Validation of Parent-reported Gestational Age Categories for Children Less Than 6 Years of Age

Epidemiology. 2023 Nov 1;34(6):767-773. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000001645. Epub 2023 Sep 26.


Background: Preterm birth is an important outcome or exposure in epidemiologic research. When administrative data on measured gestational age is not available, parent-reported gestational age can be obtained from questionnaires, which is subject to potential bias. To our knowledge, few studies have assessed the validity of parent-reported gestational age categories, including commonly defined categories of preterm birth.

Methods: We used linked data from primarily healthy children <6 years of age in TARGet Kids! in Toronto, Canada, and ICES administrative healthcare data from April 2011 to March 2020. We assessed the criterion validity of questionnaire-based parent-reported gestational age by calculating sensitivity and specificity for term (≥37 weeks), late preterm (34-36 weeks), and moderately preterm (32-33 weeks) gestational age categories, using administrative healthcare records of gestational age as the criterion standard. We conducted subgroup analyses for various parent and socioeconomic factors that may influence recall.

Results: Of the 4684 participants, 97.3% correctly classified the gestational age category according to administrative healthcare data. Parent-reported gestational age sensitivity ranged from 83.7% to 98.5% and specificity ranged from 88.3% to 99.8%, depending on category. For each subgroup characteristic, sensitivity and specificity were all ≥70%. Lower educational attainment, lower family income, father reporting, ≥1 year since birth, ≥2 children, lower parent age, and reported gestational diabetes and/or hypertension were associated with slightly lower sensitivity and/or specificity.

Conclusions: In this linked cohort, parent-reported gestational age categories had high accuracy. Criterion validity varied minimally among some parent and socioeconomic factors. Our findings can inform future quantitative bias analyses.

Trial registration: NCT01869530.

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