Psychopathology and early experience: a reappraisal of retrospective reports

Psychol Bull. 1993 Jan;113(1):82-98. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.113.1.82.


Three potential sources of error in retrospective reports of childhood experiences are documented: low reliability and validity of autobiographical memory in general, the presence of general memory impairment associated with psychopathology, and the presence of specific mood-congruent memory biases associated with psychopathology. The evidence reviewed suggests that claims concerning the general unreliability of retrospective reports are exaggerated and that there is little reason to link psychiatric status with less reliable or less valid recall of early experiences. Nevertheless, it is clear that steps must be taken to overcome the limitations of retrospective reports and enhance their reliability.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parenting
  • Personality
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*