Core interview

The Core interview consisted of a CAPI (Computer-Assisted Personal Interview) and a CASI questionnaire (Computer-Assisted Self Interview) for all cohort members and was expected to take approximately 50 minutes of interview time.

  • The CAPI interview aimed to update the cohort member’s details on household composition, housing, marital status and partnerships, births and other pregnancies, periods of lone parenthood, children and wider family, employment, family income, academic education, vocational and other training, computer use, basic skills, general health, diet and exercise, height and weight, family activities and social participation.
  • The CASI module included questions about voting behaviour, attitudes, family life, alcohol consumption, general skills, psychological well-being, experience of crime, rating the local services and satisfaction with life.

[Both instruments are available for download in one composite document 'BCS 2004 follow-up CAPI Questionnaire']

If the cohort member could not understand the questions (even through an interpreter) or communicate the answers for themselves, the interviewer attempted to conduct a proxy interview with a carer or family member. The proxy interview was short and asked about key life events such as marriage and children, and about current activity status, qualifications and health. No other elements were administered.

Adult assessment

The Adult assessment measured the cohort member’s basic skills (literacy and numeracy) and symptoms associated with dyslexia and was expected to take 40 minutes of interview time on average. The basic skills section consisted of a series of multiple-choice questions, followed by a set of open-ended questions.

Multiple-choice basic skills questions

The multiple-choice questions were adapted from the Skills for Life Survey , and were administered using CASI. There were several introductory screens, including instructions on completing the assessment and three practice questions, showing different possible formats of questions. These were adapted from those used in the Skills for Life Survey.

The assessment consisted of 20 questions assessing literacy skills and 17 questions assessing numeracy skills. Depending on the cohort members’ answers to the first ten literacy items (screening items), the difficulty of the next ten items changed.

Each question consisted of a visual image and some text. The question always appeared at the top of the screen, the image at the centre, and the four (in most cases) possible answers appeared at the bottom of the screen. The cohort member read the question on the screen and entered his / her answer, and then the next item appeared automatically. For most interviews, the multiple-choice was completed as a CASI, but there was an option for the interviewer to enter the cohort member’s responses if he / she was asked to do so.

Open-ended basic skills questions

After completing the multiple-choice CASI questions, there were thirteen open-ended CAPI questions, seven assessing literacy skills and six assessing numeracy skills. These were derived from the assessment administered to a representative 10% sample of BCS70 cohort members at age 21 in 1991.

These questions were administered in a standard interview format: the interviewer showed the cohort member a visual stimulus on a specified show card, for example a map or a page from the Yellow Pages, and then asked a question. When the cohort member gave their answer, the interviewer coded it as “Correct” or “Incorrect” (including “Don’t Know” responses). For two items that were considered challenging for interviewers to code, there was a third option “Interviewer cannot code” which allowed interviewers to record the cohort members verbatim response. Interviewers used this code if they were unsure whether the cohort member’s response was correct or incorrect. These verbatim responses were coded by the CLS research team.

Reading and writing exercises (dyslexia)

The last part of the Adult Assessment involved administering four exercises adapted from The Dyslexia Adult Screening Test (DAST) which had been modified for use in a survey interview setting. At the end of the interview cohort members were asked to write a couple of sentences about what they had most liked or disliked about being part of BCS70. Apart from being a rich and valuable source of information, a sample of each cohort member’s hand-writing was also collected. Taken together, these exercises provided an instrument for assessing whether an individual was experiencing some of the many symptoms associated with dyslexia. This part of the interview was always referred to as “Reading and Writing exercises” (the term “dyslexia” was avoided as this was not a clinical assessment and had not been well received by respondents) and was expected to take no more than 10 minutes.

