answers our questions on the British Millennium Cohort
Lidia Panico joined INED on October 1, 2012. She studies changes in family structure and the socio-demographic factors that influence child development, drawing primarily on longitudinal studies and child cohorts.
(Interview from November 2012)
Can you give us a description of the British Millennium Cohort? How does it differ from the French ELFE Cohort?
The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is a multi-disciplinary longitudinal study that follows the lives of approximately 19,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 2000-2001. The British have a long experience of conducting national longitudinal birth cohort studies; MCS is the most recent one. Information is collected on such subjects as parenthood, childcare arrangements, children’s behaviour and cognitive development, parents’ and children’s health, parents’ educational level and occupations, income and poverty, housing, place of residence and residential mobility, social capital and ethnic group. Data from the first four waves (collected when the children are 9 months, 3 years, 5 years and 7 years old) are freely accessible and can be downloaded by any researcher, British or working abroad.
In many ways, ELFE is similar to the MCS study, meaning that international comparisons are possible. There are differences in how samples were defined (in ELFE they are by maternity hospital; in MCS by place of residence 9 months after birth) and data collection (ELFE collects more data on early childhood than MCS), but all in all the two studies are highly comparable. One original feature of ELFE is the interest in fathers: very few longitudinal studies pay as close attention to them as to mothers, especially after separation or divorce; studies like the MCS often lose sight of them after those events. Two other important and very interesting contributions of the ELFE study are biological information collection that begins in the maternity hospital immediately after birth and collecting information on exposure to pollutants.
The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) is a multi-disciplinary longitudinal study that follows the lives of approximately 19,000 children born in the United Kingdom in 2000-2001. The British have a long experience of conducting national longitudinal birth coho
As other studies have previously shown, family stability is correlated with young children’s well being. This has been observed above all in connection with cognitive skills and development, but in this study we also show impact on health, in the form of respiratory ailments, overweight or obesity, and accidents. However, it is important to specify that the socio-economic profile of households in the United Kingdom that experience family instability is very different from that of stable unions: poorer, less educated, and younger at the time the birth cohort child was born. Once these socio-economic differences have been integrated into the models, we do not observe a considerable difference in children’s physical health by family structure itself.
Do socio-economic changes in the household have as much impact?
Separation leads to a fall in household income, and that fall is sharper for married couples than cohabiting ones. Conversely, single mothers who find a new life partner also find themselves part of a higher-income household. However, according to our models, the initial socio-economic situation (that is, before separation or forming a new couple) has greater impact on children’s futures than a change in income in the course of the study. This highlights once again how strongly the socio-economic profile of unstable families differs from that of couples who stay together.