Skip to main content
Log in

A Retrospective Survey of Childhood Experiences

  • Research Paper
  • Published:
Journal of Happiness Studies Aims and scope Submit manuscript


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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Anspach, C. K. (1934). Medical dissertation on nostalgia by Johannes Hofer, 1688. Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 2, 376–391.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bassin, D. (1993). Nostalgic objects of our affection: mourning, memory, and maternal subjectivity. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 10, 425–439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Batcho, K. I. (1995). Nostalgia: A psychological perspective. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 80, 131–143.

    Google Scholar 

  • Batcho, K. I. (1998). Personal nostalgia, world view, memory, and emotionality. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 87, 411–432.

    Google Scholar 

  • Batcho, K. I. (1999, August). Nostalgia: The bittersweet history of a psychological concept. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, MA.

  • Batcho, K. I. (2004). Nostalgia: Retreat or support in difficult times? In Proceedings of the Hawaii international conference on social sciences, Honolulu, HI.

  • Batcho, K. I. (2006). What comes to mind in nostalgic reminiscence? In Proceedings of the Hawaii international conference on social sciences, Honolulu, HI.

  • Batcho, K. I. (2007). Nostalgia and the emotional tone and content of song lyrics. The American Journal of Psychology, 120, 361–381.

    Google Scholar 

  • Batcho, K. I., DaRin, M. L., Nave, A. M., & Yaworsky, R. R. (2008). Nostalgia and identity in song lyrics. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2, 236–244.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Best, J., & Nelson, E. E. (1985). Nostalgia and discontinuity: A test of the Davis hypothesis. Sociology and Social Research, 69(2), 221–233.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brewin, C. R., Andrews, B., & Gotlib, I. H. (1993). Psychopathology and early experience: A reappraisal of retrospective reports. Psychological Bulletin, 113, 82–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brewin, C. R., Firth-Cozens, J., Furnham, A., & McManus, C. (1992). Self-criticism in adulthood and recalled childhood experience. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 561–566.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burton, R. V. (1970). Validity of retrospective reports assessed by the multitrait-multimethod analysis. Developmental Psychology Monograph, 3, 1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, M. A., & Porter, S. (2002). Pinpointing reality: How well can people judge true and mistaken emotional childhood memories? Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 34, 217–229.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cavanaugh, J. C. (1989). I have this feeling about everyday memory aging. Educational Gerontology, 15, 597–605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cheng, H., & Furnham, A. (2004). Perceived parental rearing style, self-esteem and self-criticism as predictors of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 5, 1–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Clara, I. P. (2000). The Parental Bonding Instrument: Confirmatory evidence for a three-factor model in a psychiatric clinical sample and in the National Comorbidity Survey. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 35, 353–357.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davis, F. (1979). Yearning for yesterday: A sociology of nostalgia. NY: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Los Reyes, A., & Kazdin, A. E. (2005). Informant discrepancies in the assessment of childhood psychopathology: A critical review, theoretical framework, and recommendations for further study. Psychological Bulletin, 131, 483–509.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Flouri, E. (2004). Subjective well-being in midlife: The role of involvement of and closeness to parents in childhood. Journal of Happiness Studies, 5, 335–358.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hagerty, B. M., Williams, R. A., & Oe, H. (2002). Childhood antecedents of adult sense of belonging. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 793–801.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton, J. M., Kives, K. D., Micevski, V., & Grace, S. L. (2003). Time perspective and health-promoting behavior in a cardiac rehabilitation population. Behavioral Medicine, 28, 132–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hertz, D. G. (1990). Trauma and nostalgia: New aspects on the coping of aging Holocaust survivors. Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, 27, 189–198.

