MPIDR Working Paper

Blurred memory, deliberate misreporting, or “true tales”? How different survey methods affect respondents’ reports of partnership status at first birth

Kreyenfeld, M. R., Bastin, S.
MPIDR Working Paper WP-2013-017, 34 pages.
Rostock, Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (November 2013)
Open Access


This paper examines the reliability of biographical information gathered retrospectively. It draws on data from the German Family Panel (pairfam), which collected information on the partnership status at first birth using two different methods. The first method is based on data on partnership and fertility histories collected retrospectively. The second method uses data gathered through the use of a “landmark question” on the respondents’ partnership status when their first children were born. We find that in almost 20 percent of the cases, the information collected using the first method did not correspond with the information collected using the second method. Partnership dissolution and “turbulence” in the partnership biography are strong predictors for discrepancies in the information gathered through the two different survey methods. We conclude by drawing attention to the limitations of the retrospective collection of partnership histories at a time when divorce and separation rates are increasing.
Schlagwörter: Deutschland, family
Das Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung (MPIDR) in Rostock ist eines der international führenden Zentren für Bevölkerungswissenschaft. Es gehört zur Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, einer der weltweit renommiertesten Forschungsgemeinschaften.