Background and History
The 1958 birth cohort (1958BC) or the National Child Development Study (NCDS) began as a study of Perinatal Mortality that recruited just over 17,000 births in a single week in 1958. It aimed to identify social and obstetric factors linked to stillbirth and neonatal death and its findings contributed to the improvement of maternity services in Britain and to a reduction in perinatal mortality.
Although the original survey was not planned as a longitudinal study, the National Children's Bureau was subsequently commissioned by the Central Advisory Council for Education (The Plowden Committee) to retrace the cohort at age 7 and monitor their educational, physical, and social development (Sweep 1). Further surveys took place when children were aged 11, 16 and 23 (Sweeps 2-4).
In 1985, responsibility for the cohort was transferred to the Social Statistics Research Unit (SSRU), now known as the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS). SSRU undertook a survey at age 33 (Sweep 5) that included a random one in three sample of cohort participants. Further surveys were conducted in 2000 (Sweep 6) and 2004 (Sweep 7).
In 2002-2003, a Biomedical Survey of the cohort (aged 44–45 yr) was conducted, with several collaborating partners, under the Medical Research Council’s (MRC) ‘Health of the Public’ initiative. This was ultimately led by Professors David Strachan (St George's Hospital), Chris Power (Institute for Child Health) and Heather Joshi (CLS). A total of 12,037 subjects were contacted and 9,377 were successfully interviewed. The primary objective was to obtain critical biomedical information via questionnaires, physical measures and biospecimen collection (blood, urine and saliva) and to use this information to examine how developmental, lifestyle, and environmental factors act throughout the lifespan to influence current ill health, and physiological and psychological function in early middle age. Additional funding from the Wellcome Trust (WT) enabled the setting up of a comprehensive DNA repository which included transformed lymphocyte lines on a total of 7,526 subjects, providing a permanent source of DNA.
Further information about the cohort can be obtained from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies site.