Use of Lifespan Collection data in psychological measures

The measures utilised in the lifespan interviews are standardised, semi-structured interviews which have been developed since the 1970s and follow in the tradition of the Camberwell Family interview designed in the 1960s by George Brown and Michael Rutter. The measures all have high reliability and validity and have been used successfully in the study of common psychological disorders both within the team, nationally and internationally. The measures have the advantage of having both qualitative and quantitative aspects. The interviews generate a large amount of narrative as individuals tell their stories thus generating qualitative information which is captured both on audio-tape but also part-transcribed onto schedules. But rigorous scoring is also applied to these accounts on topic schedules with pre-defined scales with benchmarks for determining rating level. All the measures require training in their use, with detailed manuals and training materials utilised.

The measures are contextual, with detailed questioning about life experience over the lifespan. This begins with the Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse (CECA) which covers the first 17 years of life and then the Adult Life Phase Interview (ALPHI) which covers from age 18 to time of interview. These two measures assess experiences of stress in the form of childhood neglect and abuse, and adult difficulty and trauma, with careful dating of experience to provide timelines of experience. Both measures also assess the quality of close relationships (with parents, partners and support figures) and positive aspects to gauge resilience. The Life Events and Difficulties Schedule (LEDS) covers both positive and negative events and longer term difficulties in the year before interview in order to look at timing of stressor and onset of depression with more precision. This also involves assessments of coping and crisis support with stress to explain protective factors.

The measures include psychological and social assessments of vulnerability to disorder. This includes the Self Esteem and Social Support (SESS) interview, and the Attachment Style Interview (ASI). Both have identified vulnerability factors in the form of Negative Evaluation of Self, Negative Elements in Core Relationships and Insecure Attachment Style.

In terms of the inter-generational aspects of the study, there are also assessments of parenting. These include details of pregnancy, subsequent care and control of children, and competence in the parenting role. These encompass retrospective measures (Parenting interview) and concurrent and prospective measures (SESS parenting schedule).

Whilst interview measures are considered the ‘gold standard’ in these studies, self-report questionnaires have been developed for the vulnerability measures for screening purposes and where interviews are not feasible.



Five hundred people recall their life story… all kept  in one collection


Memories of childhood and of adult life: adversity, support relationships ...

Reports of coping style, self esteem,
relating styles,
psychological disorders ...