Alcohol Use

Alcohol Use



The child survey included several questions for children ages 10 and older on alcohol consumption. Introduced in 1988, this series asked whether they have ever consumed alcohol, whether they drank in the past three months, their age at first use, and the number of times in the past year they got drunk, how often they consumed alcohol in the past month, how many drinks per day they usually had over the past month, and the most recent time they had a drink of alcohol. 

Starting with the 1988 Child survey, CHRR adapted forms of the NLSY79 main Youth alcohol questions for use with children 10 and older. NIAAA was involved in the development of many of the original Youth alcohol items. Questions from past NHIS surveys were also incorporated that asked respondents:

  • whether they had ever consumed alcohol
  • whether they had consumed alcohol in the past three months
  • their age at first use
  • the number of times in the past year the child had gotten drunk

In designing the alcohol questions, as well as related deviant behavior and substance use items, CHRR staff relied on the expertise of NIDA staff, including James Colliver and Andrea Kopstein (Survey and Analysis Branch, Division of Epidemiology and Prevention Research, SAMHSA) and Lloyd D. Johnston. In choosing the question format for the children 10 and older, the following studies were reviewed:

  1. National Youth Survey (NYS) conducted in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1987 and sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health
  2. the National Household Survey of Drug Abuse (NHSDA), sponsored by the Office of Applied Studies at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  3. the school-based Youth Behavior Risk Surveys (YSRB), conducted every two years starting in 1991, and sponsored by the CDC

Beginning in 1994, when the NLSY79 children age 15 and older moved into the young adult cohort, a more extensive sequence about alcohol use was introduced. The young adult series about alcohol use has some questions adapted from the Child Self-Administered Supplement but most of the young adult questions more closely resemble the NLSY79 main Youth alcohol use questions. 

Table 1 provides the child question names of the alcohol use questions asked of the NLSY79 Children. The pattern of administration of these questions on drinking can be found in the Asterisk Table

Table 1. NLSY79 Child: Alcohol Use Questions for Children Ages 10 and Older, 1988-2014

Year Eligible ages* Question Names Question # in CSAS
1988 10+ CS884246-CS884248 Q. #34-36
1990 10+ CS906655-CS906659 Q. #36-38
1992 10+ CS926855-CS926859 Q. #49-51
1994 10-14 CS942633-CS942641 Q. #53-57
1996 10-14 CS960933-CS960941 Q. #55-59
1998 10-14 CS98056-CS98060 Q. #56-60
2000 10-14 CSAS056-CSAS060 Q. #56-60
2002-2014 10-14 CSAS056A-CSAS060 **
*From 1988-1992, all children ages 10 and older were asked questions regarding alcohol use. Starting in 1994, these questions were asked of Child respondents ages 10-14.
**Starting in 2002, with the conversion of the Child Self-Administered Supplement to CAPI, the question numbers are replaced by CAPI question names.


Important Information

In the NLSY79 main Youth, mothers provide information about the quantity and frequency of their own alcohol consumption in the 1982-1985, 1988-1989, 1992, 1994, 2002, 2006-current surveys. See the main Youth Alcohol Use topical section for details about alcohol use questions by survey year.

Peer pressure to drink alcohol

From 1992-2014, children ages 10-14 were asked whether they felt pressure from friends to drink alcohol. This question was assigned to the CHILD SELF-ADMINISTERED SUPPLEMENT area of interest. See the topical guide entry on child Attitudes and Expectations for more information about the peer pressure questions in the Child Self-Administered Supplement.

Survey Instruments Questions on alcohol use are found in the Child Self-Administered Supplement.


Young Adult

In all survey rounds, the Young Adult survey has asked questions about alcohol use. From 1994 to 1998, these questions were in the Young Adult Self-Report Booklet, a paper-and-pencil supplement. With the integration of the Self-Report Booklet into the CAPI instrument in 2000, the number of questions was reduced.

Some alcohol use questions have been asked in all survey rounds. The core set that are asked include:

  • Age at first alcohol use
  • Age when R first drank alcohol once a month or more
  • Frequency of drinking alcohol in the last 12 months
  • Usual number of drinks on days when R drank in the last 30 days

Respondents who report drinking several times a month and more than two drinks per day are additionally asked how often in the past 12 months, during or after drinking, they have:

  • gotten into an argument or fight
  • had problems with the police
  • stayed home from school, or gone late to school because they were drunk or hung over  
  • stayed home from work, or gone late to work because they  were drunk or hung over

First-time Young Adults who are aged 18 and under are asked:

  • About how many of the students in your grade at school drink at least sometimes?
  • About how many of the people your age that you hang around with drink at least sometimes?
  • About how many of the people your age in your neighborhood drink at least sometimes?

Between 1994 and 1998 the Young Adult survey included more questions about drinking behavior, such as how recently the respondent had had a drink and how often they had 5 or more drinks at a time. There were also questions about what kind of alcohol was usually consumed, where, and with whom. A greater number of problem behaviors during or after drinking were asked about. Users can view these questions in the year-specific questionnaires.

Peer pressure to try alcohol

Since 2002, young adults ages 18 and younger have been asked whether they feel pressure from friends to drink alcohol. This question has also been asked since 1992 of the 10 to 14 years olds in the Child Self-Administered Supplement. See the topical guide entry on Attitudes and Expectations for more information about the peer pressure questions in both the Young Adult and the Child Self-Administered Supplement.

Alcohol use during pregnancy

Since 1983, NLSY79 mothers have been asked about the use of alcohol during each pregnancy ending in a live birth. Female Young Adult respondents are also asked about the use of alcohol in each of their pregnancies resulting in a live birth.

Alcohol use in the family

Mothers of the Young Adult respondents have answered a variety of questions about their own alcohol use in the NLSY79 survey. Additionally, beginning in 2012, Young Adults are asked in the first survey in which they are 21 or older whether or not before the age of 18 they lived with anyone who was a problem drinker or an alcoholic. This question is part of the childhood adversity series.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys:  NLSY79 respondents have provided information about the quantity and frequency of their alcohol consumption in most survey years. The NLSY79 Child Self-Administered Supplement has included questions about alcohol use since 1988.

The NLSY97 round 1 survey first established whether the respondent had ever consumed an alcoholic beverage and asked for the respondent's age at first use. In subsequent rounds all respondents were asked whether they had drunk an alcoholic beverage since the date of last interview and if so what was the quantity and frequency of alcohol use. 

The 1989 and 1995-2003 interviews of the Mature Women, the 1991-2003 surveys of the Young Women, and the 1990 survey of Older Men also gathered data on the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption. For more information, refer to the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments Questions on alcohol are found in the Young Adult Instrument, Young Adult Self-Report Section.
Area of Interest YA Self Report