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National Longitudinal Surveys

Children of the NLSY Data Overview

The Data

The most recent release of the NLSY child data couples child-specific information with that on the child's mother. Certain variables have been derived from the longitudinal record of each NLSY mother while other information was collected during administration of the post-1985 child assessments. The following list of major data elements is by no means complete and interested persons are encouraged to acquire copies of the child assessment instruments and youth questionnaires or to browse the documentation files on the NLSY compact discs for more detailed information on the types of data available. Researchers desiring additional data on NLSY mothers can link the NLSY Child Data to variables found on the NLSY main, workhistory, or geocode data files.

Each child assessment interview includes the administration of a set of supplementary instruments, i.e., the Mother Supplement, Child Supplement and, for age-eligible children, the Child-Self-Administered Supplement.

Major Data Elements - Child-Specific Information

1. Child Demographic & Family Background Characteristics. Demographic information for each child includes date of birth, birth order, sex, race, as well as the identification number of each sibling. Characteristics of the child's immediate family, e.g., mother's age and mother's educational attainment, are also present. Data on usual living arrangements of the child at each of the mother's interview dates are available, i.e., whether the child resides with the mother or father or elsewhere. For children living in the household of the mother, information has been collected on whether the child's father is alive, whether he is present in the household, and, if not, the degree of contact the child has with him.

2. Prenatal & Child Postnatal Health History. Information about the mother's health and prenatal care includes the extent of alcohol use, smoking, use of sonograms, amniocentesis, and dietary supplementation during pregnancy. Data are also available on gestation and birthweight as well as infant feeding practices, illnesses, and well-baby care for the period immediately following birth through the first year of life.

3. Child Health. Information includes: the physical characteristics (hair, eye color, height, and weight), type of health conditions affecting school attendance or childhood activities, use of medicine or medical equipment, or care by a doctor or other health care professional, presence/number/type of accidents, injuries, or illnesses in past 12 months that required medical attention, hospitalization history, timing of last routine health and dental checkup, coverage by/type of health insurance coverage, need of child in past 12 months for professional assistance with a behavior/emotional/mental problem, visit in past 12 months to a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor, and routine use of medication to control activity level or behavior.

4. Child Home Environment. The Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME Inventory), administered in abbreviated form in four versions to children of all ages, measures the nature and quality of the child's home environment. These data, collected from both mother-reports and interviewer observations during the 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1992 surveys, provide information on the overall quality of the home environment, maternal emotional and verbal responsivity, maternal acceptance of and involvement with her child, organization of the environment, materials for learning, variety of stimulation, as well as, for the older age groups, a measure of parental modeling of maturity.

5. Child Cognitive Development. The following assessments were administered to children of the appropriate age.

  • The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R), administered to children three years of age or older, measures the child's hearing vocabulary of Standard American English. Beginning with the 1988 round, the Hispanic-American adaptation of the PPVT-R (Test de Vocabulaire en Imagenes Peabody or TVIP) was used to measure receptive vocabulary of single Spanish words spoken by an examiner.
  • The McCarthy Scale of Children's Abilities: Verbal Memory Subscale, administered to children ranging from three through six years, assesses short-term verbal memory.
  • The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R): Digit Span Subscale, administered to children aged seven and older, measures short-term memory.
  • The Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT): Math, Reading Recognition, and Reading Comprehension Assessments, administered to children five years of age and older, measure ability in mathematics, oral reading ability, and the ability to derive meaning from printed words.
  • The Memory for Location Assessment, administered to children eight months of age through three years in 1986 or 1988, measures a child's short-term memory.
  • The Body Parts Assessment, administered in the 1986 and 1988 rounds to children one or two years of age, measures receptive vocabulary knowledge of orally presented words.

6. Child Motor/Social/Emotional Development. The following four assessments were administered during each of the assessment years to children of the appropriate age group.

  • The Behavior Problems Index, completed by the child's mother for children ages four years of age and older, rates the child on the following six problem areas: antisocial, anxious-depressed, hyperactive, headstrong, dependent, and peer-conflicting behaviors.
  • The Temperament Scales, completed by the mother, measure the temperament or behavioral style of children under age seven. Three versions assess such factors as activity, predictability, positive affect, fearfulness, compliance and insecure attachment. Interviewer assessments of the child's shyness, cooperation, interest and persistence during the interview and attitude about and rapport with the interviewer were also collected for children assessed.
  • The Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPCC), a self-administered scale, measures, for children eight and over, the child's perceived competence in the academic skill domain and the child's sense of general self-worth.
  • The Motor & Social Development Scale, completed by the mother, measures developmental milestones in the areas of motor, cognitive, communication, and social development for children under four years of age.

7. Pre-Teen/Teen Behaviors & Attitudes. During the 1988, 1990, and 1992 surveys, information was collected directly from those children 10 years of age and older on a variety of factors including child-parent interaction, child home responsibilities, attitudes towards school, time-use, employment, religious attendance, alcohol and drug use, sexual activity (13 and over), dating and friendship patterns, and other related attitudes and behaviors.

Major Data Elements - Mother-Specific Information

All mother-specific information present on the NLSY main data file and on the specially-constructed workhistory and geocode files can be linked with the child data.

1. Background of Maternal Family of Origin. Information is available on the ethnicity, education, prior employment, religious background, and residence of the mother's family of origin.

2. Maternal Household Composition. The composition of the mother's household at the time of each interview is available, including information on the number of family members, family units, children and adults present at each interview date.

3. Maternal Marital History & Marriage Transition Dates. Data are provided on the mother's marital status at each interview, moth/year of the beginning and end of a first and second marriage, and the date/tupe of up to three marital status changes since the last survey.

4. Maternal Spouse Characteristics Spouse information includes the educational, occupational, religious, marital and health background of the spouse of the child's mother.

5. Income/ Earnings of Mother & Spouse. Total income of the mother, her spouse, and family at each interview date received from AFDC, SSI, food stamps, etc.

6. Maternal Labor Force Status. Activigty of the mother during each survey week includes hours worked, type of occupation, industry, wages, benefits, and taxes.


Last Modified Date: October 16, 2001