Understanding and improving the validity of self-report of parenting

Sarah K. Morsbach, Ronald J. Prinz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

117 Scopus citations


Although researchers using parental self-report data have questioned its validity (Holden, 2001) and called for more work in this area (Krevans & Gibbs, 1996; Locke & Prinz, 2002), methodological concerns regarding self-report about parenting practices have not been addressed adequately. The susceptibility of parental report to systematic distortions suggests a need for research on ways to improve self-report. This paper attempts to synthesize research findings from other fields (e.g., survey methodology) about ways to improve the validity of self-report, and to discuss the implications for self-report of parenting behaviors. Methods for improving self-report are presented for each of the 5 major tasks in responding to a question: (1) understanding the question, (2) recalling relevant behavior, (3) inference and estimation, (4) mapping the answer onto the response format, and (5) "editing" the answer for reasons of social desirability. Self-administered interviewing, audio-computer-assisted interviewing, pretesting, conversational interviewing, and the decompositional item may be among the best candidates for use in parental self-report. Recommendations are offered with respect to strategies that might prove useful in improving parental assessment of parenting, and to research efforts to evaluate the utility and potential costs of these strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalClinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Assessment
  • Children
  • Parenting
  • Self-report

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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