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Exposure assessment
Reconstructing past occupational exposures: how reliable are women's reports of their partner's occupation?
  1. Nara Tagiyeva1,
  2. Sean Semple2,
  3. Graham Devereux1,
  4. Andrea Sherriff3,
  5. John Henderson4,
  6. Peter Elias5,
  7. Jon G Ayres6
  1. 1Child Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Environmental and Occupational Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  3. 3Dental Public Health, University of Glasgow, Dental School, Glasgow, UK
  4. 4Department of Community-Based Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  5. 5Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
  6. 6Institute of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nara Tagiyeva, Child Health, Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital, University of Aberdeen, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZP, UK; n.tagiyeva-milne{at}


Objectives Most of the evidence on agreement between self- and proxy-reported occupational data comes from interview-based studies. The authors aimed to examine agreement between women's reports of their partner's occupation and their partner's own description using questionnaire-based data collected as a part of the prospective, population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

Methods Information on present occupation was self-reported by women's partners and proxy-reported by women through questionnaires administered at 8 and 21 months after the birth of a child. Job titles were coded to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC2000) using software developed by the University of Warwick (Computer-Assisted Structured Coding Tool). The accuracy of proxy-report was expressed as percentage agreement and kappa coefficients for four-, three- and two-digit SOC2000 codes obtained in automatic and semiautomatic (manually improved) coding modes. Data from 6016 couples at 8 months and 5232 couples at 21 months postnatally were included in the analyses.

Results The agreement between men's self-reported occupation and women's report of their partner's occupation in fully automatic coding mode at four-, three- and two-digit code level was 65%, 71% and 77% at 8 months and 68%, 73% and 76% at 21 months. The accuracy of agreement was slightly improved by semiautomatic coding of occupations: 73%/73%, 78%/77% and 83%/80% at 8/21 months respectively. While this suggests that women's description of their partners' occupation can be used as a valuable tool in epidemiological research where data from partners are not available, this study revealed no agreement between these young women and their partners at the two-digit level of SOC2000 coding in approximately one in five cases.

Conclusion Proxy reporting of occupation introduces a statistically significant degree of error in classification. The effects of occupational misclassification by proxy reporting in retrospective occupational epidemiological studies based on questionnaire data should be considered.

  • Proxy-respondents
  • occupation
  • questionnaires
  • retrospective exposure assessment

Statistics from


  • Funding Asthma UK, Summit House, 70 Wilson Street, London EC2A 2DB.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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