|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 NCDS can be found on the Centre for Longitudinal Studies website.
Sample of essays
When the children of the National Child Development Study (NCDS) were 11 years old, at the time of the NCDS 2 sweep, they were given a short questionnaire to complete at school about their interests outside school, the school subjects they enjoyed most, and what they thought they were most likely to do when they left secondary school. In addition, they were asked to write an essay about what they thought their life would be like at age 25. The instructions given were as follows:
'Imagine you are now 25 years old. Write about the life you are leading, your interests, your home life and your work at the age of 25. (You have 30 minutes to do this).'
Of the 14,757 children who participated in the age 11 sweep of the NCDS (representing 90.8% of the target sample of 16,253 (Plewis et al. 2004), a total of 13,669 (92.6%) completed an essay about their imagined life at age 25. From this a sub-sample of essays was extracted for deposit based on three key variables: gender of the cohort member, social class and family background, and the ability of the cohort member using a general ability test.
The original spelling and grammar of the essays was preserved.