Comparing self and maternal reports of adolescents’ general health status: Do self and proxy reports differ in their relationships with covariates?
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Given that mothers often—but do not always—report children’s health status in surveys, it is essential to gain an understanding of whether the relationship between children’s general health status and relevant covariates depends on who reports children’s general health status.
Using data from the first wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1997 cohort (N = 6,466), a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the United States ages 12 to 17 in 1997, the study first examined the concordance between self and maternal reports of adolescents’ general health status. Then, self and maternal reports of adolescents’ general health status were each regressed on health-relevant covariates, and tests of differences in coefficients across the models were estimated.
Self and maternal reports of adolescents’ general health status are moderately concordant. Furthermore, the associations of adolescents’ general health status with adolescent BMI and the adolescent being female significantly differ across reporters, such that the negative relationships are even more negative with self compared to maternal reports of adolescents’ general health status. The associations of adolescents’ general health status with the measures of adolescents’ health limitations, maternal self-rated health, and certain sociodemographic covariates differ across reporters, such that each has a greater relationship with maternal compared to self-reports of adolescents’ general health status.
The results are important for interpreting research on the causes and consequences of child and adolescent health, as results across studies may not be comparable if the reporter is not the same.
KeywordsSelf-rated health General health status Adolescent health Proxy reports Surveys
This research was supported by funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (T32 HD007014, T32 HD049302) and from core funding to the Center for Demography and Ecology (R24 HD047873) and Center for Demography of Health and Aging (P30 AG017266) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A version of this study was presented at the 2013 meeting of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The author thanks the following people for helpful comments during the course of this project: Jennifer Dykema, Felix Elwert, Theodore Gerber, Jennifer Holland, Alberto Palloni, Nora Cate Schaeffer, Kia Sorensen, Kimberly Turner, and Whitney Witt. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinions or official views of the helpful commentators, funding agencies, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which collects and distributes the NLSY 1997 data.
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