What I Am Like/Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC)

What I Am Like/Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC)

Created variables


The Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) is a self-report magnitude estimation scale that measures a school-age child's sense of general self-worth and self-competence in the domain of academic skills (Harter 1982, 1985). The Self Perception Profile for Children, as developed by Susan Harter, has five subscales to assess perceived domain-specific competence in scholastics, social acceptance, athletic competence, physical appearance, and behavioral conduct and one scale to assess overall self-worth (global self-worth). The twelve items selected from the original scale for use in the NLSY79 Child assessment translate into two subscores: a global self-worth score and a scholastic competence score. There is no overall self-perception score. These two scales represent two of six subscales developed by Susan Harter. A full description of all the subscales appears in the SPPC Manual (Harter 1985). The NLSY79 protocol for this assessment is also explained and illustrated in the user version of the Child Supplement (available on the Questionnaires page).

Description of the SPPC

The SPPC has twelve items. Scale items are typically phrased as follows: "Some kids like the kind of person they are BUT other kids often wish they were someone else." Children select which option is most like them and then indicate whether the statement is sort of true or really true for them.

The graphical format and layout of the CAPI screens for SPPC can be found in the documentation for the Child Supplement (available on the Questionnaires page). Sample pages from the SPPC are included as an appendix to the Child CAPI Supplement.

Administering the SPPC

Interviewers administer this instrument directly by reading each statement to the child, then asking "which kind of kid is more like you?" Interviewers then follow up by asking whether or not the particular response is "really true for you" or "sort of true for you." Older children have the option of reading along on printed cards and simply answering whether they are more like the "X" side or the "Y" side of the card. 

Scoring the SPPC 

Each of the two subscales includes six items. Each item has a value of between one and four. The global self-worth score is a summation of the six "even-numbered" items, beginning with the second item. The scholastic competence score is a summation of the odd numbered items, beginning with item one.  Higher total SPPC scores represent greater scholastic competence or greater global self-worth. Documentation for each subscore in the current survey round is found in Table 1 in the Child Assessments--Introduction section.

For a small number of cases, there are some missing items. In these instances, a prorated score is computed, assigning average values to the missing items.  Flag variables that identify the degree to which cases have been prorated are included in each year's data. For example, a value of zero on these flags indicates that all items were completed and no proration performed; a "1" indicates that one item was missing, and so on.

Age Eligibility for the SPPC

  • 1986-1992--all children ages eight and over
  • 1994--all children ages 8-14
  • 1996-2014--all children 12-14
  • 2016-current--Young Adults ages 12-13

From 1986 to 1992 the Self-Perception Profile for Children (SPPC) was administered to children ages 8 and older. With the introduction of the Young Adult survey in 1994, the SPPC was capped at age 14. Beginning with the 1996 survey through 2014, SPPC was administered only to children ages 12-14. Beginning in 2016, the SPPC was administered as part of the Young Adult survey to Young Adults ages 12 and 13.

Norms for the SPPC

Only raw scores, which are a simple summation of the six individual items in each scale, are provided, as no national norms are available. Note that raw scores were not created in 2020 due to the small number of respondents eligible for this assessment.

Completion Rates for the SPPC 

The SPPC assessment has a relatively high completion rate, with modest ethnic or racial variability. The current completion rate is somewhat lower than in recent prior rounds. Table 6 in the Child Assessments--Introduction section contains the completion rate for the SPPC in the 2016 survey round.

Validity and Reliability of the SPPC

Readers interested in information about the validity and reliability of the early rounds of the NLSY79 Child data for this assessment may want to examine the discussions of SPPC in the NLSY79 Child Handbook:1986-1990 and The NLSY Children, 1992: Description and Evaluation, both available on the Research/Technical Reports page. In general, the reported reliabilities for the NLSY79 administration of these two subscales, in the early survey rounds, are somewhat lower than those reported by Harter (1985, 1990). She reports internal reliability of about .8 compared with .67 for the NLSY79 coefficients, which were computed for child samples of relatively younger mothers. This may partly reflect differences between the samples in their racial, ethnic, or socio-economic mix.

Researchers who have used the NLSY79 SPPC measures have relied on the constructed SPPC scores that are provided in the public child file. Using the 6-item global self-worth subscale, Baydar, Hyle, and Brooks-Gunn (1997) report a significant effect of a sibling birth on global self-worth, particularly among children from economically disadvantaged families. Turner (2000) used the scholastic subscale and found that children resistant to overall delinquency, including drug use, reported greater self-perceived scholastic competence than children who report engaging in delinquent behavior and drug use (p.137 and p.160).  Both the NLSY Child Handbook: 1986-1990 and The NLSY Children, 1992: Description and Evaluation include more extensive evaluations of the reliability and validity of these two subscores; the NLSY Child Handbook reviews other literature on the topic. These documents are available on the Research/Technical Reports page.

As a final note, it appears that there has been some escalation in the scores of the Global Self-Worth assessment over time. The reasons for the decline in the proportion with very low scores remain unclear, but may be related to changes in cultural norms over time, the gradual increase in the socio-economic background, and age of mother of children in this age range in more recent survey rounds.

Age Differences on the SPPC

There is some evidence in prior survey rounds that children under ten (who had been administered this assessment in the pre-1996 survey years), may have had greater difficulty in understanding some of the items. For this reason, scores for younger children may have been somewhat less reliable and valid.  In this regard, it is useful to note that within and cross-year correlations between the two SPPC subscales and the various other cognitive assessments are significantly higher for children age ten and over than for eight and nine year olds. The zero-order correlation between the two subscales was about 0.3 for eight- and nine-year-olds compared with 0.4 for children age ten and over (NLSY Child Handbook: 1986-1990). For younger children, there is little association between the two scores and demographic or socioeconomic priors (The NLSY Children, 1992: Description and Evaluation).

Areas of Interest ASSESSMENT [scores]