Millennium Cohort Study: Initial findings from the Age 11 survey
This volume presents initial findings on a number of key topics arising from the fifth survey of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), carried out when the children were aged around 11 years old. It draws attention to some of the important features of contemporary 11-year-olds’ lives, particularly those that feed into current policy agendas. It also places this information in the context of what we already know about these children, going back 10 years to when they were first surveyed at around 9 months old. By doing so, it demonstrates the critical value of a cohort study such as the MCS.
Age 11 represents a pivotal moment in children’s lives. For many of them, this is their final few months of primary school; and we are surveying them as they are on the cusp of adolescence and all that brings, physically, emotionally and educationally. This is therefore an interesting and important time to consider issues such as growing up and moves towards greater independence and more ‘teenage’ experiences and behaviours (Chapter 2), as
well as educational transitions and attitudes towards the move to secondary school (Chapter 4). Physical development and the complex association of weight gain with pubertal development is a further critical issue at this age (Chapter 6), as is cognitive development and assessment of neuropsychological traits such as propensity to risk-taking and use of strategy in simple ‘games’ (Chapter 5). Linked to many of these experiences and outcomes is the family context. This is picked up in more detail in Chapter 3, which describes the evolution of family structure across the survey, and discusses the extent to which the nature of family composition per se can be identified with children’s outcomes, in particular their behaviour. Chapter 7, meanwhile, explores patterns of poverty across the five surveys and the different family circumstances implied by low income across all five rather than just one or none.
Each chapter is intentionally longitudinal in intention and focus, looking across the children’s childhoods from 9 months to 11 years. As the volume title suggests, the chapters are also intended to be exploratory, identifying initial patterns and suggestive relationships and indicating how they might stimulate more in-depth research or further research questions. Technical details are kept to a minimum in this volume, though all analyses have been carried out with an appropriate degree of rigour, ensuring all analysis adjusts for the survey design and nonresponse and that any statements or claims are based on statistically robust relationships. Only those differences that are statistically significant are highlighted in the text; while tables
follow a common format which indicates the base sizes for the relevant analyses. These typically reflect all non-missing observations on the relevant variables. Some chapters contain more detail on measurement than others, where it is needed to understand the topic being discussed (e.g. Chapter 5: Cognitive development, and Chapter 7: Poverty), while others focus more on providing diversity of findings within the thematic content (e.g. Chapter 2: Growing up, and Chapter 4: Education). The chapters have been written by researchers at the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, which is responsible for the MCS. Most of the authors were directly involved with the Age 11 survey. Each chapter is designed to be read on its own, but the chapters are also complementary, in that read together they aim to reveal something of the full potential of the study and the ways that different topics can be analysed together to provide additional insight.
Each chapter opens with a statement of its key findings; and this volume is accompanied by short briefing papers, summarising the chapters, and also a podcast series, in which one of the authors for each chapter discusses the findings and their implications, as well as potential developments of the research, both using the Age 11 survey and looking forward to the next survey. Hence, this introduction does not summarise the chapter content further. Instead, in the next few pages, it provides some background information on key features of the Age 11 survey, the data collection instruments used, response rates, and some insight into the representativeness and composition of the study over time.