Track apps

New child development study will track babies’ first five years of life

The first national baby birth cohort study in 20 years will be launched next week, which will follow more than 8,000 children in their early years.

Letters are being sent to randomly selected families with nine-month-old babies inviting them to participate in the “Children of the 2020s” study, which will include research on child development and use of informal and formal childcare and preschool education.

The research was commissioned by the Department for Education and is led by researchers at University College London (UCL).

Ipsos and the universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and Birkbeck, University of London, are also involved in the study.

The research will follow children through the first five years of life, and potentially beyond, and examine the factors that influence their development in the early years.

UCL said the evidence collected aims to answer important science and policy questions, which will help inform decisions about early years and childcare and improve the lives of families with young people. children in England.

The study interview team will visit families to ask questions about their child’s development, family situation and their own lives.

Study leader Professor Pasco Fearon (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences and University of Cambridge) said: “We are extremely excited to start meeting families next week for the first new birth cohort study of babies in England since the millennium.

“Over 75 years ago, Britain’s first birth cohort study, hosted at UCL, was launched to follow the lives of babies born just after the war. And now Children of the 2020s will provide vital evidence on the early years as families navigate their way out of the Covid-19 pandemic and through the cost of living crisis.

Funded initially for five years, parents will be surveyed about their child’s development, neighborhood and family background, family structure, health and mental health, home learning environment, child care formal and informal children and pre-school education.

Between surveys, the research team will invite parents to use a smartphone app to record their baby’s language and development, and receive news and expert advice.

With parental consent, data held by government departments, such as family health, education and social welfare records, will be linked to their survey data, allowing researchers to get a more detailed picture of the family life.

Professor Fearon added: ‘Our first five years are a crucial developmental period in our lives – each new experience can play a central role in how we cope later.

“This new study will look at how children develop and the early childhood circumstances and services that can make a difference. By understanding how these factors impact their development, we can learn how to support them, so they are able to get the best start in school and thrive as they grow.

Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince, said: “This is an important study that will provide insight into the crucial early years of a child’s life and a wealth of evidence about their development and school results.

“We know the pandemic has created unique challenges for families and I would like to thank the thousands of people who will participate in this study over the next five years.

“We are committed to supporting families, including through a multi-million pound package to transform services, which will create family hubs in half of all local authorities and provide important guidance for parents and carers via the Start for Life offer.”

Children of the 2020s joins previous UCL cohort studies, which track the lives of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970, 1989-90 and 2000-02.