How well they remember. The accuracy of parent reports

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995 May;149(5):553-8. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170180083016.


Objectives: To determine the range of accuracy of parent recall for many different events when compared with pediatrician's records and to establish whether good recall is associated with the nature of the event, period of recall, or demographic characteristics.

Research design: A nonconcurrent, descriptive survey of previous events.

Setting: Two pediatric group practices in Montreal, Quebec.

Participants: Two hundred eighty-eight parents of children aged 1 to 13 years.

Interventions: None.

Measurements/main results: Parents' responses to a self-administered questionnaire were compared with information extracted from pediatricians' records. The health events studied included asthma, bronchitis, otitis media, accidents, hospitalizations, office visits, and birth weight. Most parents (73%) were able to recall birth weight within 50 g, and 85% reported a frequency of hospitalizations that agreed exactly with the record. For asthma, bronchitis, and otitis in the last year, the percentages with good agreement were 91%, 85%, and 51%, respectively, while for the same disorders during the child's lifetime, the corresponding figures were 87%, 74%, and 53%, respectively. Each parent's responses were classified according to overall quality of agreement; associations between agreement and respondent characteristics were investigated. Mothers responded more accurately than fathers, and parents of younger children also showed better recall. Other factors, eg, education and occupation, were not significantly correlated with recall.

Conclusions: When compared with pediatricians' records, parent reports are generally acceptable for most research purposes and may be a better source for some health events such as accidents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires