Parents with new baby

Support for working parents

Evidence from studies like Generation New Era have helped make the case for new policies which have given parents today more flexibility about how they balance work and family life.

These changes, introduced over a decade from the late 1990s onwards, includes the extension of maternity leave to one year, and the introduction of paid paternity leave, adoption leave, the right to request flexible working and shared parental leave.

The number of working mothers had been steadily rising, but some questioned the impact on children. Labour MP Harriet Harman commissioned research to investigate this, using information from a study following a group of people born in 1958. The researchers analysed the data, finding that children of mothers who worked developed just as well as those whose mothers stayed home.

The findings influenced the Labour government’s decision to pursue policies supporting working families.

Smiling pregnant woman

Smoking in pregnancy

A national birth cohort study which began to follow a group of babies back in 1958 (and which continues to this day) produced concrete evidence that smoking in pregnancy could be harmful to babies.

More info here
Father and son playing with piggy bank

Children’s saving scheme

Evidence from a national birth cohort study gave impetus to the Labour government’s plans in the noughties to introduce a savings scheme for all children born in the UK.

More info here
Sad teenage girl lying down

Young people’s mental health

The Child of the New Century study has been a vital source of information on the prevalence of mental ill health among Generation Z.

More info here
Children in blue school uniforms in the classroom

School and summer-born children

Findings from birth cohort studies featured prominently in a parliamentary inquiry charged with examining issues relating to when summer-born children start school.

More info here
Children running together

Promoting healthy weight

Findings from one cohort study helped support the Welsh government’s case for a new strategy to promote healthy weight.

The Child of the New Century study has followed the same group of people since they were born at the turn of the century. Records of their weight and height, along with other information collected about their lives, has provided vital insights on childhood obesity.

Using the study data, researchers found that at age 11, 40 per cent of children of this generation in Wales were overweight or obese compared to 35 per cent in England and 33 per cent in Scotland.

The Welsh government referred to these important findings when it consulted on plans to prevent and reduce obesity in Wales in 2019.

Children playing with building blocks

Early learning funding

Findings from a study following families in Scotland helped the Scottish government make the case for almost doubling the number of hours of early learning and childcare available to parents.

Growing Up in Scotland documents the lives of groups of Scotland’s children from when they are babies through to their teenage years. It found that attending early learning and childcare was beneficial to children’s development, especially to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Researchers also found that children from disadvantaged backgrounds were no less likely than those from more advantaged backgrounds to attend high-quality pre-school settings.

The Scottish government included these findings as part of their evidence for plans to further expand funded early learning and childcare provision for three and four-year-olds from 600 to 1140 hours per year.

Young girl hugging her brother

Tackling child poverty

Findings from one national birth cohort study were used as evidence by the Northern Ireland government when it set out its plans to reduce and limit the impact of child poverty in 2011.

The Child of the New Century study has been following the lives of thousands of people born in 2000-01 across the UK. Until Generation New Era, it was the most recent national study of its kind to include Northern Ireland. When the participants in this study were age 5, the study found that children in Northern Ireland who experienced income poverty were less likely to do well in school. They were also more likely to have poor health and be overweight.

The Northern Ireland government used these important findings as evidence that they needed to stop poverty being passed down from one generation to the next, and prevent child poverty leading to worse adult outcomes.

In their strategy, they pledged to reduce poorly paid work and unemployment among parents, improve school and family services, improve the neighbourhoods and environments where children live, and improve financial aid for families.