April/May research highlights

24 July 2018

Selected highlights of journal papers and other research published in April and May using CLS study data.

The relationship between family structure and childhood wellbeing

Research using the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) has investigated the relationship between family structure and children’s mental health and wellbeing at ages 3 and 5. The study, published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, was carried out by researchers based at University College London (UCL). The research looked at whether children who lived with both biological parents and only “full siblings” tended to have greater wellbeing and show less behavioural problems than children with a different family structure. Boys with single or step-parents were more likely to have behavioural issues, such as hyperactivity and antisocial behaviour, and girls with single parents were at greater risk of emotional problems. Children with step-siblings were no more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems than those with full siblings.

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Breastfeeding for 6-9 months is linked to lower odds of wheezing in children

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has looked at the link between breastfeeding duration and wheezing in babies. The paper, by researchers based at University of Oxford and UCL, used data from MCS surveys at ages 9 months, 3, 5, 7 and 11 years. The researchers found that the association between breastfeeding and wheezing varied by age. For example, breastfeeding for 6-9 months was associated with lower odds of wheezing at age 9 months, and at 3 and 5 years, but less so at age 7 and 11 years.

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Improving adolescent health can enhance future chances at school and in work

A new paper published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, has studied whether there is a link between adolescents’ health and their future educational attainment and success in the job market. The researchers, based at UCL and Heriot-Watt University, analysed data from Next Steps at ages 13, 14, 16 and 19. The results found that young people with poorer health in early adolescence were less likely to do well at school, and had greater odds of being NEET at age 19 (not in education, employment or training). The researchers recommend that the government invests in health and intervention strategies to improve the lives of young people with health problems.

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How do educational attainment and aspirations differ for disabled young people?

A new paper published by The British Journal of Sociology has investigated the educational transitions of disabled teenagers. The paper, authored by researchers based at University of Warwick and London School of Economics, looked at data from Next Steps at ages 14, 15, 19 and 20. The study found that disabled children enter secondary school with lower grades, and are much less likely to achieve 5 or more A*–C GCSE grades, including English and Mathematics (26% of disabled young people vs 67% of non-disabled young people). The findings also highlighted that disabled young people are 15 per cent more likely to have low expectations of going to university compared to their non-disabled peers. Note: This article is behind a paywall.

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The benefits of linking survey answers to administrative data

Researchers based at UCL and NatCen Social Research have published a paper that reveals how the Next Steps study gained consent from study participants to link their survey responses to administrative data. This research was published in Survey Methods: Insight from the Field, and shows how this protocol was implemented to enhance survey data. The Next Steps cohort members were asked for consent to link their survey data with nine separate administrative data records from institutions including the NHS, the Ministry of Justice, and the Department for Education.

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Are personality traits linked to asthma in adulthood?

A new paper published in Psychology & Health has looked at the role a number of different psychological and health factors in childhood play on the frequency of asthma in adulthood. The researchers, based at UCL, analysed data from the National Child Development Study at birth and at ages 7, 11, 33 and 50. The study found that being female, having had asthma in childhood, having mothers that smoked during pregnancy, and having a high BMI were all linked with more frequent reporting of asthma at age 50. Among the personality traits, greater levels of neuroticism and lower levels of conscientiousness were also significantly associated with asthma in adulthood.

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