    Google Scholar 

  • Holbrook, M. B., & Schindler, R. M. (1994). Age, sex, and attitude toward the past as predictors of consumers’ aesthetic tastes for cultural products. Journal of Marketing Research, 31, 412–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holman, E. A., & Silver, R. C. (1998). Getting “stuck” in the past: Temporal orientation and coping with trauma. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1146–1163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jackson, S. W. (1986). Melancholia and depression: From Hippocratic times to modern times. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan, H. A. (1987). The psychopathology of nostalgia. The Psychoanalytic Review, 74, 465–486.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marcenko, M. O., Kemp, S. P., & Larson, N. C. (2000). Childhood experiences of abuse, later substance use, and parenting outcomes among low-income mothers. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 70, 316–326.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCann, W. H. (1941). Nostalgia: A review of the literature. Psychological Bulletin, 38, 165–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCranie, E. W., & Bass, J. D. (1984). Childhood family antecedents of dependency and self-criticism: Implications for depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 93, 3–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mills, M. A., & Coleman, P. G. (1994). Nostalgic memories in dementia—a case study. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 38, 203–219.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Moran, P. M., Bifulco, A., Ball, C., Jacobs, C., & Benaim, K. (2002). Exploring psychological abuse in childhood: I. Developing a new interview scale. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 66, 213–240.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parker, G. (1990). The Parental Bonding Instrument: A decade of research. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 25, 281–282.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parker, G., Tupling, H., & Brown, L. B. (1979). A parental bonding instrument. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 52, 1–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perlman, D. (2007). The best of times, the worst of times: The place of close relationships in psychology and our daily lives. Canadian Psychology, 48, 7–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Peters, R. (1985). Reflections on the origin and aim of nostalgia. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 30, 135–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Plomin, R., McClearn, G. E., Pedersen, N. L., Nesselroade, J. R., & Bergeman, C. S. (1988). Genetic influence on childhood family environment perceived retrospectively from the last half of the life span. Developmental Psychology, 24, 738–745.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pluck, G., Lee, K., Lauber, H. E., Fox, J. M., Spence, S. A., & Parks, R. W. (2008). Time perspective, depression, and substance abuse among the homeless. The Journal of Psychology, 142, 159–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Random House. (1966). Random House dictionary of the English Language. NY: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  • Robbins, L. C. (1963). The accuracy of parental recall of aspects of child development and of child rearing practices. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66, 261–270.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosen, G. (1975). Nostalgia: A ‘forgotten’ psychological disorder. Psychological Medicine, 5, 340–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., Gaertner, L., Routledge, C., & Arndt, J. (2008). Nostalgia as enabler of self-continuity. In F. Sani (Ed.), Self continuity: Individual and collective perspectives (pp. 227–239). New York, NY: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, N., Lam, D., Bifulco, A., & Checkley, S. (2002). Childhood experience of care and abuse questionnaire (CECA.Q): Validation of a screening instrument for childhood adversity in clinical populations. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 37, 572–579.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stern, B. B. (1992). Historical and personal nostalgia in advertising text: The Fin de siecle effect. Journal of Advertising, 21(4), 11–22.

    Google Scholar 

  • Strauman, T. J. (1992). Self-guides, autobiographical memory, and anxiety and dysphoria: Toward a cognitive model of vulnerability to emotional distress. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101, 87–95.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tajima, E. A., Herrenkohl, T. I., Huang, B., & Whitney, S. D. (2004). Measuring child maltreatment: A comparison of prospective parent reports and retrospective adolescent reports. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74, 424–435.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Werman, D. S. (1977). Normal and pathological nostalgia. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 25, 387–398.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Widom, C. S., & Morris, S. (1997). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 2. Childhood sexual abuse. Psychological Assessment, 9, 34–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Widom, C. S., & Shepard, R. L. (1996). Accuracy of adult recollections of childhood victimization: Part 1. Childhood physical abuse. Psychological Assessment, 8, 412–421.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wildschut, T., Sedikides, C., Arndt, J., & Routledge, C. (2006). Nostalgia: Content, triggers, functions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 975–993.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilhelm, K., Niven, H., Parker, G., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2005). The stability of the Parental Bonding Instrument over a 20-year period. Psychological Medicine, 35, 387–393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, J. L. (1999). Nostalgic narratives: An exploration of Black nostalgia for the 1950s. Narrative Inquiry, 9, 303–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, A. E., & Ross, M. (2003). The identity function of autobiographical memory: Time is on our side. Memory, 11, 137–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhou, X., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Gao, D.-G. (2008). Counteracting loneliness: On the restorative function of nostalgia. Psychological Science, 19, 1023–1029.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zimbardo, P. G., & Boyd, J. N. (1999). Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1271–1288.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Krystine Irene Batcho.


Appendix A

1.1 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

2.1 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.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Batcho, K.I., Nave, A.M. & DaRin, M.L. A Retrospective Survey of Childhood Experiences. J Happiness Stud 12, 531–545 (2011).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: