Reports of birthweight by adolescents and their mothers: comparing accuracy and identifying correlates


Naomi Breslau, PhD, Department of Epidemiology, Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine, B601 West Fee Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. E-mail:


Birthweight is associated with health outcomes throughout the lifespan. Official birthweight records are not always available, and researchers must rely on self-reports for birthweight information. This study evaluates the accuracy of adolescent self-reports of birthweight, using medical records as a standard, and compares it with maternal reports. It also examines potential correlates of accuracy. Respondents are 17-year-old adolescents and their mothers, who participated in a follow-up study of randomly selected samples from newborn discharge lists (1983–85) of two major hospitals in south-east Michigan. Nearly one-quarter of the adolescents stated that they did not know their own birthweight, with males twice as likely as females to respond ‘don’t know’. In addition, self-reports of birthweight among the remaining adolescents were inaccurate, and accuracy was inversely related to birthweight. While maternal reports of offspring’s birthweight are highly accurate across diverse subgroups of the population, adolescent self-reports of birthweight are unlikely to be useful in medical research.