|The National Child Development Study (NCDS) is a continuing longitudinal study that seeks to follow the lives of all those living in Great Britain who were born in one particular week in 1958. The aim of the study is to improve understanding of the factors affecting human development over the whole lifespan.
The NCDS has its origins in the Perinatal Mortality Survey (PMS) (the original PMS study is held at the UK Data Archive under SN 2137). This study was sponsored by the National Birthday Trust Fund and designed to examine the social and obstetric factors associated with stillbirth and death in early infancy among the 17,000 children born in England, Scotland and Wales in that one week. Selected data from the PMS form NCDS sweep 0, held alongside NCDS sweeps 1-3, under SN 5565.
To date there have been seven attempts to trace all members of the birth cohort in order to monitor their physical, educational and social development. The first three sweeps were carried out by the National Children's Bureau, in 1965, when respondents were aged 7, in 1969, aged 11, in 1974, aged 16 (these sweeps form NCDS1-3, held together with NCDS0 under SN 5565). The fourth sweep, NCDS4, was conducted in 1981, when respondents were aged 23 (held under SN 5566). In 1985 the NCDS moved to the Social Statistics Research Unit (SSRU) - now known as the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) - and the fifth sweep was carried out in 1991, when respondents were aged 33, (NCDS5, held under SN 5567). For the sixth wave, conducted in 1999-2000, when respondents were aged 41-42 (NCDS6, held under SN 5578), fieldwork was combined with the 1999-2000 wave of the 1970 Birth Cohort Study (BCS70), which is also conducted by CLS (and held at the Archive under GN 33229).
Response and Deaths Dataset:
A separate dataset covering responses and to NCDS and deaths of cohort members over all eight waves is available under SN 5560, National Child Development Study Response and Deaths Dataset, 1958-2009. Users are advised to order this study alongside the other waves of NCDS.
In addition to the main NCDS sweeps, some further studies have also been conducted. In 1978, a postal survey was conducted of the schools attended by members of the birth cohort at the time of the third follow-up of 1974, in order to obtain details of public examination entry and performance. Similar details were also sought from sixth-form and further education colleges etc., where these were identified by schools. Also, a 37-year sample survey of the NCDS cohort, focusing on basic skills, is held under SN 4992.
The Archive also holds a number of NCDS-related files (for example, of data collected in the course of a special study of handicapped school-leavers, at age 18 (held under SN 2024) and the data from a 5% feasibility study, conducted at age 20 (held under SN 2025), which preceded NCDS4. A parent migration dataset, based on NCDS5, is held under SN 4324, and a study detailing partnership histories, compiled from NCDS sweeps 5 and 6, is held under SN 5217.
Further information about the full NCDS series can be found on the Centre for Longitudinal Studies website.
The sixth NCDS sweep took place in 1999-2000, when cohort members were aged 41-42 years. Fieldwork was combined with the 29-year follow-up for the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), also conducted by CLS.
SN 5578 supersedes the former combined NCDS6/BCS70 1999-2000 dataset, which was held under SN 4396 National Child Development Study and 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70) Follow-ups, 1999-2000. The Centre for Longitudinal Studies updated the first six waves of NCDS in late 2006, and as part of this work separated the composite NCDS6/BCS70 dataset. Improvements made include further data cleaning and the addition of new documentation. Users who have previously obtained SN 4396 should no longer use it, and should completely replace it with this one. The BCS70 component of SN 4396 is now held separately under SN 5558 1970 British Cohort Study: Twenty-Nine-Year Follow-up, 1999-2000.
For the second edition (August 2008), the serial number has been replaced with a new one, variable Ncdsid. This change has been made for all datasets in the NCDS series. Further information may be found in the 'CLS Confidentiality and Data Security Review', included in the documentation.
Topics covered in the NCDS6 cohort member interview covered:
- household: household memberships and interrelationships; ethnicity; languages spoken in the home
- housing: current address; intentions to move; homelessness; housing history
- relationships: marital status; relationship history
- children: pregnancy history; lone parenthood; infertility; adopted children; partner's children from a previous relationship; children over 16; family activities; demands of parenting
- family, social relationships and support: contact with family; emotional support
- family income, including sources of income other than work; financial situation
- employment: economic activity; current job; other paid work; unemployment; labour market histories; partner's job
- lifelong learning: qualifications; current course for qualification; assessment of current/most recent course; other courses and training; any lack of formal learning; contact with information technology; literacy and numeracy
- health: general health; long-term health conditions; respiratory problems; mental health; sight and hearing; other conditions; accidents/injuries; hospital admissions; smoking; drinking; diet; exercise; height and weight
- citizenship and values: involvement with organisations; voting behaviour and intentions; political alignment; trade union membership; religion; newspaper readership; car ownership; values; political activity
- self-completion: opinions on key areas of life; quality of relationship with husband, wife or partner; work-related skills; psychological morbidity; experience of school exclusion and truancy; contact with the police and crime; use of illegal drugs
The attitude questions included in the instrumentation employ Likert-like scales.
Other standard measures used include:
- Malaise Inventory: a measure of for assessing psychiatric morbidity, developed by Rutter and others at the Institute of Psychiatry from the Cornell Medical Index; Rutter, M., Tizard, J. and Whitemore K. (1970) Education, Health and Behaviour, London; and Rodgers, B. et al. (1999) 'Validity of the Malaise Inventory in general population samples', Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 34, pp.333-341
- General Health Questionnaire (GHQ), a self-administered screening test, designed to identify short-term changes in mental health (depression, anxiety, social dysfunction and somatic symptoms)
- Locke-Wallace Marital Adjustment Test, a measure of marital distress/happiness (see Locke, H. J., and Wallace, K. M. (1959) 'Short marital adjustment and prediction tests: their reliability and validity', Marriage and Family Living, 21, pp.251-255)