An examination of the validity of retrospective measures of suicide attempts in youth

J Adolesc Health. 2011 Nov;49(5):532-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.04.009. Epub 2011 May 28.


Purpose: This study used prospective data to investigate the validity of a retrospective measure of suicide attempts from four different perspectives.

Methods: Data were retrieved from 883 participants in the Raising Healthy Children project, a longitudinal study of youth recruited from a Pacific Northwest school district. The retrospective measure was collected when participants were 18-19 years of age and results were compared with measures of depressive symptoms collected prospectively.

Results: Results showed strong corroboration between retrospective reports of first suicide attempt and prospective measures of depression, with attempters experiencing significantly more depression than their nonattempting peers, t (df = 853) = 10.26, p < .001. In addition, within the attempter group, depression scores during the year of their reported first attempt were significantly higher than the average depression score across previous years, t (df = 67) = 3.01, p < .01.

Conclusions: Results from this study suggest that the reports of older adolescents regarding their suicide attempts are corroborated by their prospective reports of depression in childhood and earlier adolescence. Thus, there is support that retrospective measures of suicidal behavior, namely suicide attempts, may be a valid method of assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Peer Group
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Concept*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicide, Attempted / psychology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Young Adult