Denver Youth Survey Waves 1-5, (1988-1992) [Denver, Colorado] (ICPSR 36473)

Version Date: Jan 4, 2017 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
David Huizinga, University of Colorado-Boulder


Version V1

DYS Waves 1-5

The Denver Youth Survey (DYS) is part of the larger "Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Delinquency" initiated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 1986. The DYS is a longitudinal study of problem and successful behavior over the life course that focuses on delinquency, drug use, victimization, and mental health. The DYS is based on a probability sample of households in "high-risk" neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado. These neighborhoods were selected on the basis of their social ecology in terms of population and housing characteristics. Only socially disorganized neighborhoods with high official crime rates (top one-third) were included. The survey respondents include 1,528 children and youth who were 7, 9, 11, 13, or 15 years old in 1987, and one of their parents, who lived in one of the more than 20,000 randomly selected households.

The survey respondents include 807 boys and 721 girls and include White (10 percent), Latino (45 percent), and African American (33 percent) youth, as well as 12 percent from other racial/ethnic backgrounds. The child and youth respondents, along with one caretaker, were interviewed annually from 1988 until 1992, and annually from 1995 until 1999. The age range covered by the study is from age 7 through age 26.

The dataset contains 1,528 cases and 22,081 variables.

Huizinga, David. Denver Youth Survey Waves 1-5, (1988-1992) [Denver, Colorado]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2017-01-04.

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Drug Abuse

Due to the sensitive nature of the data and to protect respondent confidentiality, the data are restricted from general dissemination. They may only be accessed at the ICPSR Data Enclave in Ann Arbor, MI. Users wishing to view these data must complete an Application for Use of the ICPSR Data Enclave (available for download as part of the documentation for this study), and receive permission to analyze the files before traveling to Ann Arbor. More general information about the Enclave may be found at ICPSR's Enclave Data Web site.

Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research
1988 -- 1992

Funding for the first five waves of the Denver Youth Survey was primarily provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) with supplemental funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the German-American Academic Council (GAAC) and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

All of the Wave 1 through Wave 5 data has been arranged into one large data file. If a user prefers, the creation of independent files for each Wave of data, or smaller analysis files can easily be constructed from the large combined Wave1-Wave 5 file. The data file is arranged with ID variables first followed by child/youth sex and date of birth, followed by all 5 waves of the Parent data, then all 3 waves of the Child data, and then all 5 waves of the Youth data.

The dataset contains some variables that were masked by the DYS research team due to confidentiality concerns, so not all variables described in the data documentation are available for data analysis.

To allow for replication, many of the measures from the interview are drawn from a set of common measures developed at the beginning of the study in concert with the Pittsburgh Youth Study and the Rochester Youth Development Study. Measures cover a wide range of variables that can be categorized into seven domains: parent-child relations, school factors, peer relationships, family sociodemographic-characteristics, parental stressors, area characteristics, and individual characteristics.

The DYS Wave 6-11 data and documentation are available at NACJD/ICPSR under ICPSR Study Number 36474 (see;

The Denver Youth Survey (DYS) is a longitudinal study that examines the causes, correlates, and consequences of delinquency, drug use, and other problem behaviors. The primary goal of the study is to identify social conditions, personal characteristics and developmental patterns linked to sustained involvement in delinquency and drug use over the life course.

The design of the DYS included the selection of respondents from socially disorganized neighborhoods of Denver, Colorado. Socially disorganized neighborhoods were identified by a formal social area analysis. In addition, respondents were selected only from neighborhoods with high crime rates.

All interviews were conducted in private settings, usually in the respondent's home. The vast majority of interviews were conducted in a face-to-face format, although for later waves, respondents who had moved some distance from the research site (nationally or internationally) were interviewed by telephone under strict privacy rules. All interviews (child, youth, young adult, and parent) were conducted after obtaining informed consent/assent from the respondent and from a parent of all respondents under the age of 18.

For each Wave, the DYS interviews include a Main Parent Interview that includes family information about the family (marital status of parents, parental employment, family income, etc.) and information about one child/youth respondent. If there was more than one participating child/youth in the household, then one supplemental interview was conducted for each remaining participating child/youth that asked for information about that specific child/youth.

For the purpose of analyses, the general family information applicable to all children/youth was integrated with the data from the supplemental interviews to create a set of complete data for each child/youth.

