Potential and challenges in collecting social and behavioral data on adolescent alcohol norms: Comparing respondent-driven sampling and web-based respondent-driven sampling
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Background: Respondent-driven sampling (RDS) is a method successfully used to research hard-to-access populations. Few studies have explored the use of the Internet and social media with RDS, known as Web-based RDS (WebRDS). This study explored the use of combining both "traditional" RDS and WebRDS to examine the influences on adolescent alcohol use. Objective: This paper reports on the recruitment processes and the challenges and enablers of both RDS and WebRDS. It details comparative recruitment data and provides a summary of the utility of both methods for recruiting adolescents to participate in an online survey investigating youth alcohol norms. Methods: Process evaluation data collected from research staff throughout the study were used to assess the challenges and solutions of RDS and WebRDS. Pearson chi-square test (Fisher's exact test if applicable) was used to compare the differences in sociodemographics and drinking behavior between data collected by RDS and WebRDS. Results: Of the total sample (N=1012), 232 adolescents were recruited by RDS and 780 by WebRDS. A significantly larger proportion of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (P<.001) participants who spoke English as their main language at home (P=.03), and of middle and lower socioeconomic status (P<.001) was found in the RDS sample. The RDS sample was also found to have a higher occurrence of past 7-day drinking (P<.001) and past 7-day risky drinking (P=.004). No significant differences in gender, age, past month alcohol use, and lifetime alcohol use were observed between the RDS and WebRDS samples. This study revealed RDS and WebRDS used similar lengths of chains for recruiting participants; however, WebRDS conducted a faster rate of recruitment at a lower average cost per participant compared to RDS. Conclusions: Using WebRDS resulted in significant improvements in the recruitment rate and was a more effective and efficient use of resources than the traditional RDS method. However, WebRDS resulted in partially different sample characteristics to traditional RDS. This potential effect should be considered when selecting the most appropriate data collection method.
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