The survey is composed entirely of single-item measures; there are no multi-item scales. States may add their own questions to the survey and may also choose not to field questions that they find problematic. It is not uncommon for states to omit certain sex-related questions, for example.

The CDC works with participating state and local education agencies, which administer the survey, to produce survey samples that are representative of their youth in-school populations. In 1999, 22 of the 42 participating states fielded representative samples. CDC staff receive raw data from participating agencies, process the data, and provide estimates back to the states. In addition, summary results that include estimates for participating states and metropolitan areas are published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2000c).

In comparison with the other surveys in Table 8–1, this survey focuses rather narrowly on health-related conditions and behaviors. There are, for example, no questions related to cognitive or social development and only four questions refer to the social setting in which youth develop (including one focused on television watching). However, the questions in the domains of physical development and safety and negative outcomes and behaviors are very rich, covering important issues not touched on in the other surveys. Questions unique to the YRBS include: height and weight (from which one can develop an obesity measure); forced intercourse; pregnancy; the co-occurrence of drug use and intercourse; detailed nutrition information; use of sunscreen or sunblock at SPF15 or higher; timing of last routine physical exam; incidence of physical fighting with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend; and incidence of vomiting or taking laxatives to prevent weight gain. In addition, the questions about physical exercise and sexual activity are more detailed than in the other surveys.

Topic-Specific Survey Instruments

In addition to the more general-purpose surveys just discussed, there are many more narrowly focused instruments that have been developed specifically for youth program monitoring and evaluation purposes. These instruments focus on individual constructs and commonly go into more depth on a topic than the more general surveys. They are most useful to community programs for youth trying to affect a particular outcome, like youth conflict resolution skills or teen pregnancy.

An effort led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Cooperative

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