Our primary objectives are 1) to extend the NLSY79 Young Adult (YA) data collection for youth ages 21 and over through the 2018 and 2020 data collection rounds and enhance this data collection with information on a) physical health and b) factors associated with both physical and mental/emotional health and well-being, 2) to improve usability of the YA data by creating additional public use variables in three primary areas (relationship history, employment, and environmental pollution exposure) and 3) to disseminate research results and study findings that specifically relate to the NLSY79 YAs to a broad audience, including YA respondents, using a variety of media. By 2020, these youth will represent almost 97 percent of children born to NLSY79 female respondents. The ongoing grant has provided funds for interviews with youth age 21 and over in 2012, 2014 and 2016. With NICHD support, all NLSY79 children have received a variety of cognitive and socio-emotional assessments biennially since 1986. Young adults ages 15 and over were first interviewed in 1994 and were asked questions paralleling those asked of their mothers in their adolescent years. Interviews with the NLSY79 YAs ages 21 and over have been funded by a grant from NICHD since 2000, again including questions paralleling those asked of their mothers at the same ages. Linking the child data with a range of maternal, family and child attributes, behaviors and attitudes from the full NLSY79 life span has permitted researchers across multiple disciplines in the sciences and social sciences to carry out a range of programmatic and policy-relevant research. For many researchers, however, a critical issue concerns connections between developmental trajectories in childhood and adolescence and subsequent adult success, health and well-being. Extending this data collection through 2020 will enable researchers and policy analysts to explore both within- and cross- generational research topics of core interest to the scientific community, focused on adults through their 20s and 30s, and into their 40s. The NLSY79 YA data set has other qualities relevant to public health. Data on health and environment have been collected on a contemporaneous and frequent basis, siblings and cousins are included, and blacks and Hispanics are overrepresented. Information has been collected on health from each child?s mother through childhood and from each YA since. YA health information can be connected with maternal health behaviors during adolescence and adulthood, and with pre- and post-natal behaviors. It additionally offers the opportunity to begin sorting out cross-generational transferences of illnesses such as diabetes and asthma. Collecting information in 2018 and 2020 on gender identity and sexual orientation, resiliency, loneliness and social isolation, self-worth, and social cognition will expand our understanding of both physical and mental/emotional health and well-being. Creating additional public use variables will help researchers navigate complicated skip patterns, permit comparison of research findings across studies, facilitate intergenerational comparisons and enable the public release of important health related environmental pollution information that could not be generated by anyone outside of CHRR. Our kinship structure with multiple siblings and cousins represented in the data will enable within-family and across-family comparative research, and our large samples of blacks and Hispanics will allow for analyses to specifically consider racial/ethnic differences.

Public Health Relevance

Research is increasingly showing links between developmental trajectories, behaviors, and health and wellness in the first two decades of life on the one hand, and family, economic and health outcomes later in life. Our overriding rationale for continuing to collect data on NLSY79 Young Adults ages 21 and older through 2020 rests on the premise that the processes that lead from more or less successful childhoods can impact many activities in late adolescence, and the costs of childhood and adolescent inadequacies can carry over to adulthood in many ways. These data, that form part of one of the most heavily used intergenerational longitudinal surveys available to the research community, already contain considerable health related data. The proposed effort will enhance health and environmental information previously collected opening up new avenues of enquiry to researchers from an even broader range of disciplines.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Social Sciences and Population Studies B Study Section (SSPB)
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Bures, Regina M
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Ohio State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Colen, Cynthia G; Ramey, David M; Cooksey, Elizabeth C et al. (2018) Racial disparities in health among nonpoor African Americans and Hispanics: The role of acute and chronic discrimination. Soc Sci Med 199:167-180