Can men be trusted? A comparison of pregnancy histories reported by husbands and wives

Document Type



Community Health Sciences


Agreement between pregnancies and pregnancy outcomes reported by husbands and wives was assessed in a sample of 857 couples interviewed between June 1989 and July 1990. The respondents were men employed in a semiconductor manufacturing plant in Burlington, Vermont, and their wives. The wives' reports were used as the standard against which the husbands' reproductive histories were evaluated. Measures included sensitivity, specificity, and percentage of agreement. Reports were considered to be congruent if an outcome reported by the husband agreed with the outcome reported by the wife within a period of +/- 6 months. Although men and women reported similar numbers of livebirths (1,478 and 1,500, respectively), men tended to misreport the timing of events; therefore, complete agreement on the numbers and dates of births was only 88.5%. Men also misreported the prevalence of low birth weight (sensitivity, 74%). Specificity was poorer for the younger (< 35 years) and less educated (< or = 12 years) respondents. Husbands' reports of spontaneous abortions had lower sensitivity (71.2%) than their reports of livebirths, particularly among the better educated (66.9%). Induced abortions were frequently omitted by the husbands (sensitivity, 35.1%), and events such as stillbirths or tubal pregnancies were too few in number to permit meaningful analysis. It is concluded that husbands' misreporting of their wives' reproductive histories may be substantial and sufficient to compromise the validity of epidemiologic studies. It would, therefore, be prudent to avoid the use of husbands as proxy informants of their wives' reproductive histories.

Publication (Name of Journal)

American Journal of Epidemiology