The childhood experience of care and abuse questionnaire (CECA.Q): Validation in a community series

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Background.Childhood neglect and abuse, as measured by retrospective interview, is highly predictive of psychiatric disorder in adult life and has an important role in aetiological models. However, such measures are labour-intensive, costly, and thus restricted to relatively modest sample sizes. A compact self-report assessment of childhood experience is invaluable for research screening purposes and large-scale survey investigation.Method.A self-report questionnaire (CECA.Q) was developed to mirror an existing validated interview measure: the childhood experience of care and abuse (CECA). The questionnaire assessed lack of parental care (neglect and antipathy), parental physical abuse, and sexual abuse from any adult before age 17. A high-risk series of 179 London women were interviewed using the CECA together with the PSE psychiatric assessment, and completed the CECA.Q at later follow-up. Repeat CECA. Qs were returned for 111 women and 99 women additionally completed the parental bonding instrument (PBI; Parker, Tupling, & Brown, 1979).Results.Satisfactory internal scale consistency was achieved on the CECA.Q for antipathy (α=.81) and neglect (α=.80) scales. There was satisfactory test–retest for both care and abuse scales. Significant associations were found between CECA.Q scales and the parallel interview scales with cut-offs determined for high sensitivity and specificity. CECA.Q neglect and antipathy scales were also significantly related to PBI parental care. CECA.Q scales were significantly related to lifetime history of depression. Optimal cut-off scores revealed significant odds ratios (average of 2) for individual scales and depression. When indices were compiled to reflect peak severity of each type of adversity across perpetrator, odds-ratios increased (average 3). A dose–response effect was evident with the number of types of neglect/abuse and rate of lifetime depression.Conclusion.The CECA.Q shows satisfactory reliability and validity as a self-report measure for adverse childhood experience. The merits of having parallel questionnaire and interview instruments for both research and clinical work are discussed.

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