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April 1980

Recall and Reporting of Life Events-Reply

Author Affiliations

Department of Behavioral Epidemiology
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine Boston University School of Medicine 720 Harrison St Boston, MA 02118
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences University of Texas Medical Branch 301 University Blvd Galveston, TX 77550

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1980;37(4):485. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1980.01780170127017

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We agree with Professor

Paykel that the recall and reporting of life events is more complex than is generally recognized. Use of an interview has the potential of providing better-quality data than an unsupervised paper-and-pencil method in that the interviewer can better focus the subject on the defined time period and apply a consistent set of definitions of events and their thresholds. There is a danger, however, that this reduction in error variance might be partially replaced by systematic bias unless the interviewers are kept "blind" to the clinical status of participants in a retrospective study and unless all probing and defining is done in the same way for all subjects. This can only be achieved if interviewers adhere to a standard protocol for conducting their inquiry.

The cited 9% difference in the frequency of events recalled (at a single interview) for two consecutive, sixmonth periods is not notably different

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