Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS)

Terence P. Thornberry (University of Maryland)
Project Director

Marvin D. Krohn (University of Florida)
Alan J. Lizotte (University at Albany, SUNY)
Project Co-Directors

Phase 1 & 2

The Rochester Youth Development Study was initiated in 1986 to study the causes and consequences of delinquency and drug use in an urban sample of adolescents. A sample of 1,000 seventh and eighth grade students were selected from the Rochester, New York public schools during the 1987-1988 academic year. These students were selected to overrepresent youth at high risk for serious delinquency and drug use, but the entire school population is represented in the study. The initial sample was 73% male and 27% female; 68% were African American, 17% were Hispanic, and 15% were white.

In Phase 1, the students and their primary caretakers, in almost all cases their biological mothers, were interviewed nine times at six-month intervals from the Spring of 1988 (age 14) until the Spring of 1992 (age 18). After a two-year gap in data collection, three annual Phase 2 interviews began in the Fall of 1994 (age 21). At the end of Wave 12 in the Summer of 1997 (age 23), 85% of the initial 1,000 subjects in the study were retained.

The interviews lasted about an hour and cover a wide range of topics including social class position, family structure and processes, educational success, peer relationships, neighborhood characteristics, psychological functioning, social networks, and social support systems. When appropriate, we collected similar information from both the subjects and parents to provide multiple perspectives on these developmental issues. We also collected extensive information about problem behaviors including self-reported delinquency and drug use, gang membership, gun ownership, problem drug use, teenage parenthood, school dropout, and so forth. In addition to the interview data, we collected data from the files of official agencies, including the Rochester public schools, police department, probation department, family court, and social services.

Phase 3 Continuity, desistance, and late onset of antisocial behavior and transitions to adult roles are examined by following the original subjects to age 31. Two additional interviews are conducted at ages 29 and 31. The first of these interviews includes a life history calendar to map events and experiences since their age 23 interview. Much of this information is similar to that collected in the earlier phases of the study, along with information on trajectories such as education, job, and family formation which are more stable at these ages. In addition, data from police, social services, and Division of Criminal Justice Services are updated.

Intergenerational Study

The intergenerational component of the RYDS examines the development of antisocial behavior in a three-generation prospective panel study, by making the children of the original subjects of the RYDS the focal subjects of a long-term study. This allows us to examine two general issues. The first is to describe intergenerational continuity and discontinuity across the generations for a broad spectrum of antisocial behaviors including such dimensions as onset, course, and severity.

The second is to identify mediating processes to explain the intergenerational transmission of antisocial behavior. We capitalize on the broad range of developmental data collected over 10 years in the early phases of the RYDS about the parents and grandparents of the current focal subjects. Combining the data collected earlier with the data being collected in the Intergenerational Study allows us to examine how the parent’s own developmental course influences their transition to adulthood and their behavior as parents which, in turn, can be used to explain the onset and development of the child’s antisocial behavior.

The focal subjects for the Intergenerational Study, which began in 1999, are the oldest biological children of each of the original RYDS subjects (n=370 in Year 1). The children enter the study as they turn 2 years old. Annual interviews are conducted with the original RYDS subject, another primary caretaker of the child, and all children ages 8 and older. Parent measures include structural position and stressors, antisocial behavior and prosocial bonds, peer friendship networks, and parenting behaviors. Child measures include family relationships, stressors, school factors, peer friendship networks, and antisocial behavior. Videotaped observations of dyadic interactions between the child and each caretaker were conducted in Years 1, 3, and 5. In addition, data are gathered from other agencies such as social services, police, and schools.

Current Projects and Sponsoring Agencies

The primary sponsor for all RYDS projects is the University of Maryland, from which the following subcontract is funded:

Intergenerational Transmission of Risk for Drug Use
(Alan J. Lizotte, Project Director)
University of Maryland, National Institute on Drug Abuse


The RYDS maintains a research office in Albany, NY.

Albany Office:
Rebekah Chu 
Adrienne Freeman-Gallant

Contact Information
Telephone: (518) 442-5597
E-mail: [email protected]