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‘New generation of babies’ sought for major UK child development study

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A new UK birth cohort study will use data from thousands of babies and parents to hopefully highlight the key challenges faced by families as they cope with the cost of living crisis and begin to emerge from the COVID fall-out.

Researchers from University College London’s (UCL) will lead the Generation New Era project in partnership with the universities of Edinburgh, Swansea and Ulster.

Thousands of letters have been mailed to families, asking if they are willing to taking part in this nationally representative study. With funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, the study will follow children born in 2002 through their early and potentially beyond, providing what researchers hope will be ‘vital insights’ into their health and development.

The evidence gathered will answer important scientific and policy questions, which will help inform decisions about early years and childcare services and improve the lives of families with young children across the UK.

With their babies now around nine months old, the families randomly selected to take part will soon be visited by the study’s interviewer team from market research firm Ipsos, to answer questions about their child’s development, family circumstances and their own lives.

Professor Alissa Goodman from the UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, is directing the study, and said: “We are looking forward to meeting with families in the coming weeks, as we embark on the first UK birth cohort study to be launched since the millennium.

‘Help us to better understand the challenges facing this generation of babies’

“With the economic and social repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impacts of the rising cost of living on our economy and society still unfolding, we hope that the Generation New Era study will help us to better understand the challenges facing this generation of babies, their development as children and their future prospects.”

Generation New Era joins UCL’s rich portfolio of birth cohort studies, which follow the lives of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-02, and most recently, the Children of the 2020s Study which follow the lives of children born in England in 2021*.

Parents will be asked about their child’s health and growth, behaviour and development, sleep and diet, as well as the activities they do with their baby. They will be invited to share their experiences as a mother or father, including information about their home and family, their parenting approach, and formal and informal childcare provision.

Information about their local area or property, including data on air pollution levels and green spaces, is also planned to be added to survey data to help understand the importance of where people live.

“Knowing how children develop, and how the early years affect later lives, will provide vital evidence to researchers, governments and service providers, so they are able to help improve the lives of children and families in the UK both now and in the future,” added Professor Goodman.

Author: Simon Weedy

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