The NLSY79 Child surveys contain a wide range of detailed assessment information about the children of female respondents. Beginning in 1986, a battery of child cognitive, socio-emotional, and physiological assessments has been administered biennially for age-appropriate children. Many of the assessments, and much of the supplemental information about each child, have been based on reports from the child's mother. These reports include child demographic and family background characteristics, health history (both pre- and postnatal), and information on the child's home environment, including maternal emotional and verbal responsiveness and involvement with her child. Direct assessment of the children through the Child Supplement was done from 1986 to 2014. Mother-based child assessments, collected through the Mother Supplement, were completed from 1986 to 2016. Each of the child assessment measures is discussed in detail in this and the following sections.

Starting with the 1994 survey, children ages 15 and older were no longer assessed, but instead complete an interview modeled on the NLSY79 main Youth questionnaire administered to their mothers. Users are reminded that, while young adults are no longer administered the child instruments, they possess a child history represented in the child data file. Data obtained in the surveys during the time the young adult children were under age 15 are included as part of the child files and documented in such areas of interest as CHILD BACKGROUND and ASSESSMENT for each survey year. Most young adults have at least one survey round in which they were assessed as a child. See Table 2 in the Retention section for the distribution of the number of child interviews for the NLSY79 Young Adults.

Note that beginning with the 2016 survey round, the children ages 12 to 14 have been included in the Young Adult fielding. Young Adults aged 14 complete the same set of items as 15 and 16 year olds. The 12 and 13 year olds, however, answer a more limited number of questions which include several items from the Child Self-Administered Supplement as well as the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) from the Child Supplement.

What Assessments Are Used and When?

The assessments used in the Child surveys were selected on the basis of their validity, reliability, and suitability for use in a large-scale household survey. The selection was designed to accommodate a range of child ages and a broad spectrum of dimensions in the child's development. In the following section, information is presented on the nature of each assessment and how each one is administered and scored. Issues essential to using the assessment data are highlighted. The following assessments, listed here and then discussed in detail (in separate sections), have been used in the Child surveys:

  1. The HOME-Short Form - items from the HOME (Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment) Inventory, developed by Bradley and Caldwell, designed to measure the nature and quality of the child's home environment from birth to adolescence. This assessment was not administered after 2014.
  2. How My Child Usually Acts/Temperament - items from Rothbart's Infant Behavior Questionnaire, Kagan's Compliance Scale and other items from Campos, which combine to form a set of maternal-report scales measuring temperament or behavioral style over the past two-week period for each child under age seven. The final year of administration for this assessment was 2016; some components ended earlier (see table 1 in this introduction).
  3. Motor and Social Development (MSD) - items drawn from Poe, Bayley, Gesell, and the Denver Developmental Screening Test, which measure motor-social-cognitive development for children under age four. The MSD was not administered in 2004 or after 2016.
  4. Behavior Problems Index (BPI) - items from Zill and Peterson's adaptation of the Child Behavior Checklist, developed by Achenbach and Edelbrock, which elicit mother ratings of children four years of age or older in such areas of problem behavior as hyperactivity, anxiety, dependency, aggressiveness, and peer conflict. This assessment was not administered after 2016.
  5. Parts of the Body - ten items, developed by Kagan, that measure the ability of children aged one or two to identify various parts of their bodies. This assessment was not administered after 1988.
  6. Memory for Locations - an assessment, developed by Kagan, that measures the ability of children eight months of age through three years to remember the location of an object which is subsequently hidden from view. This assessment was not used after 1988.
  7. Verbal Memory - a subtest of the McCarthy Scales of Children's Abilities (Psychological Corporation) that assesses short-term verbal memory of children aged three through six years to remember words, sentences, or major concepts from a short story.  Part C, the story, was not used after the 1990 survey.  This assessment was not administered after 1994.
  8. What I Am Like/Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) - two scales from Harter's Self Perception Profile for Children that measure perceived self-competence in the academic skill domain and sense of general self-worth for children aged eight and above (12 and above beginning in 1996). Starting in 2016, this assessment is administered as part of the Young Adult survey for Young Adults ages 12 and 13.
  9. Memory for Digit Span - a component of the revised Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (Psychological Corporation) which assesses the ability of children seven through eleven years of age to remember and repeat numbers sequentially in forward and reverse order. This assessment was not administered after 2014.
  10. Peabody Individual Achievement Test (PIAT) Math - (American Guidance Service), a PIAT subtest that offers a wide-range measure of achievement in mathematics for children ages five or older. This assessment was not administered after 2014.
  11. PIAT Reading Recognition and Reading Comprehension - (American Guidance Service), PIAT subtests that assess the attained reading knowledge and comprehension of children with a PPVT age of five and older. This assessment was not administered after 2014.
  12. The Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R), Form L - (American Guidance Service), a wide-range test used to measure the hearing vocabulary knowledge of children ages three and above. Administered to children age 4 and 5 or 10 and 11 starting with the 1996 survey round. This assessment was not administered after 2014.

Changes in the Child Assessments

Over time there have been changes in the administration of various assessments in the Child surveys. Details on changes in the content, administration, or scoring of particular assessments are discussed in the appropriate assessment-specific sections below. Two assessments, Memory for Location and Body Parts, were administered in 1986 and 1988, but have since been deleted from the data collection effort due to funding constraints. However, the 1986 and 1988 individual items and scores for these two assessments remain in the data file and are available to users.

Not all assessments are fielded in each child survey year. In some instances, assessments are administered only to children for whom no valid score has been obtained during a previous survey. 

  • Child Index Group. In 1988 a procedure was introduced by which children ages 10 or 11 were designated to complete any assessment for which they were age-eligible in order to establish a representative index group for future analyses. 
  • SPPC age. Starting in 1996, the Self-Perception Profile (What I Am Like) is only administered to children ages 12 and over. Starting in 2016, the SPPC is administered to Young Adults ages 12 and 13.
  • Verbal Memory. The McCarthy Verbal Memory Subscale was administered for the final time in 1994.
  • MSD in 2002 & 2004. In 2002 very young children were not administered assessments, which means that Motor and Social Development scores were not generated for children under age 2 years in 2002. In 2004, Motor and Social Development (previously completed for children ages 0-3 years in the 1986-2000 surveys and 2-3 years old in 2002) was not administered.
  • Temperament age. The minimum age in 2004 for the completion of the Temperament (What My Child is Like) assessment was 3 years. In survey years 1986-2000, mothers completed the Temperament scales for children 0-6 years and ages 2-6 years in 2002.
  • Young Adult eligibility. Beginning with the 2016 survey round, the Child Supplement was not fielded, and children ages 12 to 14 were included in the Young Adult fielding. Young Adults aged 14 complete the same set of items as 15 and 16 year olds. The 12 and 13 year olds, however, answered a more limited number of questions, which include several items from the Child Self-Administered Supplement as well as the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) from the Child Supplement.

Users are urged to examine the NLSY79 Child and Young Adult data collection instruments, which include representations of each assessment, in order to understand the assessments that were administered to various age groups and to learn about variations in administration across survey rounds.