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Table 3 Item appraisal among young women who participated in the cognitive interviews and recommendations for adaptations for the use of the SRPS among South African young women (n = 21)

From: “I feel like it is asking if he is a stalker … but I also feel like it is asking if he cares”: exploring young South African women and men’s perceptions of the Sexual Relationship Power Scale

SRPS Scale Item

Response breakdown

Cognitive Process Coding

Question Feature Coding

Recommendations for adaptation



Response Process

Judgements related to items

Clarity of items (wording, vague)

Logical problems in assumptions (inappropriate assumptions, double-barreled questions)


1. My partner is quite comfortable when I greet men I know

70% Strongly agreed/Agreed

30% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Item assumes heterosexuality and that it would be only an issue if participant was greeting men on the street

Revise wording in order to be more gender neutral so as to allow for the inclusion of gender diverse individuals and participants in non-heterosexual relationships

2. My partner expects me to be at home when he comes to check on me

50% Strongly agreed/Agreed

50% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed

At times was interpreted as if the participant and her partner made plans first


Unclear whether to interpret item based on whether participants made plans, called in advance, or if their partner was just showing up unannounced


Clarify whether plans have been made in advance, or consider revising to be more contemporary understanding that young people are more connected (e.g., telephonically and virtually) than when the scale was originally developed

3. My partner becomes jealous when I wear things that make me look too beautiful

50% Strongly agreed/Agreed

50% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Participants at times responded ‘sometimes’ to this item

The term beautiful was left up for interpretation

This item was also a bit unclear what “too beautiful” meant

Often interpreted both as beauty in whichever way the participant interpreted beauty to mean, but also interpreted as wearing revealing clothing

Revise item so that there is less ambiguity to what the item is asking. Could be revised to ask about whether partner ever gets jealous when you dress in certain clothing

4. My partner has more to say than I do about important decisions that affect us

35% Strongly agreed/Agreed

65% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Participants at times indicated “it depends” and wanted an option to acknowledge equal decision-making


The response options for this item could be revised so that they can reflect and allow participants to distinguish between partner having more control, them having more control, or having equal control

5. My partner never tells me who I can spend time with

90% Strongly agreed/Agreed

10% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed

At times the word never was not considered in the participants’ responses


Some participants spoke of how they felt the item was not applicable to them as they chose not to have friends


Negatively worded items should be removed as they tend to confuse participants

6. I could leave our relationship any time I wanted to

80% Strongly agreed/Agreed

20% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed

Among the minority of women who responded disagree or strongly disagree a couple stated they wouldn’t leave because they love their partner or that they couldn’t because they’ve tried (to break up) and it hasn’t worked


Future scales may want to consider adding items related to love and building healthy relationships

7. My partner does what he wants, even if I don’t want him to

35% Strongly agreed/Agreed

65% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Participants thought this item could have been worded in a simpler manner


Potentially two interpretations about one’s partner going out and doing things you don’t want as well as doing things to you (e.g., sexually) that are unwanted

Revising item so that it is more specific

Consider adding item that more specifically addresses unwanted sexual advances/sexual violence

8. When my partner and I disagree, he gets his way most of the time

25% Strongly agreed/Agreed

75% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Some participants wanted to respond “it depends” and often highlighted how they both get their way


Some items could potentially have different response options that allow for a wider range in responses. For example, having response options of Always, frequently, sometimes, rarely, and never

9. My partner always wants to know where I am

65% Strongly agreed/Agreed

35% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed

Item was often interpreted as a sign of caring and that this was quite common and desired in the context of high rates of violence against women in South Africa


Measuring both the level of care partner has for safety and heightened surveillance of whereabouts

Revising item to be more specific in order to capture an unhealthy level of surveillance versus general concern for safety or create two distinct items

10. My partner expects me to do everything for him

21% Strongly agreed/Agreed

79% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Item judged as being for married people

“Everything” was vague and many young women asked what was meant by this


Revise item to be more specific. Consider modifying item so that it reflects the common ways in which young women and men in South Africa have relationships

11. Because my partner buys me things, he expects me to please him

5% Strongly agreed/Agreed

95% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Lack of clarity in what was meant by “please him”


Revise item to be more specific

Given the lack of agreement to this item, future scales may want to revise this item so it is not interpreted as participating in transactional sex or sex work

12. My partner lets me know that I am not his only girlfriend

15% Strongly agreed/Agreed

85% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed

This item was often interpreted as ‘does your partner cheat on you’ and participants spoke of finding out their partner cheated through seeing messages on his phone


This item assumes monogamy, and some participants talked about being in an open relationship

Consider removing or modifying in order to ensure the item is more understandable and inclusive of different types of relationships

13. My partner expects me to sleep over whenever he chooses

30% Strongly agreed/Agreed

70% Strongly Disagreed/Disagreed


Item assumes that participants have started sleeping together and are able to have sleep overs

Consider adding some clarity regarding whether participants are able to have sleep overs