Childhood Mental Health and Personality

Earliest indications of mental health are provided by maternal ratings of shyness and night-time sleep disturbance when study members were aged six years.  At age nine years, mothers were asked about difficulties in the study member's relations with siblings and children at school.  When study members were aged 11 years mothers were asked about presence or absence of habits (thumb sucking, nail biting, etc.) and again about sleep disturbance.

Principal information on adolescent mental health was obtained from teacher ratings when study members were aged 13 and 15 years, using a forerunner of the Rutter A scale to identify conduct and emotional problems.  Items for conduct problems refer to unpunctuality, restlessness, truancy, daydreaming, indiscipline, disobedience and lying.  Items for emotional problems refer to anxiety, timidity, fearfulness, diffidence and avoidance of attention.  Most items are graded from 1-3, roughly corresponding to absent, normal and severe.  In addition, four items allow positive wellbeing ratings: very popular with other children, unusually happy and contented, makes friends extremely easily and extremely energetic, never tired.  Summary measures at 15 years of antisocial behaviour and anxious behaviour have been derived.

Summary measures of childhood conduct and emotional problems were derived in 2009. These were created by deriving global measures for each from factor analysis, then dividing scores for these into absent, mild and severe based on established percentile cuts.  For conduct problems these were 0-75%, 75-93% and 94% or higher, respectively; and for emotional problems these were 0-50%, 50-87% and 88% or higher, respectively.  For both sets of problems the percentile cut for ‘severe’ was based on epidemiological evidence in order to capture problems of potential clinical significance.  Further details of this methodology can be found in the Life chances report (Richards & Abbott (2009)) [from the Centre for mental health]

Teachers made additional ratings at these ages for work style in the classroom, attitudes to schoolwork, and nervous habits.

Personality measures were obtained by self-completed questionnaire when study members were aged 13 and 16 years.  At the former age the Pintner Aspects of Personality Inventory1) was used, which provides a measure of the child’s personality along the dimensions of neuroticism and extroversion/introversion. The measure was originally validated by comparing scores with the outstanding characteristics of children reported by their teachers2).  At age 16 years study members answered six extroversion (E) and six neuroticism (N) items of the short Maudsley Personality Inventory 3).  The E items refer to sociability, energy and activity orientation, and the N items address mood and distractibility. The MPI was administered again when study members were aged 26 years (see Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing).

Obtaining the standard childhood mental health and personality variables

  • You can obtain a list of the standard topic variables to use in an NSHD data sharing request by selecting the link at the end of this page.
  • The XML version of the link can be sent to the LHA as part of a data sharing request.
  • Simply use your browser's Save As facility to save the list of variables to a file on your computer.
  • You can then email the XML version to us in support of your application, or when you fill in the data access application form and it asks which variables you need, mention the 'childhood mental health and personality standard basket' along with any others.

HTML version of the standard variables to view

Download the XML for the childhood mental health and personality standard basket

(Pintner & Forlano, 1938, 1939; Pintner, Loftus, & Alster, 1937)
(Pintner et al., 1939)
(MPI; Eysenck, 1958)