Possible Research Agendas

Possible Research Agendas

How Children Affect Mothers

For those interested in exploring possible feedback effects, the availability of repeated child measures of several behaviors and attitudes, in conjunction with detailed information about maternal behaviors, permits one to investigate the effect of changing child behaviors on subsequent actions of their mothers. For example, just as one can examine the impact of maternal employment on a child's behavior or changes in a child's behavior, one can also explore how changes in a child's behavior or health can affect subsequent maternal employment decisions.


Variation in High School and College Attendance

The NLSY79 data file includes in-depth information relating to both maternal/family and youth priors that are typically considered as significant analytical predictors of young adult schooling decisions and behaviors. As noted earlier, there has been a substantial increase in the number of youth who have passed through the primary college ages and hence censuring issues associated with very early school leaving have been reduced. As of the current survey round, the data set offers large samples of young adults past adolescence including fairly substantial minority samples. The child data collection includes a wide range of information asked of the mothers and children about school progression patterns, parent-school interaction processes, and child and parental satisfaction with the child's schooling. The young adult survey then collects a range of information about the high school completion process as well as college attendance.  If a young adult has attended college since the date of last interview, the name of the current or most recent college attended is asked as well as the start and stop dates for attendance. Young adults in college are asked their major, whether they are part or full-time students, the cost of attending college, and if they have received degrees of any type. The young adult surveys ask questions about financial aid: whether or not a loan was received and, if so, the amount and how much of the years expenses it covered; whether or not the young adult received work study, scholarships, grants, fellowships, assistantships, as well as various other forms of help from government, institutions, friends, or family. Beginning in 2000, an additional series of questions has been included that ask about all colleges that have been applied to and whether or not the youth was accepted. Given that the college attendance questions have been asked repeatedly since 1994, the data now permit one to construct college trajectories for a relatively large population. These college profiles can be linked with early employment success, differentiating between white, black, and Hispanic youth.

These educational profiles can also be linked with early adult family-related activities. It is also possible to investigate the extent to which cognitive and socio-emotional tests administered in earlier waves are useful predictors of early career or family success, independent of the host of family factors known to be associated with child development. 


Within-Family Differences in Outcomes

Because the NLSY79 child sample is comprised of all children born to female respondents, many sibling clusters have been interviewed over time making it possible to explore the origins of differences between siblings in cognitive, emotional, and particularly behavioral outcomes. It is also possible to clarify the independent impact of differential family behaviors reflecting the reality that children from the same parents may nonetheless encounter different family processes due to variations in their parents' life cycle stages or sibling placement or gender.

A substantial number of children have one to three siblings, and the bulk of these siblings are now of young adult age (see Tables 5 and 6 in Sample Design). In addition to sharing many common data elements, siblings also have unique background characteristics. In the NLSY79, the HOME scale can provide insights into variations in child raising patterns by child parity, gender, or other characteristics such as health status. Many of the older children and young adults are within two or three years of each other in age so their outcomes, such as employment or family attributes can be measured at approximately similar life cycle points. Of course, with every additional survey round, the heterogeneity of the sample increases, bringing more children who have been born to a wider age range of mothers into the young adult sample. It is therefore possible, for example, to explore how child-raising practices for individual young adults may be sensitive to the age of their mother at birth and how this may translate into considerable variation in adolescent and young adult behaviors for children in the same family.