Home » Spring 2006 » Two New Studies Use Digital Daily Diaries in Sexual Health Research

Two New Studies Use Digital Daily Diaries in Sexual Health Research

Smartphones and PDAs help us communicate over long distances and keep track of the details of daily life. These digital devices are also increasingly important in the field of sexual health research, where they make it easier for participants to capture event-specific data.

Two new studies at The Kinsey Institute, on the topics of Marriage and Sexual Health and Condom Use Patterns and Errors, will use handheld devices to help subjects keep digital diaries of their mood, daily activities, and sexual behavior. The studies, which build on existing ongoing research related to excitation and inhibition and the relationship between sexual behavior and mood, are funded by Indiana University through a competitive grant awarded by the Faculty Research Support Program (FRSP) to Kinsey Institute Director Julia Heiman, Ph.D. and co-investigators Erick Janssen, Ph.D. and Stephanie Sanders, Ph.D.

“Sexual health research depends to a large degree on retrospective self-reporting,” explains Erick Janssen, Ph.D. “Memory and confidentiality are ongoing issues in studies using measures such as paper and pencil questionnaires. With devices such as smartphones, missing entries are more easily avoided and itís easier to present questions in a hierarchical or nested fashion. Subjects can be discretely prompted to answer questions, and their data can be automatically transferred and erased from the device, protecting the privacy of participants.”

Daily diary approaches ask for and provide information on a more frequent basis, allowing researchers to more reliably evaluate behavioral patterns and their possible connection to other variables.

Erick Janssen is the lead investigator of the study on Marriage and Sexual Health, which will involve fifty recently married couples from Monroe County, Indiana. Participants will be asked to use digital diaries during a 30-day period to answer questions about daily stressors and activities, mood, sexuality, and marital satisfaction.

In the study on Condom Use Patterns and Errors, lead by Stephanie Sanders, Ph.D., a group of men and women will provide daily information about condom use.

“In the past we've learned that many men and women use condoms inconsistently and incorrectly,” says Janssen. “We need more detailed data to determine the relationship of this to mood, sexual interest, feelings about oneís partner, and other factors.”

The two studies are among the first to use wireless PDAs in sexual health research. They will provide preliminary data for several external grant applications, and findings from both studies will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

“There is growing evidence that people may more accurately report behaviors in sensitive areas such as sexuality when they use secure electronic interfaces,” notes Janssen. “Digital approaches to event-related research are likely to become a gold standard for assessing predictors of sexual health behaviors. The Kinsey Institute now has the opportunity to lead the way in developing this methodology.”

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PARTICIPATING CORE FACULTY:

Indiana University Bloomington (IUB)

Julia Heiman, Ph.D., Director, The Kinsey Institute; Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine

Amy Holtzworth-Munroe, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Erick Janssen, Ph.D., Associate Scientist, The Kinsey Institute; Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Javed Mostafa, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research, SLIS; Associate Professor of Informatics and Director of Laboratory of Applied Informatics Research, School of Informatics

Stephanie Sanders, Ph.D., Associate Director, The Kinsey Institute; Associate Professor, Department of Gender Studies

Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)

Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., Professor, Department of Adolescent Medicine, School of Medicine

Barry Katz, Ph.D. , Director, Division of Biostatistics, School of Medicine

External Collaborators

John Gottman, Ph.D., Director, Relationship Research Institute, University of Washington

Eshkol Rafaeli, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Barnard College, Columbia University