Mobile Men

In 1999, a small set of interviews with men was carried out in order to evaluate the validity of reporting on extramarital sexual activities in the 1998 MDIC survey. In 1998, the MDICP-1 had asked whether the respondent had an extra marital partner in the past 12 months, and 9.2% of men and 2.3% of women said they had. On the basis of these data collected in 1998, in 1999 it was compiled a list of “mobile men” under the age of 30 in the Southern and the Central region who had reported no extramarital partners in the previous six months for re-interviews.

It was emphasized to the interviewers that the interviews were to be informal (no questionnaire and clipboard, no tape recorder), so that the men would forget that the interviewers were part of the project, and thus the interactions would be as much as possible like the casual conversations about sex that we believed occurred. However, given the notable presence of the research team in the field because of the fieldwork operations for the Family Transfers Project, it is unlikely that the respondents made this distinction. At the end of each day of interviews, the interviewers recalled the conversation with the project’s PI, who typed as they spoke. Transcripts of the interviews with the mobile men (with respondents' names removed) are available for download.

On the basis of these interviews, more men acknowledged extramarital relations in the 1999 interviews than in the 1998 household survey: about half of the respondents in the South and about a third of those in the Center who had reported no affairs in 1998 said in 1999 that they had had them. The reference period was less precise (usually longer) in the informal interviews, which probably contributes to the higher reports. It is also possible that in a more informal conversation men may exaggerate their sexual activity. It is reasonable to believe, however, that extramarital relations are more likely to be reported in informal settings than in the structured context of a household survey.