The following exercises were administered, using showcards and a specially designed yellow booklet:

  • Reading exercise: The cohort member was asked to read aloud as many words as possible from a list of 120 words in one minute. The words were printed on a showcard and were graded in difficulty.
  • Spelling exercise: The cohort member was asked to spell as many words as possible from a list of 16 words in one minute. The words were read out by the interviewer, and the list contained an additional four words for cohort members who made mistakes spelling the first two words.
  • Spoonerisms exercise: In this exercise the interviewer spoke out pairs of words, and the cohort member was asked to swap their initial sounds. A maximum of three minutes was allowed to complete three Spoonerisms.
  • Reading a nonsense passage: The cohort member was asked to read aloud a 75 word passage containing 15 nonsense (invented) words in three minutes.
  • Writing a few sentences: The cohort members were asked to write a few sentences about how they felt about being part of the BCS70 during their lifetime. This task was introduced at the main stage and aimed also to provide a sample of a cohort member’s writing skills.

Parent & Child CAPI module

This module was an extension of the Core interview, and only applied if the cohort member had natural or adopted children aged 16 years and under in the household. It could only be completed as part of (and towards the end of) the Core interview and was expected to take up to 10 minutes per child to complete. It covered each child’s physical and mental health, any parent-child separations, pre-school care, current education and parental aspirations. The questions depended on the child’s age. If appropriate, the module also collected electronic consent for the child assessments and the child self-completion questionnaire.

This module was always asked of the cohort member, even if the other parent claimed to be more closely involved with the care of their children, but the other parent could contribute to the cohort member’s answers. This element of the interview was structured in a series of loops, so that questions in each section were asked about all eligible children in turn, before moving on to the next topic.

Parent paper self-completion questionnaires

Cohort members were asked to complete a paper questionnaire for each eligible child. The questionnaire covered parenting styles, the child’s physical and cognitive development, parent / child relationship, child’s behaviour, discipline, school absence / exclusion and reading / schoolwork; the questions varied according to the child’s age. The cohort member could ask their partner for help if necessary.

There were four different coloured booklets for children of different ages:

  • pink booklets were administered for children aged 0 to 11 months
  • blue booklets were administered for children aged 1 year to 2 years and 11 months
  • green booklets were administered for children aged 3 years to 5 years and 11 months
  • lilac booklets were administered for children aged 6 years to 16 years and 11 months.

This questionnaire was expected to take around 10 minutes to complete and could be collected by the interviewer at a later visit or posted back by the cohort member using Freepost envelopes.

Child assessments

The child assessments were adapted from the British Ability Scales Second Edition (BAS II) , a well-respected and widely-used educational assessment tool, normally used by educational psychologists in a classroom or clinical setting to examine cognitive development and educational attainment.

The assessments used in the main stage of the BCS70 were adapted for survey use. Each of the cohort member’s eligible children completed three exercises designed to measure a range of verbal and numerical abilities. Although dependent on the child’s age and abilities, each set of exercises was expected to take an average of 20 minutes to complete.

Different exercises were used for different age groups:

Early Years exercises (3 – 5 years and 11 months)

  • Naming Vocabulary: The child was shown a series of pictures and asked to name each of them
  • Early Number Concepts: The child was given a set of simple arithmetic tasks, involving counting and judging quantities
  • Copying: The child was shown a series of line drawings and asked to copy them as accurately as possible. This exercise was not part of the BAS II, but had been completed by the cohort members themselves when they were age 5.

School Age exercises (6 – 16 years and 11 months)

  • Word Reading: The child was asked to read out words from a printed list
  • Spelling: The child was asked to spell words read out by the interviewer
  • Number Skills: The child was given a series of mathematical problems to solve.

All eligible children were given fun packs as a gift or token of thanks after the interview.

Child self-completion questionnaire

All eligible children aged between 10 and 16 years and 11 months were asked to complete a paper self-completion questionnaire (orange booklet). Topics covered in the questionnaire included leisure time activities, the child’s relationship with their parents, their attitudes to school and aspirations for the future, their self-esteem, smoking, drinking, drug use and experience of petty crime. If the child was aged 10 or 11 years old, the interviewer was directed to remove a perforated page from the questionnaire as the questions on this page (for example about drug taking) were not considered appropriate for this age group.

Interviewers were instructed to collect the questionnaire during their visit if at all possible, although the questionnaire could be left with the child (with a return envelope) to post back if necessary. Parents were shown a blank copy of the questionnaire if they wanted to see the content but were strongly discouraged from looking at the child’s responses. This questionnaire took 10 to 15 minutes to complete.