DHS Model Questionnaires

DHS surveys collect primary data using four types of Model Questionnaires. A Household Questionnaire is used to collect information on characteristics of the household's dwelling unit and characteristics of usual residents and visitors. It is also used to identify members of the household who are eligible for an individual interview. Eligible respondents are then interviewed using an Individual Woman's or Man's Questionnaire. The Biomarker Questionnaire is used to collect biomarker data on children, women, and men. For special information on topics that are not contained in the Model Questionnaires, optional Questionnaire Modules are available. Interviews are conducted only if the respondent provides voluntary informed consent. 

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DHS Model Questionnaires Overview

Most country surveys collect information on basic demographic and health topics. The Model Questionnaires of the DHS Program emphasize basic indicators and flexibility. In a majority of DHS surveys, people eligible for individual interview include women of reproductive age (15-49) and men age 15-49, 15-54, or 15-59. Individual questionnaires include information on fertility, mortality, family planning, marriage, reproductive health, child health, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS.

Some countries have a need for special information on topics that are not contained in the Model Questionnaires. To accommodate this need, and to achieve some level of comparability across countries that have a need to collect such data, optional Questionnaire Modules address various additional topics.

In addition, country-specific questions are typically added to meet local conditions and needs. The questionnaires used in one country, while containing essentially the same information, may be different in many ways from those used in another country. It is also important to understand that the Model Questionnaires change over time. The Model Questionnaires and questionnaire modules have changed with each DHS phase, and the current DHS-7 questionnaires have changed substantially from those used in the first phase of DHS conducted in the 1980's.

Household Questionnaire Topics

The "Household Questionnaire" contains information on the following topics:

  • Household Schedule: For usual members of the household and visitors, information is collected about age, sex, relationship to the head of the household, education, parental survivorship and residence, and birth registration.
  • Household characteristics: Questions ask about the source of drinking water, toilet facilities, cooking fuel, assets of the household, and exposure to second-hand smoke. Cooking salt is tested for iodine content. In areas with a high prevalence of malaria, questions are asked about the use of mosquito nets.

Woman's Questionnaire Topics

The "Woman's Questionnaire" contains information on the following topics:

  • Background characteristics: Questions on age, marital status, education, employment, media exposure, and place of residence provide information on characteristics likely to influence demographic and health behavior.
  • Reproductive behavior and intentions: Questions cover dates and survival status of all births, pregnancies that did not end in a live birth, current pregnancy status, fertility preferences, and future childbearing intentions of each woman.
  • Contraception: Questions cover knowledge and use of specific contraceptive methods, source of contraceptive methods, exposure to family planning messages, informed choice, and unmet need for family planning. For women not using contraception, questions are included on knowledge of a source of contraception.
  • Antenatal, delivery, and postnatal care: The questionnaire collects information on antenatal and postnatal care, place of delivery, who attended the delivery, birth weight, and the nature of complications during pregnancy for recent births.
  • Breastfeeding and nutrition: Questions cover feeding practices, the length of breastfeeding, children's consumption of liquids and solid food, and micronutrient supplementation.
  • Children's health: Questions examine immunization coverage, vitamin A supplementation, recent occurrences of diarrhea, fever, and cough for young children and treatment of childhood diseases.
  • Status of women: The questionnaire asks about various aspects of women's empowerment, including decision making, autonomy, ownership of houses and land, barriers to medical care, and attitudes towards domestic violence.
  • HIV and other sexually transmitted infections: Questions assess women's knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the sources of their knowledge about HIV, knowledge about ways to avoid contracting HIV, HIV testing, stigma and discrimination, and high-risk sexual behavior.
  • Husband's background: Currently married women are asked about the age, education, and occupation of their husbands.
  • Other topics: Questions examine behavior related to environmental health, the use of tobacco, and health insurance. 

Man's Questionnaire Topics

The "Man’s Questionnaire" is similar to but shorter than the Woman’s Questionnaire. It collects information on the following topics:

  • Background characteristics: Questions on age, education, employment status, marital status, media exposure, and place of residence are included to provide information on characteristics likely to influence men's behavior.
  • Reproduction: Data are collected on the number of children that the man has fathered in his lifetime, survival status of the births, number of women he has fathered children with, antenatal and delivery care for the last child born in the previous 3 years, and his knowledge on feeding practices for children with diarrhea. Questions are also asked about fertility preferences and future childbearing intentions of each man.
  • Knowledge and use of contraception: Questions are designed to determine knowledge and use of specific family planning methods. Men are also asked about their exposure to family planning messages through both the media and health professionals, about the most fertile days in a woman's cycle, and condom (male and female) sources.
  • Employment and gender roles: Men are asked about their employment and occupation, as well as about their attitude towards various aspects of women's empowerment, such as decision making, childbearing, women's autonomy, and domestic violence.
  • HIV and other sexually transmitted infections: Questions assess men's knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, the sources of their knowledge about HIV, knowledge about ways to avoid contracting HIV, HIV testing, stigma and discrimination, and high-risk sexual behavior.
  • Other health issues: Men are asked about various health issues such as circumcision, injections, use of tobacco, health insurance, and health and care for their children.

Biomarker Questionnaire Topics

The "Biomarker Questionnaire" contains information on the following topics:

  • Anthropometry: Measuring the height and weight of children, women, and men to determine their nutritional status.
  • Anemia: Hemoglobin level in the blood is measured using a finger stick capillary blood sample. The level of hemoglobin is used to determine whether or not the respondent is anemic. Results are shared with the adult respondent, the minor respondent and parent/guardian of the minor respondent, and the parent/guardian of the child. A blood sample is only collected if voluntary informed consent is provided.
  • HIV: A capillary blood sample is collected on a filter paper card, dried overnight, and the dried blood sample (DBS) is sent to a laboratory for HIV prevalence testing. Results of the testing are kept completely anonymous and cannot be identified with the respondent. A blood sample is only collected from respondents who provide voluntary informed consent. Respondents eligible for collection of DBS are those who are respondents to the Woman's or Man's Questionnaire.

Questionnaire Modules

Optional modules are available on a variety of topics. Many original modules have been incorporated into the Core Questionnaire. Questionnaire Modules for DHS-7 surveys are currently in review. 

Current modules include:

  • Domestic Violence
  • Female Genital Cutting
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Fistula
  • Out-of-pocket Health Expenditures

Modules from previous phases include:

  • Consanguinity
  • Domestic Violence
  • Female Genital Cutting
  • Malaria
  • Maternal Mortality
  • Pill failure and behavior
  • Sterilization Experience
  • Women’s Status