National Longitudinal Surveys

NLSY79 Children and Young Adults

On a regular basis, the NLSY79 has collected a great deal of pre- and postnatal care information from the sample women as they became mothers. For example, fertility data include information on all pregnancies/live births, a cumulative inventory of all children reported, and contraceptive methods used. This vast wealth of information also includes the mother's health during pregnancy, and prenatal practices like the extent of alcohol use or smoking and the use of prenatal care. Also available are gestation length, birth weight, as well as infant feeding practices, illnesses and well-baby care for the first year of life. In 1986, a separate survey of all children born to NLSY79 female respondents began, greatly expanding the breadth of child- specific information collected. In addition to all the mother's information from the NLSY79, the child survey includes assessments of each child as well as additional demographic and development information collected from either the mother or child.

Since 1986, a battery of child cognitive, socioemotional, and physiological assessments as well as a variety of attitude, aspiration, and psychological well-being questions have been administered biennially for age appropriate children. These assessments include the Home Observation for Measurement of Environment (HOME), which is useful for predicting later cognitive, social, and physical development, a set of Temperament scales, a Behavior Problems Index, the Self-Perception Profile for Children, and the Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) for math and reading recognition. The types of assessment measures vary depending on the age of the child, with the cognitive materials for younger children consisting of tests like body part identification or location memory. Older children take more advanced assessments like the PIAT.

For children younger than 10, many of the assessments and much of the supplemental information are collected from the child's mother. This includes child demographic and family background characteristics, extensive health history (both prenatal and postnatal,) and information on the child's home environment, including maternal emotional and verbal responsiveness and involvement with her child.

For children aged 10 and older, information has been collected from the children biennially since 1988 on a variety of factors including child-parent interaction, attitudes toward schooling, dating and friendship patterns, religious attendance, health, substance use, and home responsibilities.

Biennially (since 1994), children ages 15 and older complete a lengthy child interview modeled on the NLSY79 questionnaire. Information collected includes their schooling, training, work experiences and expectations, health, dating, fertility and marital histories, and household composition. A confidential supplement records their self-reports on such topics as parent-child conflict, participation in delinquent or criminal activities, use of controlled and uncontrolled substances, and their expectations for the future.

The availability of comprehensive child data, coupled with longitudinal information on the family background, education, employment histories, and economic well-being of their NLSY79 mother provide researchers with a unique opportunity to examine the linkages between maternal- family behaviors and attitudes and subsequent child development. Because information is collected for all children born to female respondents, the NLSY79 Child data also offer opportunities for comparing developmental and other outcome measures between siblings and cousins. The relatively large sample of siblings and cousins permits researchers to explore within- and cross-family effects to a greater extent than is typically possible.

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Last Modified Date: March 20, 2002

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