Reliable and Valid Self-Report Outcome Measures in Sexual (Dys)function: A Systematic Review

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This paper examines the published reliability and validity of non-disease specific, self-report measures of sexual function. Relevant papers were found in a search of the Embase electronic bibliographic database, for English language papers (published 1980–99) reporting on the psychometric testing of sexual function questionnaires. Existing published reviews or collections of such instruments were also searched, and the reference lists of all papers obtained were “back-searched” to identify other measures. Included measures were evaluated in a systematic manner using published standards concerning the validity, internal consistency, and reproduceability of health measurement scales and quality of life measures. Twenty-three self-report measures were identified for inclusion in this review. A further 2 measures were identified by reviewers of this paper after the main searches were undertaken. One measure was found not to be exclusively self-report. Eleven (46% of 24 included measures) did not meet minimum published standards for reliability, internal consistency, and validity. However one of these was reliable and valid in the female-version only. Of the 14 reliable and valid measures, or versions thereof (58% of 24), 2 (8% of 24) met “superior” psychometric standards. Many measures were developed for use with patients in sex or marital therapy, and are mainly suitable for administration to people with long-term sex partners. It is sensible to assume that instruments are only reliable and valid in the often specialized populations in which they were developed.

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