Does allergy in parents depend on allergy in their children?: Recall bias in parental questioning of atopic diseases

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A positive atopic family history has proved to be one important risk factor for the development of atopic diseases in offspring. However, many epidemiologists are concerned about the accuracy and reliability of data because responses to questionnaires can be biased for many reasons.


The study investigated whether responses of parents questioned about their atopic diseases change depending on the development of atopic symptoms in their children.


During a prospective birth cohort study on atopy in children (the Multicenter Allergy Study) parents filled out questionnaires twice within 2 years about their atopic diseases. Differences between the 2 responses were examined by log-linear and logistic regression models depending on the diagnosed atopy status of the study children.


Mothers tended to report more atopic diseases in the second questioning than in the first, indicating a nondifferential misclassification. Fathers were influenced by the development of atopic diseases in their children: they reported significantly more atopic diseases if the child developed atopic illness with atopic dermatitis.


In parental questioning about atopic diseases, a recall bias must be considered for the association of atopic family history and atopy in children. Especially in case-control and cross-sectional studies, such misclassifications can result in biased estimates of prognosis and risk factors.

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