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May 1982

Assessment of Life Events: Retrospective vs Concurrent Strategies

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Psychology Center, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1982;39(5):606-610. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1982.04290050074014

• The relationship of life events to different disorders continues to be of great interest. Most communications, however, have been based on self-report data gathered retrospectively over lengthy intervals (eg, one to ten years). While recent studies have attempted to ascertain the degree of distortion associated with such procedures, none has provided an appropriate basis for estimating absolute decrements of event reporting over time. This study compares the traditional retrospective procedure with a concurrent assessment procedure covering shorter recall periods (one month). The findings indicate as much as 60% of events may be underreported for even the most recent fourmonth retrospective period. Additionally, particular types of events (eg, desirable events) may be relatively more susceptible to such reporting distortion. Implications of these results for life events assessment and conceptualizations of event-disorder associations are discussed.

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