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Accuracy of Self-report as a Method of Screening for Lifetime Occurrence of Traumatic Brain Injury Events that Resulted in Hospitalization

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 June 2016

Audrey McKinlay*
Melbourne School of Psychological Science, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
L. John Horwood
Christchurch Health and Development Study, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
David M. Fergusson
Christchurch Health and Development Study, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand
Correspondence and reprint requests to: Audrey McKinlay, Psychology Clinic, Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia. E-mail:



Traumatic brain injury (TBI) occurs frequently during child and early adulthood, and is associated with negative outcomes including increased risk of drug abuse, mental health disorders and criminal offending. Identification of previous TBI for at-risk populations in clinical settings often relies on self-report, despite little information regarding self-report accuracy. This study examines the accuracy of adult self-report of hospitalized TBI events and the factors that enhance recall.


The Christchurch Health and Development Study is a birth cohort of 1265 children born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1977. A history of TBI events was prospectively gathered at each follow-up (yearly intervals 0–16, 18, 21, 25 years) using parental/self-report, verified using hospital records.


At 25 years, 1003 cohort members were available, with 59/101 of all hospitalized TBI events being recalled. Recall varied depending on the age at injury and injury severity, with 10/11 of moderate/severe TBI being recalled. Logistic regression analysis indicated that a model using recorded loss of consciousness, age at injury, and injury severity, could accurately classify whether or not TBI would be reported in over 74% of cases.


This research demonstrates that, even when individuals are carefully cued, many instances of TBI will not recalled in adulthood despite the injury having required a period of hospitalization. Therefore, screening for TBI may require a combination of self-report and review of hospital files to ensure that all cases are identified. (JINS, 2016, 22, 717–723)

Research Articles
Copyright © The International Neuropsychological Society 2016 

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