Possible Research Agendas

Possible Research Agendas

Exploring Cognitive and Socio-Emotional Trajectories

The NLSY79 child and young adult study is one of the few large-scale data sets that permit researchers to examine the same children repeatedly over time, allowing them to explore linkages between intellectual and emotional development, or the stability of scores across multiple survey waves. For example, it is possible to examine connections between infant and early childhood cognitive batteries such as the Kagan Memory for Location assessment, the Body Parts assessments, or the Temperament Scale, and their later intellectual development. Further, one can explore possible causal connections between these early cognition measures and not only levels of subsequent cognition (as measured by PPVT or PIAT scores, for example), but also with intellectual trajectories over the early childhood to middle adolescent period. Researchers can also consider variations in trajectories across different socio-economic or racial/ethnic groups. Variations in trajectories may be linked with differences in life cycle paths and these data contain a range of information relating to family structure and family social and economic well-being over time. As of the current survey round, more than 80 percent of children born to the NLSY79 women have been followed up through age 15, or through all of their "testing years." More than two-thirds of the children ever reported by interviewed NLSY79 mothers have been interviewed at least once as a young adult.


Validity of Repeat Measures

These data may be used to explore the face validity of selected assessments over time. As already noted, some children have taken the PIAT assessments as many as five times, so it is possible to examine the stability of normed scores over time (bearing in mind that the sample cases were normed against national standards). Similarly, mothers have repeatedly completed a 28-item behavior problems scale for all of their children as they have aged from 4 to 14 years.  One can also consider how assessment trajectories may be linked to other family factors, including scores on the HOME scale (described in detail in the child assessment sections of this users guide). Repeated measures on this HOME scale provide comprehensive information about the quality of the child's cognitive and socio-emotional home environment for the first 14 years of a child's life. Taken in conjunction with related family information, the repeated measures on these scales allow researchers to explore relevant connections in a more comprehensive and methodologically refined manner than is typically possible. The availability of many sibling pairs (see Tables 5 and 6 in Sample Design) also permits a more careful exploration of how within-family transitions can alter intellectual and socio-emotional developmental processes. Finally, as we describe in sections that follow, selected assessments may also be of value as intervening measures when exploring various within- and between-generational processes.


Early Family and Relationship Transitions and Behaviors

The NLSY79 child and young adult surveys provide excellent data to explore potential predictors of relationship timing, and the types of relationship trajectories that youth follow from mid adolescence and on into adulthood. Beginning at age 13, children report their early sexual activity and fertility experiences. Starting at age 15, in-depth information is collected about relationships in which they have been involved. Beginning with the 1998 survey round, a sequence of items that describe the full range of heterosexual relationships that sexually active youth can be part of are included in the young adult data collection. Family and maternal inputs, as well as over a decade of assessments from childhood, can be used as predictors of transitions into early relationships and also to explore a variety of questions such as why some early relationships last and others do not; why some cohabitations ultimately turn into marriages; and why some young adults have children early while others delay parenthood. It is also possible to investigate why some youth from relatively disadvantaged families effectively avoid some of the hurdles posed by early parenthood whereas others are less successful, and to explore intergenerational tendencies to form early relationships and begin childbearing at young ages.