Assessing the Validity of the Life Event Calendar

Lee Ann Slocum, University of Maryland at College Park
Nancy Morris, University of Maryland at College Park

Longitudinal research has increased dramatically in the past few decades, mainly as a result of heightened scholarly interest in life-course criminology. Some researchers have argued that the design of the Life Event Calendar (LEC) has the potential to enhance life-course research by facilitating the recall and recording of the occurrence, timing and duration of life events. Life-course crimiunology and LECs are an intuitive theoretical and methodological match, as both focus on capturing the dynamic nature of the life course. In this study we assess the validity of the LEC for capturing retrospective (3 year recall period, monthly self-reports) self-reported criminal history data. Using a sample of 350 incarcerated female offenders we answer the following questions: (1) what is the concordance rate between respondents' self-reported accounts of official criminal involvement and official records of respondent criminal involvement, and (2) to what extent are errors in recall associated with certain respondent and event characteristics? In answering the first qauestion, we examine the relative and absolute levels of agreement between self-reports and official data for the prevalence, frequency and timing of arrest, conviction, probation/parole status, and incarceration data. To address the second question we identify the variables contributing to variation in reporting error.

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Updated 05/20/2006