Attitudes & Noncognitive Skills Measures

Attitudes & Noncognitive Skills Measures

Created Variables

Child Trends, Inc. created a number of scales based on the relationship variables described in this section. The following are available:

FP_YMFRELAT, FP_YFMRELAT. Summarize the parent's marital relationship as reported by the youth, with first variable providing information about residential mother's relationship with residential father and second variable describing the father's relationship with the mother. Scores ranges from 0 to 24, with higher scores indicating a more positive relationship. Available for rounds 1-3.

FP_PPRELAT. Provides relationship quality information based on responding parent's perception of the relationship with his or her spouse; round 1 only. 

FP_YMSUPP, FP_YFSUPP. Provide youth report of quality of relationship with residential mother and residential father, respectively; rounds 1-3. Also available is a relationship measure with non-residential mother (FP_YNRMSUPP) and a measure for non-residential father (FP_YNRFSUPP); round 1 only.

FP_YMPSTYL, FP_YFPSTYL, FP_YNRMPSTYL, FP_YNRFPSTYL. Describe the parenting styles--uninvolved, permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative--of youth's parents/parent-figures. Available for rounds 1-4. Based on the supportiveness/permissiveness questions.

FP_YMMONIT, FP_YFMONIT. Describe the awareness of the youth's activities for up to four parents/parent-figures in rounds 1-4. Scores range from 0 to 16; higher scores indicate greater parental monitoring. Also available are measures for non-residential mother and non-residential father (FP_YNRMMONIT and FP_YNRFMONIT); round 1 only. 

FP_COMMOM, FP_COMDAD. Provides the frequency of communication (ranging from never to everyday) with the youth's non-residential mother figure and father figure. Available for round 4.

FP_ADMOMR, FP_ADDADR. Provides youth report of how often the respondent asked mother figure and father figure advice on an important decision. Available for round 4.

FP_ADEDMOMR, FP_ADJOBMOMR, FP_ADRELMOMR, FP_ADFINMOMR. Provides youth report of how often the respondent's mother figure gave the respondent advice or help on education or training decisions, job decisions or career plans, relationship decisions, financial decisions. Available for round 4.

FP_ADEDDADR, FP_ADJOBDADR, FP_ADRELDADR, FP_ADFINDADR. Provides youth report of how often the respondent's father figure gave the respondent advice or help on education or training decisions, job decisions or career plans, relationship decisions, financial decisions, Available for round 4.

FP_ADMOMIDX, FP_ADDADIDX. Non-residential mother figure and father figure advice scales, these index scores range from 0 to 10 points with higher scores indicating higher frequencies of receiving advice from parental figures. Available for round 4.

Child Trends also created the following scales based on the Achenbach variables (questions that ask about self attitudes) in the round 1 youth and parent questionnaires:

FP_YYFBEHS, FP_YYMBEHS. Based on youth respondent's report, these scales (one for male and one for female youths) depict level of behavioral and emotional problems in youth respondent. Summarizes the data collected by the Achenbach Youth Self-Report variables where respondents respond to a series of statements about themselves. Scores range from 0 to 8, with higher scores indicating more frequent and/or numerous behavior problems. Round 1 only.

FP_PYFBEHS, FP_PYMBEHS. Based on the parent survey report, these scales (one for male and one for female youths) depict level behavioral and emotional problems based on the comparable Achenbach questions in the parent survey. Round 1 only. In addition, Child Trends, Inc., created a mental health scale:

FP_YMNTHLTH. Summarizes the responses to mental health questions into a score indicating whether the respondent has positive mental health or has emotional problems. Higher scores indicate more positive mental health while lower scores indicate more emotional problems. Available for round 4 only.

Codebook Supplement Appendix 9 provides interested researchers with more information. In addition to describing the round 1 creation procedures for these scales, the appendix summarizes the round 1 statistical analyses performed by Child Trends on these variables.

This section describes respondents' attitudes toward the justice system, parents, peers, school, self, risk and respondents' domains of influence, along with other miscellaneous attitudes. It also lists noncognitive skills measures given to NLSY97 respondents. The NLSY97 Youth Questionnaire periodically collected information about the respondents' attitudes toward the justice system and toward their parents. The round 1 Youth Questionnaire also asked about respondents' attitudes toward school and perceptions of their peers and themselves. In some cases, the round 1 Parent Questionnaire asked similar questions of the responding parent. Questions about a respondent's attitude toward self (including mental health issues) were asked in rounds 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12. Rounds 7 and 9 featured a "domains of influence" section, which asked respondents about whom they turned to for advice.

