How accurately do young adults recall childhood pets? A validation study

Charlotte Nicholas, Ganesa Wegienka, Suzanne Havstad, Dennis Ownby, Christine Cole Johnson, Edward Zoratti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Epidemiologic research shows that pets influence human health, demonstrating both protective and deleterious health risks; therefore, valid definitions of pet exposure would enhance research. The authors determined how well young adults aged 18 years report their early childhood pets. Subjects in an established birth cohort from Detroit, Michigan, born in 1987-1989 (n=820) were asked a series of questions about pets in the home during their first 6 years of life. Pet recall was compared with annual prospectively collected parental report from 12-18 years prior. Exposure to cats was correctly reported on average 86.3% of the time (95% confidence interval: 85.0, 87.5) and dogs 79.2% (95% confidence interval: 77.7, 80.6) of the time (P<0.01). Cats and dogs were more likely to be underreported than overreported, from as few as 1.8-fold to as many as 8.3-fold (P<0.05). Reporting differed by sex of the respondent and current pet ownership. No differences were found in reporting by those who experienced allergy symptoms near dogs or cats. Findings suggest good reliability of young adult pet reporting for ages 0-6 years but that childhood pet exposure may need to be assessed separately depending on the participant's sex and the outcome of interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-392
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals, domestic
  • Asthma
  • Cats
  • Cohort studies
  • Dogs
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Mental recall
  • Validation studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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