Fertility, Pregnancy & Children

Fertility, Pregnancy & Children

Created Variables

CV_CHILD_STATUS.xx. Identifies the status of the respondent's biological children.

CV_CHILD_BIRTH_DATE.xx_M/Y. Provides each biological child's actual month and year of birth.

CV_CHILD_BIRTH_MONTH.xx. Provides each biological children's date of birth in a continuous month scheme.

CV_CHILD_DEATH_DATE.xx_M/Y. Provides each biological child's actual month and year of death.

CV_CHILD_DEATH_MONTH.xx. Provides each biological children's date of death in a continuous month scheme.

CV_BIO_CHILD_HH. Reports the number of biological children ever born to the respondent who reside in the household.

CV_BIO_CHILD_NR. Reports the number of biological children who do not reside in the household. 

CVC_TTL_BIO_CHILD. Total number of biological children ever born to the respondent.


Important Information About Using Fertility, Pregnancy & Children Data

1. Basic information about the respondent's children is collected and organized into the BIOCHILD roster. Beginning in round 5, the name of the roster was changed to the BIOADOPTCHILD roster. In general, this roster functions in the same way as other NLSY97 rosters. Users should be aware that the loop numbers for the various series of questions about children do not necessarily correspond to the numbers on the BIOADOPTCHILD roster. The questions asked in the questionnaire about children frequently limit the children who are asked about depending on whether the child is new and whether the child is living with the respondent. In general, the loop numbers in the questions count only the children who will be asked about in that series of questions. More information about this roster can be found in Appendix 8.

2. Before round 7, the respondent's household is based on what the respondent considers to be his or her permanent household as reported in the household information section. This is not necessarily the same as where he or she is living at the time of the survey, so respondents who are in the military (or away at college or incarcerated) may report their spouse or children as being in the household, even though the answers in the fertility and marriage sections have the respondent separated from them. Starting in round 7, household is considered the place where the respondent currently resides.

3. In some cases, problems arose in the marriage and fertility sections due to inaccuracies in relationship codes in the household roster. If a household member was identified on the roster as the respondent's child or spouse, the marriage and fertility sections asked questions about that person. If the relationship code in the roster was incorrect and the person was not a spouse or child, the youth respondent would correct the relationship at that point. NLS staff subsequently corrected a number of problems in the roster relationship codes. Thus, it may appear that respondents were asked marriage and fertility questions even though there was no one in the household to ask these questions about. Users may not be able to trace a child or spouse back to the roster due to these corrections. Researchers should contact NLS User Services for more details. 

This section discusses information about fertility, pregnancy, and children collected in the self-administered and fertility sections of the youth instrument. A wide variety of information on children of the sample members is collected in the fertility section of the questionnaire. For information about sexual activity, refer to the Sexual Activity & Dating section of this guide.


In the self-administered section of the Youth Questionnaire, female respondents who were age 14 by the end of the year before the interview are asked a series of questions on pregnancy. Those who report having ever been pregnant are asked whether the pregnancy resulted in a child born alive. If the pregnancy did not end in a live birth, follow-up questions ask for the month and year the pregnancy ended, the number of months into the pregnancy it ended, the youth's age at that time, and the outcome (e.g., stillbirth, miscarriage, abortion). Pregnant respondents are asked how far along they are in their pregnancy; if not sure, they are asked for the date of their last period. Interviews also included questions for male respondents in all but the first round. This self-administered series asked if the youth had ever made a woman pregnant, his age at that time, if any woman was currently carrying his child, the total number of women he had ever impregnated, the total number of pregnancies, the number ending in a live birth, and the number ending in an abortion.


The fertility section of the questionnaire asks all respondents if they have given birth to or fathered any children. For each live birth, the survey records the birth date, gender, mortality status, and primary residence of the child. Female respondents are asked if they are legally responsible for their child; male respondents are asked the same question about the birth mother's legal responsibility. 

