Reference periods in retrospective behavioral self-report: A qualitative investigation.
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Self-report questions in substance use research and clinical screening often ask individuals to reflect on behaviors, symptoms, or events over a specified time period. However, there are different ways of phrasing conceptually similar time frames (eg, past year vs. past 12 months).We conducted focused, abbreviated cognitive interviews with a sample of community health center patients (N = 50) to learn how they perceived and interpreted questions with alternative phrasing of similar time frames (past year vs. past 12 months; past month vs. past 30 days; past week vs. past 7 days).Most participants perceived the alternative time frames as identical. However, 28% suggested that the "past year" and "past 12 months" phrasings would elicit different responses by evoking distinct time periods and/or calling for different levels of recall precision. Different start and end dates for "past year" and "past 12 months" were reported by 20% of the sample. There were fewer discrepancies for shorter time frames.Use of "past 12 months" rather than "past year" as a time frame in self-report questions could yield more precise responses for a substantial minority of adult respondents.Subtle differences in wording of conceptually similar time frames can affect the interpretation of self-report questions and the precision of responses.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1111/ajad.12305
Publication InfoWu, Li-Tzy; Gryczynski, Jan; Nordeck, Courtney; Mitchell, Shannon Gwin; O'Grady, Kevin E; McNeely, Jennifer; & Schwartz, Robert P (2015). Reference periods in retrospective behavioral self-report: A qualitative investigation. The American journal on addictions, 24(8). pp. 744-747. 10.1111/ajad.12305. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/19952.
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Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Education/Training: Pre- and post-doctoral training in mental health service research, psychiatric epidemiology (NIMH T32), and addiction epidemiology (NIDA T32) from Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health (Maryland); Fellow of the NIH Summer Institute on the Design and Conduct of Randomized Clinical Trials.Director: Duke Community Based Substance Use Disorder Research Program.Research interests: COVID-19, Opioid misuse, Opioid overdose, Opioid use disorder