Perceptions about Justice System

In the self-administered section of the round 1-5 surveys, a series of questions focused on the respondent's beliefs about the criminal justice system. The survey first queried respondents about their perceived odds of being arrested if they stole a car. Supposing that he or she had in fact been arrested for stealing a car, the respondent was then asked to report his or her perceived odds of being released without charges, being released with only a fine, and serving time in jail.

Relationship with Parents

The NLSY97 obtains a great amount of detail about the respondent's relationship with his or her parents in each interview. Complementary information was gathered from the responding parent in round 1. This section also collects information about the relationship the respondent's parents have with each other. Users should note that "parent" in these descriptions generally refers to the respondent's parent or parent-figure and not only to biological parents; exceptions are clearly stated.

The universes of respondents who answered these questions and the parents to whom the questions referred changed across rounds. 

Contact with absent parent. In round 1, the survey first determined the specific month and year that the NLSY97 respondent last lived with any absent biological mother or father or adoptive mother or father. Each round established whether the most recent contact with that parent was within a month, a week, or a day. 

A number of questions then focused on the respondent's contact with the absent parent during the past 12 months (round 1) or since the last interview in subsequent rounds. For each of these absent parents, the respondent is asked the following questions:

  • Number of times youth contacted or tried to contact absent parent by mail or phone
  • Number of times youth received a card, letter, or phone call from absent parent
  • Number of times youth visited absent parent without spending the night
  • Number of times youth stayed overnight at the absent parent's home

Starting in round 5, questions about contact with each absent parent were designed to be more suitable for older respondents. In round 5, the two youngest cohorts received the original set of questions, but the three oldest cohorts received a new question set that pertained to absent biological parents and absent parent figures. In round 6, only the youngest cohort received the original series; the four oldest cohorts all received the newer questions. In round 7, the original questions were completely phased out.

Parent's supportiveness and permissiveness. This series first asked whether the respondent feels that each parent is supportive of him or her. A second question gathered information on whether the parent is permissive or strict about making sure the respondent did what he or she was supposed to do. Cohorts vary per survey year. No questions in this category were asked in rounds 5, 8, 9, or 11 and up.

Respondent's opinion of parent. For a group of younger respondents, additional data are collected on the respondent's opinion of each parent. Respondents state whether they think highly of the parent, want to be like him or her, and enjoy spending time with him or her. This series was included in rounds 1-3, 5, and 7. The variable titles changed slightly in round 5.

Parent's knowledge and behavior toward respondent. In rounds 1-3, information about the parent's behavior toward the respondent, collected from a group of younger respondents, included how often the parent did each of the following:

  • Praised the respondent for doing well
  • Criticized the respondent or the respondent's ideas
  • Helped the respondent to do things important to the respondent
  • Blamed the respondent for his or her problems
  • Made plans with the respondent and cancels for no good reason

In addition, the survey gathered data on the respondent's opinion of how well his or her parent knew the respondent's close friends, the parents of the respondent's close friends, the people the respondent is with when not at home, and the respondent's teachers/school activities. Specific questions in this series varied among survey years. These questions were discontinued after round 3.

In rounds 5, 7, and 9, respondents rated how much their parents knew about the respondents' life goals, their values and spiritual beliefs, and their friends.

Parent relationship behaviors. These questions ask about the frequency with which each parent displays the following behaviors:

  • Blames his or her partner for problems
  • Criticizes his or her partner or the partner's ideas
  • Encourages his or her partner to do things that the partner considers important
  • Expresses affection or love for his or her partner
  • Is fair and willing to compromise when they disagree
  • Screams and yells at his or her partner when angry

This series was included in rounds 1-3 and in rounds 5-6.

Contact between respondent's biological parents. These questions determined the frequency of contact between the respondent's biological parents and the level of friendliness or hostility in their relationship. This series was included in rounds 1-3 and round 6.

Several question series about the respondent's parents were added in round 5 for older respondents born in 1980-82 and in round 6 for older respondents born in 1980-83. The first series questioned how often the respondent asked his or her parent for advice or help on education/training/job decisions and on friendships or close personal relationships. Another series asked about the parent's knowledge concerning the respondent's goals and aspirations in life, values and spiritual beliefs, friends, and what the respondent is really like as person. In addition, these respondents were asked how often their family gathers to celebrate family events like birthdays, holidays, weddings, etc. A follow-up question asked the respondent to rate the importance of attending these events to him or her.

