ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 3 – Digit Symbol Coding

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The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) assessed study mothers during the study’s third ‘Focus on Mothers’ clinic using a Digit Symbol Coding measure.

The study of ALSPAC study mothers began in 2008 with the aim of determining what factors are related to body size, bone density, blood pressure, glucose, insulin and abnormal blood lipids in women. This ‘Focus on Mothers’ (FOM) study consisted of four clinics held during the following periods: i) 2008 – 2011, ii) 2011 – 2013, iii) 2013 – 2014, and iv) 2014 – 2015. Each clinic lasted approximately 2.5 hours. For further details see Fraser et al. (2012). Along with various physical measures, measures of cognitive ability/functioning were collected at clinics FOM2, FOM3, and FOM4.

Details on the Digit Symbol Coding measure administered as part of FOM3 are outlined in the table below.


Domain:Non-verbal memory and processing speed
Measures:Visual perception
Short-term memory
Motor coordination
CHC:Gs (processing speed)
Glr (long-term storage and retrieval)
Gv (Visual Processing)
Administration method:Trained interviewer; face to face; clinical setting; pen and paper task
Procedure:Participants were presented with a series of numbers that were each associated with unique symbols. They were then presented with a list of numbers and asked to copy the matching symbols as quickly as possible. A practice trial was administered, and the real test lasted for 120 seconds.
Link to questionnaire:http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/researchers/our-data/clinical-measures/ (opens in new tab)
Scoring:One point was awarded for each correctly copied symbol within the allotted time
Item-level variable(s):Not readily available
Total score/derived variable(s):fm3cg013
Descriptives:Raw score
N = 2,979
Range = 22 - 133
Mean = 82.50
SD = 13.77
(click image to enlarge)
Age of participants (years):Mean = 52.00, SD = 4.45, Range = 38 - 67
Other sweep and/or cohort:ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 2 – Digit Symbol Coding
ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 4 – Digit Symbol Coding
Source:Wechsler, D. (1998).WAIS-III UK administration and scoring manual. London, UK: The Psychological Corporation
Technical resources:None
Reference examples:Anderson, E. L., Heron, J., Ben-Shlomo, Y., Kuh, D., Cooper, R., Lawlor, D. A., ... & Howe, L. D. (2017). Adversity in childhood and measures of aging in midlife: Findings from a cohort of British women. Psychology and Aging, 32(6), 521-530.

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This page is part of CLOSER’s ‘A guide to the cognitive measures in five British birth cohort studies’.