Stability and change in retrospective reports of childhood experiences over a 5-year period: findings from the Davis Longitudinal Study

Psychol Aging. 2009 Sep;24(3):715-21. doi: 10.1037/a0016203.


The paths via which childhood experiences influence well-being in adulthood are not well defined because most research relies on retrospective reports. This study examined the influence of demographic characteristics and current mood states on the reliability of reports of childhood experiences. The Child Experiences Scale (CES) was administered in 1996 and 2001 to participants in the Davis Longitudinal Study (N = 571; age range 22-61 years). Responses showed moderate to high cross-time reliability. Males were slightly more likely to change their responses. The influence of mood states was weak and more evident for global ratings of childhood than for specific experiences. These findings support the use of retrospective reports of childhood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychometrics