Validity of Self-reported Alcohol Use: a literature review and assessment*


  • *

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 95th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, New York, August, 1987.


Recently, there has been increased attention to the validity of self-reported alcohol use. Yet, much of the literature appears to be inappropriately seeking the definitive answer to a relative question, e.g. are self-reports of alcohol use valid?. The literature on the validity of self-reported alcohol use was reviewed with a primary focus on concurrent criterion-oriented validity. Validity studies using collateral reports, diaries, official records, different interviewing methods, laboratory tests and multiple measures were assessed. It is concluded that research on the validity of self-reported alcohol use should emphasize the interactions of the respondent, the interviewer, the information being obtained and the context of the interview to determine under which conditions valid responses can be maximized. Further, research on validity should focus on specific processes involved in providing accurate responses. Emphasis should be placed on developing a range of strategies and determining their appropriateness for obtaining more accurate reports from specific populations.