The narrowest/most precise definition of respective is the one Merriam-Webster for some reason confine to their 'definition for learners' slot:
Definition of respective for English Language Learners:
belonging or relating to each one of the people or things that have
The question about usage corresponds to the choice of the ambiguous slash above: is this the most precise definition or the narrowest sense of various allowable senses?
Though the other definitions given by M-W (do meanings of words really change as one gets older?) do not include the 'people or things that have
already been mentioned' caveat, they offer no examples where the caveat does not hold. For instance:
The Flyers, who entered the night with five regular-season games left, and Avalanche are both fighting for playoff berths in their
All three players started their college careers at NC State before transferring to their respective schools.
Lastly, in the world of Pepe Hernandez, Spanish speakers and their
many respective, distinct cultures are blurred into a hodgepodge
At one point, Lofchie pointed out the city could even make use of
three studies done by the respective high schools in the Indian Prairie School District, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley and Neuqua
There are no counterexamples given in CED and Collins.
RHK Webster's gives a 'mentioned subsequently' variant:
the respective merits of the candidates
and AHD an example where the preceding or subsequent referents are recoverable:
[All these scientists were] successful in their respective fields.
Successful in their respective fields, [these women are now ...].
Though ODO gives what are apparently examples which do not conform to this pattern:
Maybe the respective disciplines have differing aims anyway and can't
These developments have met with a mixed reaction in the respective
there is obviously prior context missing, which must logically involve mention of different disciplines / different countries.
Discipline A --> Aim X / Discipline B --> Aim Y etc; Country A --> Reaction X etc.
And in fact ODO adds the caveat, at least in embryo, in the definition:
respective [adjective] [attributive]
Belonging or relating separately to each of two or more people or
they chatted about their respective childhoods
Overall, there definitely seems to be a requirement for a relation with two or more elements in both the domain and the range.
'Respectively' is used with the same caveat.
I'd use 'appropriate' or 'pertinent' rather than 'respective' here, especially without prior context.