A total of 45,694 households were identified in the enumeration process. In the first sampling, 18,804 households were selected. The second or over-sampling of the "traditional disorganized" area included an additional sample of 1,473 from the 12,204 enumerated households in this stratum.

Sampled households were screened for the presence of eligible children and youth (those aged 7, 9, 11, 13, or 15 in 1987) by completing a household listing ("family chart") of all persons residing in a selected household and obtaining their birth dates. This screening information was obtained from an adult residing in the household. Households containing an eligible child/youth respondent were included in the sample, and interviews with all eligible children and youths, and one of their parents (principal caretaker) were attempted.

The screening process resulted in listings for 20,331 households or "listing lines" and in households in which two or more families were living, a separate family chart was obtained for each family. For the purpose of the study, each additional dwelling unit and each additional family in multiple family households resulted in an additional "listing line," so that all individual families that included an eligible child would each be interviewed as a separate family. Because of this, there are more households listed as being screened than the size of the original household sample. Also, during the screening effort, it was discovered that some structures identified as dwelling units during the enumeration process, were not in fact dwelling units. When such structures were selected as part of the household sample, they were considered to be "blank draws," to preserve the original sampling fraction and not affect the probability of selection of other households. The overall successful screening completion rate was approximately 92 percent.

Of 1,360 households that contained eligible youth, interviews were completed in 1,145 households. The remaining 215 households were "family refusals," where in most cases parents refused to participate for themselves and for their children. In a very few cases, the parents provided permission, but all of the children in the household/family refused to participate. Similar outcomes hold for families, which includes counts for families living in multiple family households. In 21 households, a child or youth interview was completed but an interview with the parent/caregiver for that household was not completed.

A total of 1,808 eligible youth resided in the successfully screened sampled households, of whom 1,528 completed an interview in the first year of the study, for a completion rate of 85 percent. A total of 1,132 parents/principal caretakers of these youth also completed 1,496 interviews about their participating children, for a completion rate among parents of participating youth of 98 percent.

Longitudinal: Panel

Children and youth who were 7, 9, 11, 13, or 15 years old in 1987, and one of their parents, who lived in one of the more than 20,000 randomly selected households in Denver, Colorado.

Individual Child, Individual Youth, Individual Caretaker
survey data

The selection of variables was guided by the problem behaviors and by the rich mix of variables provided by a theoretical model guiding the project with a focus on biological history, neighborhood social disorganization and effect, conventional and deviant socialization and bonding, personality and mental health, peer influences, secondary (external) controls and rational choice. Topics covered in the data include:

  • Measures of drug use and delinquency as well as other problem behavior and psychopathology
  • Family demographics, neighborhood social characteristics and family integration and support within these neighborhoods
  • Family variables including parenting, the child's involvement and attachment to the family, marital discord, parent's domestic violence, and self-reported parental drug use and criminality, as well as arrests of family members
  • Child/youth involvement in school, community activities, religious activities, and work
  • Personal and psychological characteristics of the child/youth
  • Personal and psychological characteristics of parents
  • Medical history including birth trauma, family medical and behavioral problems, developmental and learning problems as well as current physical characteristics and nutrition
  • Involvement with and the delinquent/drug use orientation of peers, including a special section on gangs
  • Educational, occupational, and current social strain
  • Secondary controls and rewards for drug use and delinquency, including risk of arrest and juvenile justice system processing
  • Use of Drug Treatment and Mental Health Services by focal child/youth respondents and other family members and
  • Measures for examining rational choice theory

The project obtained over a 90 percent retention rate in each of the first five years.


2018-02-15 The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented. The previous citation was:
  • Huizinga, David. Denver Youth Survey Waves 1-5, (1988-1992) [Denver, Colorado]. ICPSR36473-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2016-06-24.

2017-01-04 Updated User Guide

2016-07-08 Application for Use of the ICPSR Data Enclave (User Agreement) added to Physical Enclave files.

2016-06-24 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

Weights were derived from the inverse of the probability of household selection within each stratum, normed to provide an approximation to the original total sample size. The normed weights were used so that the general sample size of the study would be maintained and the power of statistical tests would more appropriately reflect the actual sample size of the study.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • One or more files in this data collection have special restrictions. Restricted data files are not available for direct download from the website; click on the Restricted Data button to learn more.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.