Young Adult Survey Instrument Structure and Content

Young Adult Survey Instrument Structure and Content

When the Young Adult survey was first designed for the 1994 survey round, many of the CAPI sections exactly paralleled those administered to the main NLSY79 respondents. Other sections of the questionnaire were tailored for this cohort. One important part of the design process was to review the 1979 NLSY79 questionnaire to consider where Young Adults could be asked questions that were essentially the same as those that had been asked of their mothers in their first survey round. Other years of the NLSY79 were also reviewed for questions to include. The Young Adult questionnaire remained fairly stable as an instrument through the 1998 fielding, with changes in parallel sections mirroring those in the NLSY79 Youth.

The Young Adult survey instrument underwent a major redesign in 2000 and differs in a variety of important ways not only from the main Youth questionnaire, but also from the previous Young Adult instruments. The questionnaire was streamlined and adjusted for telephone administration, so that most interviews could be undertaken in less than one hour. Additionally, more pre-existing information was incorporated into information sheets to determine branching for each respondent’s path through the questionnaire. Branching also occurred throughout the questionnaire based on answers provided by the respondent. Many of the items that are comparable across the main Youth and the Young Adult were retained. Although not a complete listing of these items, Table 1 below provides users with a listing of attitudinal and behavioral sequences in the Young Adult and indicates where comparable data can be found for the mothers.

The 2002 survey instrument remained very similar to the 2000 questionnaire while incorporating questions directed to the younger Young Adults that paralleled questions they had been asked in the Child Survey when they were 10 to 14 years old. Questions concerning weapons in school were also added.

Prior to the 2004 fielding, we assessed the viability of changes made in 2000 and 2002 and questioned if there were additional needs. The redesign for 2004 focused on improving data collected on fertility and relationships, which have become increasingly important as this cohort ages, as well as enlarging the scope of health-related data.

For the 2006 fielding, we again assessed the changes we had made in the questionnaire for 2004 as well as incorporating additional questions to expand the range of data we collect. New questions were included to ascertain biological relatedness among the young adult's siblings in the Child database. We also added questions about catastrophic events, assets and debts, and the Ten-Item Personality Inventory. The 2006 questionnaire also included a series of political questions, funded through the American National Election Survey (ANES) with a grant from the National Institute of Health.

Prior to the 2008 fielding, the Young Adult survey instrument once again underwent a major re-evaluation and redesign. This redesign focused on social psychological issues, job characteristics, and military service, as well as on parenting for both residential and nonresidential children, maternity leave, and relationships. 

The redesign for the YA2010 survey round included bringing forward information on household members as well as current jobs from the date of last interview, as well as an expansion of questions concerning financial difficulties, perceived fairness in relationships, and gender role item. Questions about the height and weight of biological children were added. Additionally, a health module for older Young Adults was started in 2010. For 2010 and 2012, this module was asked of all respondents age 29 or older.

The YA2012 survey round included questions about perceived discrimination. One series, asked of those 21 and older, is about major instances of discrimination. A second, answered by all respondents, asks about day-to-day discrimination. The discrimination questions were asked in 2014 to those respondents who did not participate in the 2012 survey round. In 2016, these discrimination items were again asked of all respondents. 

Other additions made in the YA2012 redesign include adding head injury questions to the extended health module, adding childhood adversity items for respondents age 21 and over, and the addition of the Behavior Problems Index (BPI) to the questions asked of respondents about the children in their household. The childhood adversity items will continue to be asked of YAs as they reach 21 or if they have not yet answered them.

As part of the redesign of the YA2014 questionnaire, the answer categories for the questions concerning grade currently attending/highest grade attended and highest grade completed were changed. Everyone who was interviewed in 2014, whether or not they were either currently attending or had attended school since the date of last interview, was asked these questions with the new categories. In future rounds, any YA who has not yet answered these questions with the new categories will be asked them whether or not the YA is either currently attending or has attended school since the date of last interview. The migration questions were modified to more closely parallel those asked of the mothers in the NLSY79 survey. Additionally, a new module for self-employment based on a subset of questions from the NLSY79 was added. 

In 2012 and 2014, a subset of Young Adult respondents took both the TIPI and the mini-IPIP, a 20-item short form of the 50-item International Personality Item Pool-Five-Factor Model measure. This allows researchers to assess how closely these two measures of the Big 5 Personality Factors converge.

Much of the redesign for the YA2016 focused on adjusting response categories based on "other specify" responses as well as response patterns across rounds. Another focus of the redesign was to accommodate the addition of 12 and 13 years olds into the YA fielding, as the Child Supplement is no longer being fielded. The 12 and 13 year olds answer far fewer questions, and many of the added questions are from the Child Supplement and are asked only of the 12 and 13 year olds. 

Also part of the YA2016 redesign was a review and updating of the examples given in our drug use items, as well as the addition of questions about electronic cigarettes, synthetic marijuana, and narcotics/opioids.

The redesign of the YA2018 focused on streamlining and shortening the existing questionnaire to facilitate the addition of new survey questions about loneliness and social isolation, as well questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. The YA2018 also included the General Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7). Developed by Spitzer, Kroenke, Williams and Lowe, the GAD-7 asks respondents how often they have experienced certain feelings associated with anxiety in the past two weeks. The survey included questions about the health and well-being of their parents as perceived by the Young Adult respondents.

The redesign of YA2020 questionnaire included the addition of the six-item Brief Resilience Scale asked of everyone as well as a series of questions about perimenopause and menopause asked of women over age 30. The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic, however, led to the development and inclusion of a variety of questions to assess the impact of the pandemic on the lives of the YA respondents. Questions were added to assess this impact on employment, income and assets, health, family, and children’s schooling. Additionally, all respondents were re-asked the General Anxiety Disorder Scale (GAD-7), so that there is a pre-Covid and post-Covid anxiety measure for respondents interviewed in both 2018 and 2020.

