The Pittsburgh Youth Study (PYS) is a part of the Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency (Causes and Correlates), initiated in 1986 by the United States Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Causes and Correlates is designed to improve the understanding of serious delinquency, violence, and drug use by examining how youth develop within the context of family, school, peers, and community. Specifically, PYS aims to document the development of antisocial and delinquent behavior from childhood to early adulthood, the risk factors that impinge on that development, and help seeking and service provision of boys' behavior problems. It also focuses on boys' development of alcohol and drug use, and internalizing problems. Additionally, the study serves as a real-life laboratory for advancing and testing hypothesized developmental pathways.
The initial sample for the Pittsburgh Youth Study (PYS) was selected with the assistance of the Pittsburgh Board of Education in 1987. PYS researchers started out with comprehensive public school lists of the enrollment of 1,631, 1,432, and 1,419 male students in grades 1, 4, and 7 during the 1987-1988 school year respectively. From these lists, researchers randomly selected about 1,100 boys in each of the three grades to be contacted (1,165, 1,146, and 1,125 in grades 1, 4, and 7, respectively). However, a number of the children had moved out of the school district, proved to be girls, or were of incorrect age and were therefore not eligible participants. Eventually, 1,006, 1,004, and 998 families with eligible boys in grades 1, 4, and 7, respectively, were contacted. Boys in grade 1 became the "youngest" sample, boys in grade 4 became the "middle" sample, and boys in grade 7 became the "oldest" sample. From this contact, 84.6 percent, 86.3 percent, and 83.9 percent of the eligible boys in the youngest, middle, and oldest samples respectively chose to participate in PYS.
In order to increase the number of high-risk males in the sample, researchers used a screening assessment on a subset of the boys during the first phase of the study, Phase S. Risk scores from this screening assessment measured each boy's antisocial behavior using parent, teacher, and self-report instruments. Within each grade-based sample, boys identified at the top 30 percent on the screening risk measure (n=~250), as well as an equal number of boys randomly selected from the remaining 70 percent (n=~250), were selected for follow-up in subsequent phases (Phase A- Phase DD). This resulted in the final samples of 503, 508, and 506 boys in grades 1, 4, and 7, respectively, who together with their parent were to be followed up.
The youngest sample (N=503) and the oldest sample (N=506) have been assessed continuously since 1987, while the middle sample (N=508) was only assessed seven times from ages 10-13. Assessments of each of the cohorts were carried out initially half-yearly, and later yearly. When the assessment periods switched from six months to one year, the youngest sample was interviewed every spring and the oldest sample every fall. Each phase letter still represents a six-month period. Thus, all the phases from H through AA have data for only one sample.
The population of 1st, 4th, and 7th grade students and their parents attending public school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the 1987-1988.
This study collection contains only those students, and their parent, who were in fourth grade during the 1987-1988 school year.
Self-Report and mail questionnaires completed by student participants and one parental figure
In-person and telephone structured interviews of student participants and one parental figure
There are 213 datasets present in the Pittsburgh Youth Study (PYS). Each dataset includes variables relating to a particular topic and collected from the student, their caretaker and their teacher. The interviewers themselves also provided appraisals of the student's neighborhood conditions. The topics covered were as follows:
- Demographic Information
- Extent and Consequences of Participant Drug Use and Delinquency
- Peer Drug Use
- Peer Delinquency
- Attitudes Towards Delinquency
- Family Delinquency
- Level of Supervision
- Health History
- Participant Gang Involvement
- Crime Victimization
- Neighborhood Characteristics
- Romantic Relationships and Sexual Experiences
- Caretaker Stress Level
- Employment Status and Skills
- Parenting Style and Involvement
- Attitudes Towards Education
- Parent-Child Relationship and Communication
- Personal Characteristics
- Parental Expectations
- Methods of Discipline
- Household Financial Information
- Insurance Information
Participant retention for the Pittsburgh Youth Study has historically been high (mean=91 percent), with 82 percent of living participants completing the most recent interview conducted in 2001.