A Retrospective Survey of Childhood Experiences

Abstract

The present study introduces a balanced survey of a range of behavioral and emotional experiences to assess impressions of a person’s childhood. Ninety-one undergraduates and 70 of their parents rated exposure to positive and negative social and solitary experiences. The survey demonstrated acceptable internal consistency and 4-week test–retest reliability, and scores correlated with Zimbardo’s Time Perspective Inventory of temporally based beliefs and values, Batcho’s inventory of personal nostalgia, and Holbrook’s measure of historical nostalgia. Correlations with time perspective and nostalgia inventories suggest that favorable impressions of childhood are associated with benefits such as social connectedness, personal continuity, and health-promoting behaviors and adverse impressions with less adaptive impacts such as unsatisfactory relationships, discontinuity, and distress. Ratings of social experiences were correlated more closely with childhood happiness than were solitary experiences. The Childhood Survey shows promise as a tool to expand the exploration of childhood experiences beyond adverse events to encompass components that comprise a happy childhood.

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Correspondence to Krystine Irene Batcho.

Appendices

Appendix A

Behavioral Items of the Childhood Survey

Respondents rated how often or to what extent each item occurred when they were children on a 5-point scale with 1 = never and 5 = daily or greatly.

  • *1. receive compliments on some aspect of your physical appearance?

  • 2. try out for a sport and not make it?

  • *3. spend time reading, daydreaming, or listening to music?

  • 4. get bullied, either at school or at home?

  • *5. receive an award for academics or athletics?

  • *6. receive praise or encouragement from a member of your family?

  • 7. witness or experience any type of physical abuse?

  • 8. have serious health problems?

  • *9. receive gifts or have a party given for you (e.g., birthday, special occasion, etc.)?

  • 10. witness your parents arguing or fighting?

  • 11. experience rejection or alienation by your peers?

  • 12. witness anyone deliberately hurt themself?

  • *13. work hard to meet expectations your parents set for you?

  • *14. have family traditions?

  • *15. spend time alone praying or thinking about God?

  • 16. experience separation from a loved one (e.g., death, moving away, etc.)?

  • *17. have a close relationship with your siblings (e. g., share secrets, do things together)?

  • *18. spend time alone with nature (e.g., hiking, fishing, etc.)?

  • 19. deliberately hurt yourself?

  • 20. have academic difficulty in school?

  • 21. regret something you did or said?

  • 22. experience any form of prejudice or racism, either toward yourself or your family?

  • 23. witness or experience any type of sexual abuse?

  • 24. change something about your appearance (e.g., lose weight, new hairstyle, etc.)?

  • *25. have a special possession (e.g., toy, book, etc.)?

  • 26. seriously consider suicide?

  • *27. get things you wanted (toys, games, etc.)?

  • *28. have a close group of friends?

  • *29. spend time playing alone (e.g., video games, watching TV, etc.)?

  • *30. have a close relationship with a parent, teacher, or other adult?

  • 31. not get something you wanted?

  • *32. spend time in creative activities (e.g., drawing, writing, playing a musical instrument)?

*Favorable items.

Appendix B

Affective Items of the Childhood Survey

Respondents rated how often or to what extent they experienced each item when they were children on a 9-point scale with 1 = rarely or not very much and 9 = very often or very much.

  • *1. enjoy family activities, vacations, etc.?

  • *2. feel proud of an academic award, achievement or performance?

  • 3. feel afraid of someone?

  • 4. feel nervous or anxious?

  • 5. feel uncomfortable with your physical appearance?

  • *6. enjoy celebrating holidays or special occasions?

  • *7. have a close relationship with your family, siblings, or other relatives?

  • *8. feel pleased with your performance in sports, music, or other abilities?

  • 9. feel sad?

  • *10. enjoy being carefree without responsibilities?

  • 11. have your feelings hurt by someone?

  • 12. feel embarrassed or ashamed?

  • 13. feel lonely?

  • *14. have fun alone (e.g., pretend play, watching TV or movies, etc.)?

  • *15. feel loved by your parents?

  • 16. worry about being punished at home or disciplined at school?

*Favorable items.

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Batcho, K.I., Nave, A.M. & DaRin, M.L. A Retrospective Survey of Childhood Experiences. J Happiness Stud 12, 531–545 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-010-9213-y

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Keywords

  • Happy childhood
  • Nostalgia
  • Time perspective