Table 1.  Selected Attitudinal/Behavioral Sequences Available for Young Adults and for Mothers

Question Sequence Mothers YA 1994-1998 YA 2000-2004 YA 2006-present
  Job Satisfaction X X X X
  Fertility Desires/Expectations X X X X
  Educational Desires/Expectations X X X X
  Career Expectations X (Women) X X X
  Marriage Expectations X X X X
  Pregnancy "Wantedness" x X X X
  Women's Roles Scores X X X X
  Relationship Quality X X X X
  Locus of Control Rotter, Pearlin Pearlin Pearlin Pearlin
  Rosenberg Self-Esteem X X X X
  Depression Scale (CES-D) X X X X
  Anxiety Scale (GAD-7) X (2018)     X (2018, 2020)
  Brief Resiliency Scale (BRS) X (2018, 2020)     X (2020)
  Ten-Item Personality Inventory X     X
  Schieman Anger Scale       X (08 onward)
  Political Beliefs X     X (06 & 08 only)
  Religion X X X X
  Voting and Political Participation X     X (06 & 08 only)
  Police Contact X X X X
  Delinquency X X X X
  School Discipline X X X X
  Ever/Age First X X X X
  Frequency/Intensity X X X X
  Location X X    
  Age first/last X X/Recency X/Recency X/Recency
  Workplace Use     X X
  Dependency     X X
  Lifetime frequency X X    
  30 day frequency X X X X
  Ever/Recency/Workplace Use     X X
Cocaine ("Crack" separate in 92, 94)   (separately) (separately) (separately)
  Age first/last X X/Recency X/Recency X/Recency
  30 day frequency X X X  
  Lifetime frequency X X    
"Other" Drugs (laundry list) (more detail) (more detail) (more detail)
  Ever X X X X
  Lifetime frequency X X    
  Age first/last X X/Recency X/Recency X/Recency
  30 day frequency X X X X
  Ever X X X  
  Age first/last X X/Recency X/Recency X/Recency
  Frequency /Intensity X X X X
Note:  Pearlin = Pearlin Mastery Scale and CES-D = Center for Epidemiologic Studies of Depression Scale

Within the Topical Guide to the Data, users can find information about the contents of each section of the Young Adult survey instrument as well as changes that have occurred within each section over time. To understand the survey flow fully, users are encouraged to consult the HTML version of the CAPI questionnaire in the Questionnaires section.

Generally speaking, the CAPI data that are released are largely unedited. Exceptions to this pattern are discussed in the relevant sections. Users should note that all the names of the areas of interest for Young Adult data are preceded by "YA." Although many of the areas of interest are almost identical to the section names in the questionnaire, there are exceptions to this pattern. Table 2 provides a summary of the areas of interest in the order in which they appear in the extraction software and a description of their contents.

Table 2.  Young Adult Areas of Interest

Area of Interest Description
YA ATTITUDES Data from Section 16 for 1994-present
YA BETWEEN JOBS Data from Section 8 (Gaps) for 1994-1998
YA BIRTH RECORD 1994 Data from the 1994 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 1996 Data from the 1996 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 1998 Data from the 1998 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2000 Data from the 2000 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2002 Data from the 2002 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2004 Data from the 2004 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2006 Data from the 2006 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2008 Data from the 2008 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2010 Data from the 2010 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2012 Data from the 2012 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2014 Data from the 2014 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2016 Data from the 2016 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2018 Data from the 2018 fertility section (Section 12)
YA BIRTH RECORD 2020 Data from the 2020 fertility section (Section 12)
YA CHILD CARE Data from Section 13 for 1994-present
YA CHILDREN IN THE HOUSEHOLD Data from Section 13 for 2020
YA COMMON KEY VARIABLES Commonly used variables from all YA years as well as constructed summary
YA CPS Data from Section 6 (CPS) for 1994-98
YA DATING AND MARRIAGE Data from Section 3 for 1994-present
YA FAMILY BACKGROUND Data from Section 2 for 1994-present
Cleaned variables relating to biological children, marriage and cohabitation
YA FIRST JOB AFTER HIGH SCHOOL Data from Section 10 for 1994-present
YA GEOCODE 1994 Constructed geocode variables for 1994 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 1996 Constructed geocode variables for 1996 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 1998 Constructed geocode variables for 1998 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2000 Constructed geocode variables for 2000 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2002 Constructed geocode variables for 2002 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2004 Constructed geocode variables for 2004 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2006 Constructed geocode variables for 2006 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2008 Constructed geocode variables for 2008 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2010 Constructed geocode variables for 2010 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2012 Constructed geocode variables for 2012 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2014 Constructed geocode variables for 2014 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2016 Constructed geocode variables for 2016 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2018 Constructed geocode variables for 2018 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA GEOCODE 2020 Constructed geocode variables for 2020 (Available only on Geocode release)
YA HEALTH Data from Section 14 for 1994-present
YA HOUSEHOLD RECORD Final (cleaned) household rosters and selected items from Section 1 for 1994-present
YA INCOME Data from Section 15 for 1994-present
YA INTERVIEWER REMARKS Selected data from the Interviewer Remarks Section for 1994-present
YA JOB INFORMATION Data on job characteristics collected in the Employer Supplements for 1994-present
and Section 7 for 2000-present
YA JOBS Basic job data collected in Section 7 for 1994-1998
YA LAST JOB Data from Section 9 for 1994-present
YA MILITARY Data from Section 5 for 1994-present
YA SCHOOL Data from Section 4 for 1994-present
YA SELF REPORT Data from the YASRB for 1994-1998 and the YASR section for 2000-present
YA TRAINING Data from Section 11 for 1994-present