Psychological Medicine

Research Article

The reliability of reporting adverse experiences

G. P. Steelea1, Scott Hendersona1 c1 and Paul Duncan-Jonesa1

a1 NH and MRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

Abstract

The reliability of reporting of life-events was examined in 52 subjects attending clinics. An inventory of events and longer-standing difficulties was administered on 2 occasions, 7–14 days apart. High levels of reliability were found for the number of events, the mean score for distress or change over all events, and for the single event with the highest score. The reporting of individual events was less reliable: only 70 % of those events reported at either interview were reported under the same heading at both interviews. Subjective reactions to events differ in reliability according to the type of response, and they are less reliable for single events than overall. Lastly, the reliability of highly distressing events is in fact lower than for the less distressing. These findings point to some of the shortcomings of inventory methods in life-event research.

Correspondence:

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr Scott Henderson, NH and MRC Social Psychiatry Research Unit, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia, 2600.

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