Measuring developmental changes in exposure to adversity: A Life Chart and rating scale approach

Scott D. Gest, Marie Gabrielle J. Reed, Ann S. Masten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The reliability and validity of a comprehensive, integrative strategy for assessing adversity exposure in childhood and adolescence was examined in a community-based longitudinal study of 205 children. Extensive data from multiple measures completed by adolescents and their parents regarding chronic and acute life experiences were aggregated into a Life Chart record of lifetime adversity exposure. Severity of adversity in three nonoverlapping time spans was rated by trained judges with excellent interrater reliability. As hypothesized, Family adversity predominated over all other types of adversity in childhood, remained salient into midadolescence, and showed considerable stability over time. Adversity related to an individual's own behavior and psychological functioning rose to equal prominence by late adolescence. Adversity arising from physical ailments that were independent of the individual's psychological functioning declined over time, while adversity arising from the community rose; physical and community events were uncommon for most individuals but substantial for some. Results suggest that coherent developmental trends in adversity exposure may be identified effectively through judges' ratings of severity of adversity over multiple-year time spans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-190
Number of pages20
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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