Parent Questionnaire (round 1). The NLSY97 also asked two of these series of questions in the parent survey. First, if the youth was born in 1982, 1983, or 1984, the responding parent described the frequency with which his or her spouse or partner displayed the parent relationship behaviors listed above. If the responding parent was one of the youth's biological parents and the other biological parent did not reside in the household, the responding parent answered a second set of questions about the frequency of contact with the other parent and the friendliness or hostility of their relationship.

Perceptions of Peers

Youth Questionnaire. A series of questions in the round 1 survey asked respondents about their perception of their peers' activities and behaviors. Respondents who were enrolled at the time of the survey were asked to estimate the percentage of peers in their grade involved in the activities listed below; respondents who were not enrolled were asked the same questions about the percentage of peers in their grade when last enrolled.

  • Belong to a gang that participates in illegal activities
  • Cut classes or skip school
  • Do volunteer work
  • Ever use marijuana, inhalants, or other drugs
  • Get drunk at least once per month
  • Go to church or religious services on a regular basis
  • Participate in organized sports, clubs, or school activities
  • Plan to go to college
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Ever had sexual intercourse (asked of those age 15 and older)

Attitudes towards School

Youth Questionnaire. The round 1 NLSY97 survey attempted to ascertain the impact that school has had on the feelings of well-being experienced by various youths. To this end, respondents who were enrolled at the time of the survey were asked to agree or disagree with the following statements regarding their school's environment and their teachers:

  • Discipline is fair
  • Disruptions by other students get in the way of my learning
  • I feel safe at this school
  • Students are fairly graded
  • Teachers are good
  • Teachers are interested in the students
  • There is a lot of cheating on tests and assignments

Attitudes towards Self

Youth Questionnaire. In round 1, a series of questions designed to elicit information on the respondent's attitude about him- or herself was asked of respondents born in 1982, 1983, and 1984. These respondents were asked whether they strongly disagreed, disagreed, agreed, or strongly agreed with the following statements: 

  • I hardly ever expect things to go my way
  • I rarely count on good things happening to me
  • I'm always optimistic about my future
  • In uncertain times, I usually expect the best

The round 1 NLSY97 survey asked the same youths questions similar to those found in Achenbach's Youth Self Report. For each behavior, respondents were asked how well the statement described them over the past six months (not true, somewhat or sometimes true, or often true). The questions asked of male and female respondents are listed in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Youth Descriptors of Attitude toward Self

Female respondents Male respondents
You lie or cheat You lie or cheat
Your school work is poor You don't get along with other kids
You have trouble sleeping You have trouble concentrating or paying attention
You are unhappy, sad, or depressed You are unhappy, sad, or depressed

Parent Questionnaire (round 1). Parents were also asked a set of questions similar to Achenbach's Youth Self Report. For each NLSY97 youth born in 1983 or 1984, the responding parent was asked how well each statement described the youth's behavior in the past six months. 

Noncognitive Skills Measures in the NLSY97

Noncognitive skills (or "soft skills") are associated with an individual's personality and temperament and have become increasingly important to employers and to labor market researchers. NLSY97 respondents were assessed on several noncognitive scales:

Goldberg's Big Five Personality Assessment. In round 6, respondents answered 8 personality questions (see YSAQ-282J through YSAQ-282Q) derived from Goldberg's Big Five Personality Assessment. Respondents rated themselves on the following trait spectrums: Disorganized/Organized, Conscientious/Not Conscientious, Undependable/Dependable, Thorough/Careless, Agreeable/Quarrelsome, Difficult/Cooperative, Stubborn/Flexible, and Trustful/Distrustful. These items were selected from Goldberg's Agreeableness and Conscientiousness scales.

Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) Scale. In round 12, respondents provided self-ratings of 10 personality traits, known as the Ten-Item Personality Inventory Scale (TIPI). Using a scale from 1 to 7, they rated how well the following paired traits applied to them: extraverted/enthusiastic; critical/quarrelsome; dependable/self-disciplined; anxious/easily upset; open/complex; reserved/quiet; sympathetic/warm; disorganized/careless; calm/emotionally stable; conventional/uncreative. Question names begin with the prefix "YTEL-TIPIA."

Industriousness Scale. The YTEL-IND variables, also asked in round 12, provide a measure of respondents' Industriousness and are a selected subset of questions from the Chernyshenko Conscientiousness Scale. The respondent is asked how much he/she agrees with the following statements: 

    • "I do not work as hard as the majority of people around me."
    • "I do what is required, but rarely anything more."
    • "I have high standards and work toward them."
    • "I make every effort to do more than what is expected of me."

