Abstract The development of a retrospective, investigator-based interview measure of Childhood Experience of Care and Abuse (CECA) used with two community samples of adults in London is described. The component ratings are shown to have satisfactory inter-rater reliability and also validity as determined by agreement between sisters' independent accounts. The association between the different childhood scales is explored as well as the relationship of childhood experiences to adult depression. Methodological issues concerning investigator-based versus respondent-based measures of childhood are discussed and a case made for use of the former. Advantages of using the CECA, a retrospective, time-based measure of childhood, are outlined.