On the "Remembrance of Things Past": A Longitudinal Evaluation of the Retrospective Method


Journal Article

This study examines the extent of agreement between retrospective and prospective measures of variables in 7 different content domains: Residence changes, anthropometrics, injuries, reading ability, family characteristics, behavior problems, and delinquency. The authors evaluated retrospective reports using data from a large sample of 18-year-old youth who have been studied prospectively since their births. The findings suggested that (a) psychosocial variables (e.g., reports about subjective psychological states and family processes) revealed the lowest level of agreement between prospective and retrospective measures, and (b) even when retrospective reports correlated significantly with prospective data, the absolute level of agreement between the 2 data sources was quite poor. It appears that reliance on retrospective reports about psychosocial variables should be approached with caution. Moreover, it is suggested that the use of retrospective reports should be limited to testing hypotheses about the relative standing of individuals in a distribution and should not be used to test hypotheses that demand precision in estimating event frequencies and event dates.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Henry, B; Moffitt, TE; Caspi, A; Langley, J; Silva, PA

Published Date

  • January 1, 1994

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 6 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 92 - 101

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1040-3590

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/1040-3590.6.2.92

Citation Source

  • Scopus