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April 1980

Recall and Reporting of Life Events

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(4):485. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780170127016

To the Editor.—  In an article published in the April 1979 Archives (36:379-384), Jenkins et al reported a study of life events with the use of a self-report questionnaire. Subjects were asked to report on the same six-month period, first immediately after its occurrence and then nine months later. There were marked decreases of 34% to 46% in total stress recorded on the second occasion, depending on the weighting method used. The authors raised serious questions over the validity of retrospective studies of life change and illness when the period being studied was more than six months in the past.It is important that readers should bear in mind that these findings apply to a self-report, pencil-and-paper questionnaire. The complexities of defining events and their thresholds, fixing the subject on a defined time period, and accurately recalling and dating events are such that a considerable amount of probing and

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