Memories of childhood neglect and abuse: corroboration in a series of sisters

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 1997 Mar;38(3):365-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01520.x.


Reports from 87 community-based sister-pairs, selected for high rates of neglect or abuse in childhood, have been used to establish validity of the CECA, a retrospective interview measure of childhood experience. Corroboration was based on independent assessments of sisters' accounts of what happened to each other in childhood. Corroboration of scales assessing parental neglect, physical abuse in the household and sexual abuse (either household or nonhousehold) was satisfactory, with a mean correlation for the three experiences of .60 (weighted kappa [Kw]). Concordance reflected the degree to which experience was shared and was judged by comparing the sisters' accounts of their own experience. Among sisters with shared (concordant) experience for neglect or abuse, corroboration was high (mean of .74), but for those with nonshared (nonconcordant) experience it was largely absent (mean of .01). The degree to which the experiences of neglect or abuse were concordant was related to whether the perpetrator was a member of the household. Neglect and physical abuse were by definition from household members (mainly parents) and involved high concordance of experience. Sexual abuse occurred from many sources and in practice was commonly from an adult living outside the household and such experiences were less likely to be shared by sisters. An overall index indicating the presence of at least one abusive experience before the age of 17 showed a concordance of .64 with corroboration between sisters as high as .70. Issues involving retrospective recall and measurement are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Observer Variation
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Personality Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sibling Relations*