In round 13, respondents answered several questions about fertility and infertility. They were first asked about their biological ability to have a child. Specifically, they were asked: "Suppose you started to have unprotected intercourse today, what is the percent chance you would have a child within the next two years?" and "Suppose you started having unprotected intercourse 5 years from now; what is the percent chance you would have a child within two years of starting to try?" In a separate series of questions, they provided information about any infertility they had experienced. They were asked about problems getting pregnant or carrying to term, inabilities to conceive after six months and twelve months of no contraceptives, any miscarriages or stillbirths, and if they or their spouse/partner had ever seen a doctor about fertility problems. Respondents also hypothesized the percent chance they would have another child in five years and across their entire lifetime as well as gave an estimate of the total number of children they expected to have. These fertility and infertility questions can be found in the fertility section and the self-administered section of the questionnaire.

Child Custody

In addition, the round 1 NLSY97 survey gathered detailed information concerning legal custody and legal responsibility for each child listed by the respondent.  The survey defined "custody" as the place the child was living and "responsibility" as the person who made major decisions about the child's life. After these questions, male respondents were asked if they had ever legally acknowledged paternity by signing the birth certificate, applying for insurance, or using other methods that would establish their relationship to the child. Female respondents were asked the same type of paternity questions about the child's father.

Other Parent of Children

For each child, the survey instruments then asked for the characteristics of the child's other biological parent at the time of conception. Data recorded include race, age, school enrollment, labor market status, welfare recipiency, and highest grade completed. These details were expanded in round 2 with the addition of highest degree received and religious preference. In each round, the respondent is then asked about the type of relationship he or she had with the other person. The first question asks how often the couple had sex (on-going or only once/twice), while the second question asks about the parents' relationship at the time of the birth (i.e., not seen each other for a month or more, still in contact but not sexual, still sexual relationship). 

In round 6, the OTHERPARENTS roster was introduced, which is a list of all people with which the respondents had children. The roster includes links to all of the children and includes demographic information about the parent, including race, age, education, employment, and other information collected throughout various sections. Users are encouraged to first consult the OTHERPARENTS roster when seeking information concerning the other parent of the respondent's child.

Father Engagement

Another set of questions in round 4 addressed only male respondents who had fathered a child and both mothers and fathers in round 5. The respondent provided current information about the other parent of each child, such as enrollment and employment status, program participation status, and income. Respondents also stated whether they currently had a close relationship with the other parent.

In round 4, a series specific to fathers asked about the respondent's relationship with each of his children. Respondents reported whether they participated in prenatal activities such as going with the mother to the doctor, buying things before the baby was born, and being present at the delivery. If the respondent had seen the child in the past month, he stated how often he performed activities such as bathing or dressing the child, preparing a meal for the child, or reading books to the child. 

Child Support

Finally, male respondents provided information about child support. Respondents first reported the amount of support awarded in a child support agreement and then stated whether they had provided additional informal support, such as performing household repairs, buying clothes for the child, or buying household items or gifts for anyone in the household, in the past 12 months. Starting in round 5, most of this section was expanded to include all respondents who were parents, not just fathers. In round 6, the questions about additional informal support were dropped.

Children with Special Needs

A series of questions about special-needs children was introduced in round 8. For each child, respondents reported whether the child has a special condition that demands attention and makes it difficult for the respondent to go to school or work, if the condition prevents the child from attending school or doing school work or prevents the child from regular play. (see YFER-1895B.01 through YFER-1895H.01).

Adopted Children

Questions about adopted children have been present in each survey. Information collected includes the child's birth date, gender, residence, date the child died or left the respondent's household, and whether the respondent is still the legal adoptive parent. Note that no respondents reached this series in round 1 because of an age restriction and no respondents reported having any adopted children in round 2. Only a very small number of adopted children have been reported by respondents each survey round.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: Information on fertility and on the status of children has been regularly collected from the NLSY79, Children of the NLSY79 age 15 and older, and the Original Cohorts. Data include number of children, dates of birth, gender, and life status. The NLSY79 also collected information on the expectations of having children. Refer to each cohort's User's Guide for exact survey years and the types of information available.

Survey Instruments: Questions on pregnancy are found in the self-administered section (question names begin with YSAQ in rounds 1-5 and YSAQ2 in rounds 6 and up) of the Youth Questionnaire; questions on children are found in the fertility (YFER) section.

Related User's Guide Sections Sexual Activity & Dating
Main Area of Interest Children
Fertility and Pregnancy
Supplemental Areas of Interest Sexual Activity