Objective: To test the validity of age at menarche self-reported in adulthood and examine whether socioeconomic position, education, experience of gynaecological events and psychological symptoms influence the accuracy of recall.
Design: Prospective birth cohort study.
Setting: England, Scotland and Wales.
Participants: 1050 women from the Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development, with two measures of age at menarche, one recorded in adolescence and the other self-reported at age 48 years.
Results: By calculating the limits of agreement, κ statistic and Pearson’s correlation coefficients (r), we found that the validity of age at menarche self-reported in middle age compared with that recorded in adolescence was moderate (κ = 0.35, r = 0.66, n = 1050). Validity was improved by categorising age at menarche into three groups: early, normal and late (κ = 0.43). Agreement was influenced by educational level and having had a stillbirth or miscarriage.
Conclusions: The level of validity shown in this study throws some doubt on whether it is justifiable to use age at menarche self-reported in middle age. It is likely to introduce error and bias, and researchers should be aware of these limitations and use such measures with caution.
- MRC NSHD, Medical Research Council National Survey of Health and Development
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Funding: The MRC National Survey of Health and Development is funded by the Medical Research Council. RC is supported by a Medical Research Council research studentship. MB is funded by a Durham University Doctoral Fellowship. RH, SB, MEJW and DK are funded by the Medical Research Council. MSP is funded by the Minnie Henderson Trust Fund.
Competing interests: None.
The views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of any funding body.
Contributors: DK and MSP conceived the idea for the study. RC and MB planned and carried out the analyses with supervision from RH, DK, SB, TMP and MSP. RC with input from MB drafted the paper. All authors commented on the draft and contributed to the final version.
Ethical approval: Relevant ethics committee approval was obtained for this study.