Grit Scale. In round 16, respondents answered a series of personality questions taken from Duckworth's Short Grit Scale, measuring perseverance and passion for long-term goals. Question names begin with the YSAQ-GRIT prefix. The grit questions were also asked in round 17 and 18 for those not interviewed in round 16.

Note: For information on the Mental Health Inventory (MHI-5) variables, formerly found in the Attitudes section, see the Mental Health Measures paragraph in the Health: Conditions & Practices section.

Domains of Influence

All respondents in round 7 and 9 answered a series of questions (prefix=YDOM) about the people to whom respondents could turn for advice on the following issues: friendships or personal relationships; employment, education, and training; and finances. Respondents gave the total number of people they could ask for advice and the first person to which they would turn (e.g., biological mother, boyfriend/girlfriend, clergy).

In rounds 1-4, 6, 8-15 and 17, a similar question was asked: "If you had an emotional problem or personal relationship problem, who would you first turn to for help?" To find this variable, search "WHO R TURNS TO WITH PERSONAL PROBLEMS?" in NLS Investigator.

Risk Assessment

Round 14 included a series of risk assessment questions, where respondents rated themselves on their willingness to take risks generally as well as for specific areas in their lives such as driving, finances, work, health, faith in people, romance, major life changes, and gambling. They also answered questions about taking risks with the amount of paycheck they earned. Round 15 repeated the risk assessment questions for those respondents not interviewed in round 14. Risk assessment questions can be found in the "Tell Us What You Think" section (question names begin with the prefix "YTEL.")

Miscellaneous Attitude Questions

Starting in round 10, respondents answered other atttitude-related questions that do not easily fit into subcategories. Table 1 provides a description of these questions and in what round(s) they were asked.

Table 1. Miscellaneous Attitude Questions By Rounds

Question name
Amount of extra time R (Respondent) has. Also, how R would want to change amount of time spent on certain activities: job, housework, family, friends, leisure activities, relaxing. YTEL-1A thru YTEL-3. Round 10 (subsample only)
Is R's life exciting, pretty routine, or dull? YTEL-4 Round 10 (subsample only)
R's opinion about government's responsibility for following issues: provide jobs for everyone, keep prices under control, provide health care, provide for elderly, help industry, provide for unemployed, reduce income differences, provide college financial aid, provide decent housing, protect environment. YTEL-11A thru YTEL-11J Round 10 (subsample only)
Rating current life: Has this been a very good time in R's life, pretty good time, pretty bad time, or very bad time. YTEL-21 Rounds 10 and 11 (subsample only )
Importance and effectiveness of NLSY Project YTEL-41 thru YTEL-43 Round 11 (subsample only)
How satisfied R is with life (10-point scale from extremely dissatisfied to extremely satisfied) YTEL-55 Round 12
R's work ethic (6-point scale for four questions about R's attitude toward work) YTEL-IND~000001 thru YTEL-IND~000004 Rounds 12 and 14
R's ethics about rules (7-point scale for questions about R's attitudes towards following rules) YTEL-TRAD~000001 thru YTEL-TRAD~000004 Rounds 12 and 14
R's current, past, and present position on the "Ladder of Life," where top rung represents best possible life and bottom rung represents worst possible life. YTEL-70 thru YTEL-80 Round 13

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: The NLSY79 round 24 instrument includes the same risk assessment questions as the NLSY97. The Children of the NLSY79 age 10 and older (including the Young Adults) have answered questions about their attitudes toward their school and themselves, about their relationship with their parents, and about their parents' relationship with each other. Users should note, however, that the wording of these questions is not identical to the NLSY97. For more information, consult the NLSY79 Child & Young Adult User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: Questions from the Youth Questionnaire are found in the self-administered (question names begin with YSAQ), peers (YPRS), and schooling (YSCH) sections in round 1 and the self-administered section (YSAQ) in rounds 2, 3, and 4. Other question names begin with YTEL. In the round 1 Parent Questionnaire, these questions are found in sections P6 and PC12.

Main Area of Interest Attitudes
Family Process Measures
Illegal Activity & Arrest
Supplemental Areas of Interest Marriage & Cohabitation
Parent Current Status
Parent Retrospective


Achenbach, T. M. Manual for the Youth Self-Report and 1991 Profile. Burlington, VT: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry, 1991.