Sequelae of prospective versus retrospective reports of adverse childhood experiences

Psychol Rep. 2010 Oct;107(2):425-40. doi: 10.2466/


Retrospective assessment of adverse childhood experiences is widely used in research, although there are concerns about its validity. In particular, recall bias is assumed to produce significant artifacts. Data from a longitudinal cohort (the British National Child Development Study; N=7710) and the retrospective Mainz Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (N=1062, Germany) were compared on 10 adverse childhood experiences and psychological adjustment at age 42 yr. Between the two methods, no significant differences in risk effects were detected. Results held for bivariate analyses on all 10 childhood adversities and a multivariate model; the latter comprises the childhood adversities which show significant long-term sequelae (not always with natural parent, chronically ill parent, financial hardship, and being firstborn) and three covariates. In conclusion, the present data did not show any bias in the retrospective assessment.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bias
  • Child
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Personality Development*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult