Interview Methods

Interview Methods

Instrument Development

The Child Survey.  The original proposal for the NLSY79 Child data collection included plans for instruments that tapped several dimensions of child cognition, health, socio-emotional attributes, behavior, and home environment. Development of the first round of NLSY79 Child Assessment instruments began in the summer of 1985. CHRR assumes overall responsibility for selection, design, and adaptation of the Child Assessments. Field training and data collection are the primary responsibility of NORC. Close collaboration between NORC and CHRR begins prior to each fielding period on such issues as placement and formatting of questions, survey timing, and special data collection considerations such as confidentiality, interviewer training, sample location, and testing conditions. On a continuing basis, NlCHD also provides input to this process. Advice on question inclusion as well as review of each draft survey instrument is sought by CHRR from the various funding agencies, notably the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has overall authority regarding survey content, NICHD, a technical advisory board, and designers of the original questions and scales.

In the first several survey rounds, pretests of the Child instruments were conducted several months prior to the beginning of the fielding period. Conducted at two sites with experienced NLSY79 interviewers, the pretest served to test questionnaire wording, to pinpoint items that may pose problems for the respondents or the interviewers, and to time the various sections of the instruments. This process also served to identify problems with questions, skip patterns, transitions between sections, questionnaire length, and other overt flaws. Following each pretest, staff from CHRR, NORC personnel, and representatives of the various funding agencies met to review the NLSY79 child survey instruments, analyze the response frequencies for selected questions, and discuss problems encountered by both the respondents and interviewers.

The Young Adult Survey.  When the Young Adult survey was first designed for the 1994 survey round, many of the CAPI sections exactly paralleled those administered to the main NLSY79 respondents.  Other sections of the questionnaire were tailored for this cohort.  One important part of the design process was to review the 1979 NLSY79 questionnaire, to consider where Young Adults could be asked questions that were essentially the same as those that had been asked of their mothers in their first survey round.  Other years of the NLSY79 were also reviewed for questions to include.  The Young Adult questionnaire remained fairly stable as an instrument through the 1998 fielding, with changes in parallel sections mirroring those in the NLSY79 Youth.

The Young Adult survey instrument underwent a major redesign in 2000 and differs in a variety of important ways not only from the main Youth questionnaire, but also from the previous Young Adult instruments.  The questionnaire was streamlined and adjusted for telephone administration, so that most interviews could be undertaken in less than one hour.  Additionally, more pre-existing information was incorporated into information sheets to determine branching for each respondent’s path through the questionnaire.  Branching also occurred throughout the questionnaire based on answers provided by the respondent.  Many of the items that are comparable across the main Youth and the Young Adult were retained.  Although not an exhaustive listing of these items, Table 1 in "Life Cycle Profiles for the NLSY79 Children" provides users with a listing of attitudinal and behavioral sequences in the Young Adult and indicates where comparable data can be found for the mothers. 

The 2002 survey instrument remained very similar to the 2000 questionnaire while incorporating questions directed to the younger Young Adults that paralleled questions they had been asked in the Child Survey when they were 10 to 14 years old.  Questions concerning weapons in school were also added. 

Prior to the 2004 fielding, we assessed the viability of changes made in 2000 and 2002 and questioned if there were additional needs.  The redesign for 2004 focused on improving data collected on fertility and relationships, which have become increasingly important as this cohort ages, as well as enlarging the scope of health-related data.

For the 2006 fielding, we again assessed the changes we had made in the questionnaire for 2004 as well as incorporating additional questions to expand the range of data we collect.  New questions were included to ascertain biological relatedness among the young adult’s siblings in the Child database.  We also added questions about catastrophic events, assets and debts, and the Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI).  The 2006 questionnaire also included a series of political questions, funded through the American National Election Survey (ANES) with a grant from the National Institute of Health. 

Prior to the 2008 fielding, the Young Adult survey instrument once again underwent a major re-evaluation and redesign.  This redesign focused on social psychological issues, job characteristics, and military service, as well as on parenting for both residential and nonresidential children, maternity leave, and relationships. 

The redesign for the YA2010 survey round included bringing forward information on household members as well as current jobs from the date of last interview, as well as an expansion of questions concerning financial difficulties, perceived fairness in relationships, and gender role item.  Questions about the height and weight of biological children were added.  Additionally, a health module for older Young Adults was started in 2010.  For 2010 and 2012, this module will be asked of all respondents age 29 or older.

The redesign for the YA2012 focused on evaluating the HOME items that have been used in the Young Adult and included adding additional HOME items as well as the Behavioral Problems Index, also from the Mother Supplement.  Other additions in 2012 include a series of questions about day-to-day discrimination and another about major instances of discrimination.  The mini-IPIP (a shortened version of the International Personality Item Pool) was also included, providing users the opportunity to compare it to the TIPI.  Another series on childhood adversity, which has also been asked of the NLSY79 respondents, was added.

Interviewer Training

NLSY79 Child interviewers undergo a special training in preparation for administering the Child interviews and assessments. Their curriculum includes at-home self-study, in person training (through 2010), and both written and observer evaluation. In some survey years this training was held at decentralized sites, but more recently training has been conducted at a centralized location, with materials distributed ahead of time. Detailed instructions on the administration of each assessment are reviewed in each training session, regardless of the experience of the interviewer. Video taped footage is used to demonstrate the procedures and to allow interviewers to view the actual administration of the assessments to children of different ages. Trainees are given exercises to help them master the testing procedures. They participate in a series of scripted mock interviews, observed by supervisors, and then complete a final examination that is scored. Interviewers also record their initial child interviews, which are then reviewed by field management staff before the interviewer is allowed to complete a full case load. Details of the NLSY79 Child training in the early survey rounds can be found in the NLSY79 Child 1986 and 1990 handbooks (available on the Research/Technical Reports page).

NLSY79 Youth and Young Adult interviewers undergo basic survey and case management training as well as instrument-specific training on the two instruments.  Their curriculum includes at-home self-study, remote training, and both written and observer evaluation. Child interviewers are also cross-trained on the Youth and Young Adult surveys.

Mode of Administration

From 1986-1992, interviews with the NLSY79 children were conducted primarily in person using paper and pencil questionnaires. Beginning in 1994, the primary Young Adult and younger child instruments and assessments were administered using computer assisted personal interviewing (CAPI).  By 2000, all survey instruments except the Child Self-Administered Supplement were fully computerized; the CSAS was computerized in 2002. Researchers are encouraged to review the questionnaires in conjunction with this user's guide and the actual data.

Child Interview Mode. Interviews with the NLSY79 younger children are typically conducted in the respondent's home by specially trained field staff.  Reports are obtained from the children, their mothers and by interviewers trained to assess each child and to provide evaluations of each family's home environment. All interviewer-administered sections use CAPI; for the Child Self-Administered Supplement, the child uses the laptop to complete the section. [The CSAS was also available on personal data assistant (PDA) in 2002 and 2004.] In rare instances, where in-person administration is not possible, as much information as possible is collected over the telephone. Table 1 outlines the interview mode and type used in each survey round.

Table 1. NLSY79 Child interview mode by questionnaire type

Instrument Year Mode Interview type
Child Supplement 1986-1990 Paper In-person
  1992 Paper In-person; some nonassessment sections by phone
  1994-2008 CAPI w/ assessment executables In-person; some nonassessment sections by phone
  2010-present Total CAPI In-person; some nonassessment sections by phone
Child Self-Administered 1988-2000 Paper In-person
  2002-2004 CAPI or PDA; stand-alone In-person or phone
  2006-present CAPI embedded in Child Supplement In-person or phone
Mother Supplement 1986-2000* Paper In-person
  2002-2004 CAPI; stand-alone In-person; phone
  2006-present CAPI embedded in main Youth quex Primarily phone; some in-person
 
*In R19-2000, the HOME section of the Mother Supplement for children 0-3 was administered as a CAPI section in the mother’s main Youth questionnaire.

Child interview mode variables. While there is no single constructed variable in each Child survey year that indicates the mode of the interview, there are items that indicate the type of administration for each field instrument (see Table 2).

Table 2. NLSY79 Child interview mode for Mother Supplement by survey year

Year Question Name Question Title
1988 MS880112 MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1990 MS900111 MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1992 MS920111 MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1994 MS940111 MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1996 MS960111 MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1998 MS98ADMIN MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
2000 MSADMCODE MOTHER SUPPLEMENT: INTERVIEW TYPE
2002-2004 MS-INT-MODE INTERVIEW MODE (IN PERSON OR ON TELEPHONE)

 

Important Information

Since 2006, when the Mother Supplement was incorporated into the mother's main Youth Questionnaire, there has been no item specific to the Mother Supplement that indicates mode of administration. There is, however, an item named INTMODE in the Interviewer Remarks of the main Youth questionnaire that indicates whether the mother's interview was administered in person or by phone.  Note that this item appears in the main NLSY79 data.

Prior to 1992, the Child Supplement (CS) was not administered by telephone. Starting in 1992, “telephone interview” was one of the response categories from which interviewers could choose to describe the mode and location of the Child Supplement interview, as outlined for each survey year in Table 3.

Table 3. Administration location for Child Supplement by survey year

Year Question Name Question Title
1992 CS926169 TESTING CONDITIONS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED?
1994 CS94EV-5 TESTING CONDITIONS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED?
1996 CS96EV-5 TESTING CONDITIONS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED
1998 CS98EV-5 TESTING CONDITIONS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED?
2000-2004 CSEV-5 TESTING CONDITIONS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED?
2006-present CSIR-ADMIN-LOCATION INT REMARKS: WHERE WAS CS ADMINISTERED?

 

Important Information

Starting in 2000, CS-INT-MODE is used by the interviewer to indicate whether the Child Supplement interview was administered in person or by telephone.

The items that indicate the mode of administration used for the Child Self-Administered Supplement (CSAS) are listed in Table 4.

Table 4. Administration mode of Child Self-Administered Supplement by survey year

Year Question Name Question Title
1988 CS884112 CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
1990 CS906311 CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
1992 CS926411 CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
1994 CS941811 CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
1996 CS960111 CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
1998 CS98ADMIN CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
2000 CSASADMIN CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED: INTERVIEW TYPE
2002 CSAS-IR1 CHILD SELF-ADMIN: INT REMARKS - HOW WAS INSTRUMENT ADMINISTERED
2004 CSAS-IR-ADMINMODE CHILD SELF-ADMIN: INT REMARKS - HOW IS CSAS ADMINISTERED
2006-present CSAS-ADMINMODE CHILD SELF-ADMIN: INT REMARKS - HOW IS CSAS ADMINISTERED

Young Adult Interview Mode. From 1994 to 1998, the primary mode of data collection for the Young Adults was an in-person interview, with the interviewer using a laptop computer for most questions and the respondent filling out a paper booklet for the self-report section. Beginning in 2000, the primary interview mode for the Young Adults shifted to telephone rather than in-home visits.  The items in Table 5 indicate the mode of administration of the young adult questionnaire in each survey year.

Table 5. Mode of administration of the Young Adult questionnaire by survey year

Year Question Name Question Title
1994 YA940111 YA SELF-REPORT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1996 YA960111 YA SELF-REPORT: INTERVIEW TYPE
1998 YA98SRINT YA SELF-REPORT: INTERVIEW TYPE
2000-present YASR-0 INTERVIEW TYPE

Language of Administration

Spanish translations of several child assessment instruments have been made available to respondents with limited proficiency in English. In 1986, a total of 354 children age eight months or older were assigned to bilingual interviewers. Of these cases, slightly more than 100 children were actually assessed in Spanish. More than 100 children were assigned to bilingual interviewers in 1988. By 1990, 52 children were assigned to bilingual interviewers, but of this number, only 17 were actually assessed in Spanish. In 1998 approximately 50 children were interviewed in Spanish but most of them were assessed in English. In 2000 the number of children assessed in Spanish declined to fewer than 10. Part of this recent decline results from the higher minimum age of children eligible to be assessed. By the 2000 survey round most of the Spanish-language parents would have resided in the U.S. for more than two decades.

From 1986  to 2000, the following questionnaire sections and child assessment instruments were translated for administration into Spanish:

1. Mother Supplement and MS assessments:

  • The HOME
  • Behavior Problems Index (BPI)
  • Temperament or What My Child is Like
  • Motor and Social Development (MSD)

2. Mother-report sections of the Child Supplement (background, school, health)

3. Interviewer administered assessments in the Child Supplement:

  • Parts of the Body
  • Memory for Location
  • What I am Like (SPPC)
  • Memory for Digit Span
  • PPVT-R (Test de Vocabulario en Imágenes Peabody or TVIP used in 1988-2000)

Starting in 2002 no Child instruments were translated into Spanish, although bilingual interviewers continue to be assigned to households in which Spanish is a principal language. Interviewers are instructed to make comments in the assessments or interviewer remarks section if other languages were used in the interview to facilitate understanding.