Sexual relationship scripts in Southern Malawi: using a card-sort technique to compare realized, expected, and ideal sequences of events

Margaret Frye, University of California, Berkeley
Jenny Trinitapoli, Pennsylvania State University

Researchers currently lack the tools necessary to draw aggregate-level inferences about how sexual relationships in rural Africa unfold over time. Knowledge gleaned from survey data is typically filtered through a few “landmark” events: relationship start and end points, first sex, and marriage. To analyze sequences of events constituting relationships and subjective attitudes about sexual and romantic experiences, we employ the relationship scripts method, a card-sort technique in which respondents work with a set of cards describing typical relationship events. Building upon past success using this approach to study relationship ideals, we expand the type of data that can be collected using this methodology, soliciting information about relationship histories, regrets about relationships, expectations for future events, and gender differences in relationship ideals. We describe the development of this method through two rounds of pilot studies and present preliminary results from our survey in Malawi.

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Presented in Session 86: Sex and sexuality in Africa