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Ann Hum Biol. 1991 Mar-Apr;18(2):155-66.

Accuracy of recall by middle-aged participants in a longitudinal study of their body size and indices of maturation earlier in life.

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School of Nutrition, Tufts University.


The validity of long-term recall and current assessments of height, weight, and fatness relative to peers was investigated among 91 middle-aged participants in a longitudinal growth study. The recollections of 50-year-old participants concerning perceived body size in comparison to peers during childhood (aged 5-7 years), adolescence (aged 10-18 years), and at ages 30, and 40 years were compared with physical measurements taken at these times. Correlations between perceived and actual body size at all ages from childhood through middle-age were moderate but significant (P less than 0.005) and were influenced by gender and phases of physical growth (early and late adolescence). In general, accuracy of self-reports of current body size were not significantly better than recalls of body size up to 50 years earlier. Respondents' recall of various physiological events was also assessed. Females' actual and recalled year of menarche were correlated (r = 0.67; P less than 0.0001). Age at menarche was recalled within 1 year of the actual event by 84% of the females. Fifty percent of both sexes recalled their year of maximal growth in height within 1 year and recalled the timing of their maturation (early, average, or late) in relationship to their peers equally well (P less than 0.001).

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