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The Early Life Experiences Scale (ELES)

Title of the Portuguese Version

Escala de Experiências Precoces de Vida para Adolescentes

Original Version

Gilbert, P., Cheung, M., Grandfield, T., Campey, F., & Irons, C. (2003)

Portuguese Version

Pinto-Gouveia, J., Xavier, A., & Cunha, M. (2016)

General Description

The ELES is a self-report instrument to measure emotional memories in one’s family, linked to recall of feeling devalued, frightened and having to behave in a subordinate way. Whereas many recall of early life ask about recalling specific experiences or how one parent acted towards one, this scale asks about memories of personal feelings. This scale consists of 15 items and three subscales:

  • Threat (six items; e.g. ‘‘I experienced my parents as powerful and overwhelming’’);
  • Submissiveness (six items; e.g. ‘‘I often had to give in to others at home’’);
  • Unvalued (three reversed items; e.g. ‘‘I felt very comfortable and relaxed around my parents’’).

Participants were asked how frequently each statement was true for them and rated each item on a five-point measure (ranging from 1 = ‘‘Completely untrue’’, to 5 = ‘‘Very true’’). The scale can be used as a single construct or as three separate subscales.

  • Gilbert, P., Cheung, M., Grandfield, T., Campey, F., & Irons, C. (2003). Recall of threat and submissiveness in childhood: Development of a new scale and its relationship with depression, social comparison and shame. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 10, 108-115.doi:10.1002/cpp.359

  • Pinto-Gouveia, J., Xavier, A., & Cunha, M. (2016). Assessing early memories of threat and subordination: Confirmatory Factor Analysis of the Early Life Experiences Scale for Adolescents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25, 54-64. doi:10.1007/s10826-015-0202-y http://hdl.handle.net/10316/46883


Marina Cunha – marina_cunha@ismt.pt

Ana Xavier – ana.mj.xavier@gmail.com

José Pinto-Gouveia – jpgouveia@fpce.uc.pt