ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 4 – Digits Backwards

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The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) assessed study mothers during the study’s fourth ‘Focus on Mothers’ clinic using a Digits Backwards 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 Digits Backwards measure administered as part of FOM4 are outlined in the table below.


Domain:Verbal memory
Measures:Working memory
CHC:Gsm (short-term memory)
Administration method:Trained interviewer; face to face; clinical setting
Procedure:The interviewer read aloud a series of numbers and asked the participant to immediately repeat them backwards. For example;
Interviewer: "1-5-9"
Participant: "9-5-1"
The task was discontinued if the participant did not correctly recall any of the digits.
Link to questionnaire:http://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/researchers/our-data/clinical-measures/ (opens in new tab)
Scoring:Each item was scored 0, 1 or 2 points as follows:
2 points = if the participant passed both trials
1 points = if the participant passed only 1 trial
0 points = if the participant failed both trials
Maximum score = 14 points
Item-level variable(s):Not readily available
Total score/derived variable(s):fm4cg011
Descriptives:Raw score
N = 2,846
Range = 2-14
Mean = 7.40
SD = 2.34
(click image to enlarge)
Age of participants (years):Mean = 53.13, SD = 4.43, Range = 40 - 67
Other sweep and/or cohort:ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 2 – Digits Backwards
ALSPAC – Focus on Mothers 3 – Digits Backwards
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’.