TARS Sample and Interviews

The first NIH supported survey wave was developed to focus on parents, peers, and romantic partners as influences on teens’ sexual decision-making, and included a separate interview with a parent/caregiver. The NORC-devised sampling frame used school rosters in Lucas County, Ohio, which included 62 schools and seven districts including the city of Toledo, surrounding suburbs, and rural districts. School attendance was not a requirement for inclusion. The stratified, random sample oversampled Black (25%) and Hispanic (11%) respondents to reflect the population of Lucas County, Ohio.

Early interviews were conducted in-person with computer assisted interviewing. In 2011, we included an optional on-line component and converted completely to on-line surveys in 2019. If requested respondents received phone assistance to complete the interview, or could choose an in-person interview. From the beginning of the study, parents’ influence on child well-being, and peers’ and partners/spouses’ influences has been central. This relational focus has continued as respondents transitioned to adulthood, and surveys have focused on relationship conflict, parenting and child well-being, and recently social distancing during the pandemic.

Nearly all interview waves (except wave 2) included a theoretically-selected subset of in-depth interviews. We have conducted a total of 506 in-depth interviews on topics ranging from sexual risk taking to desistance from partner violence, and most recently coping with COVID-19 and social distancing.

The population-based sample is regional; and, compared to American Community Survey analysis of a similar age range, TARS respondents are demographically similar, with some lower levels of economic well-being, to mid-30 year-olds at the national level. The TARS has 37% racial minorities compared to 31% in the U.S. with a greater share of Black respondents than the nation and smaller share of Latinx reflecting the population of Lucas County. In terms of education 34% of TARS respondents graduate from college relative to 38% in the U.S. The share in the labor force in 2019 was 79% in the TARS and 84% at the national level, home ownership was lower in the TARS sample 42% vs. 53% at the national level, and incomes were slightly lower in the TARS ($43,730 vs $50,961). Approaching half, 45.5% of TARS respondents were married, and 48.5% were at the national level.