appropriate people meaningful questions that they can and will answer, in suitable settings, about themselves and others. Good community relations and well-trained, aware interviewers who check and cross-check, are fundamental. A range of techniques estimate age, date events, and optimize the value of imperfect data. Robust data collection procedures rely on skillful and knowledgeable interviewing. Reliability can be improved, evaluated and explained. Researchers can plan to implement robust data collection procedures and should assess their data for the scientific community to raise confidence in reproductive history data. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 26:577–589, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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