Validity of parental report of a child's medical history in otitis media research

Kathleen A. Daly, Bruce R Lindgren, G. Scott Giebink

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79 Scopus citations


The authors compared parental reports with medical records for 157 children enrolled in a prospective study of chronic otitis media with effusion between 1987 and 1991. Parents completed a questionnaire about the child's past health history, and the research nurse abstracted history information from the clinic's medical record. Previous insertion of a tympanostomy tube (kappa = 0.96) and premature birth (kappa = 0.68) were accurately reported, but there was a substantial proportion of missing data for age at first episode of otitis media, occurrence of otitis media the previous summer, and number of episodes in the previous 18 months. Data were significantly more likely to be missing for male children, children with siblings, and those with more episodes. Parents who reported six or more previous episodes for their child overestimated the number compared with the medical record (8.7 vs. 7.4, respectively; p = 0.01), while those who reported fewer episodes underestimated the number (3.1 vs. 4.6, respectively; p = 0.01). Episodes of otitis media during the 3 months between study visits were also accurately reported (kappa = 0.94). The accuracy and completeness of parental report of the child's health history was influenced by the chronicity of otitis media, the duration of recall, and the seriousness of the event being recalled.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1116-1121
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by grant P01- DC00133 from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.


  • Epidemiologic methods
  • Medical records
  • Otitis media
  • Prospective studies
  • Questionnaires


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