IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


New generation of babies to join first UK study of child development in two decades

1 September 2023

Thousands of babies and parents are set to participate in a new UK birth cohort study, which will aim to shine a light on the challenges faced by families as they emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and navigate the cost-of-living crisis.

Baby sitting on happy father's lap at lunch. Hero Images via Adobe Stock

The “Generation New Era” study will be led by UCL researchers in partnership with Ipsos and the universities of Edinburgh, Swansea and Ulster. Thousands of letters are now being sent out to families, inviting them to take part in the nationally representative study.

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, the study will follow children, born in 2022, during their early years, and potentially beyond, providing vital new insights into their health and development.

The evidence gathered will answer important scientific and policy questions, which will help inform decisions about early years and childcare services and improve the lives of families with young children across the UK.

With their babies now around nine months old, the families randomly selected to take part will soon be visited by the study’s interviewer team from Ipsos, to answer questions about their child’s development, family circumstances and their own lives.

Study director, Professor Alissa Goodman (UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies) said: “We are looking forward to meeting with families in the coming weeks, as we embark on the first UK birth cohort study to be launched since the millennium.

“With the economic and social repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the impacts of the rising cost of living on our economy and society still unfolding, we hope that the Generation New Era study will help us to better understand the challenges facing this generation of babies, their development as children and their future prospects.”

Generation New Era joins UCL’s rich portfolio of birth cohort studies, which follow the lives of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000-02.

Parents will be asked about their child’s health and growth, behaviour and development, sleep and diet, as well as the activities they do with their baby. They will be invited to share their experiences as a mother or father, including information about their home and family, their parenting approach, and formal and informal childcare provision.

Just as importantly, they will be asked about their own personal circumstances, such as their health and wellbeing, neighbourhood, work situation and finances.

Routine administrative data, held by government departments, such as family health, educational and social care records, is also planned to be linked to their survey data, enabling researchers to gain a more detailed picture of participants’ lives.

Information about their local area or property, including data on air pollution levels and green spaces, is also planned to be added to survey data to help understand the importance of where people live.

Some parents and babies will be asked to give a saliva sample, to help understand how genes influence people’s lives, and how genes and the environments people experience work together.

To try to ensure that all people’s voices are heard, the Generation New Era team have boosted the numbers of babies included in the study born into disadvantaged and ethnic minority families. The study aims to be as inclusive as possible, engaging both fathers and mothers in taking part in the study, and to recruit babies born to all family types and circumstances.

Professor Goodman added: “It is vitally important that we hear from as many families as possible, so the study reflects the diversity of families across the UK as a whole.

“By providing vital new insights into the health and development of children, Generation New Era will help us to build a complete picture of what life is like for children growing up today.

“Knowing how children develop, and how the early years affect later lives, will provide vital evidence to researchers, governments and service providers, so they are able to help improve the lives of children and families in the UK both now and in the future.”


If you’ve been invited to take part in Generation New Era, find out more on the study website: Generation New Era.

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Credit: Hero Images via Adobe Stock.