NCDS – Child of CM (Multi-Age) – WISC-R Digit Span Subscale

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The 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS) assessed the children of a sub-sample of cohort members (CMs) using the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R): Digit Span Subscale.

The child assessments included in the NCDS5 Child Interview (conducted when the CM was aged 33) applied only to the natural or adopted children of CMs aged 3 years, 11 months, and 16 days or older. Some 3,575 (71 percent) of the cohort children identified were eligible for the Child Interview. The tests were based on those used by the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) for their 1990 survey of the children of female respondents. These tests were developed in the US and a number of changes (mainly substituting terminology) were made to individual assessments for use in the NCDS.

Prior to administering these tests, the interviewer calculated the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT) age of the child (actual age rounded up or down to the nearest whole month) to establish, if the child was eligible for testing, which tests would be administered and, for some tests, the appropriate starting point of the test. Time at start and completion (24 hour clock) was calculated using the following variables: n520128 n520130 n521935 n521937.

The WISC-R Digit Span Subscale is intended for administration with children aged 7 years or older. Details on this measure as applied to the NCDS sub-sample and the data collected are outlined in the table below.


Domain:Verbal (auditory- working memory)
Measures:Memory span
Working memory
CHC:Gsm (Short-Term Memory)
Administrative method:Interviewer; spoken and child repeats
Procedure:Consists of 28 items: 14 forward and 14 backward. The interviewer read out digits (from 3 to 9), the child listened and repeated the sequence of numbers read out. The child then listened to sequences of numbers read out by the interviewer and repeated them in reverse order. In both parts, the length of the sequence of numbers increased as the child responds correctly.
Link to questionnaire:https://cls.ucl.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Ncds5d.pdf (opens in new tab)
Scoring:(see source materials)
Item-level variable(s):n521738-n521751 (forward items)
n521752-n521765 (backward items)
Total score/derived variable(s):None
Age of participant (months):M = 124.82, SD = 28.46, range = 64 - 224
Descriptives:Not available (see technical resources on deriving scores)
Other sweep and/or cohort:BCS70 – Age 10 – BAS Recall of Digits
ALSPAC – Age 4 – Short-Term Memory (Digit Span Test)
ALSPAC – Age 5 – Short-Term Memory (Digit Span Test)
Source:Weschler, D. (1974). Weschler Intelligence Scales for Children - Revised (New York The Psychological Corporation).
Technical resources:National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, (1988). Child Data (Columbus, Ohio Center for Human Resource Research, The Ohio State University)
Reference examples:Michael, R. (2003). Children’s cognitive skill development in Britain and the United States. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27(5), 396-408.

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