Last reviewed 14 June 2022

A new study, commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), will follow children during the first five years of their lives to look at the factors that can influence their development in the early years.

A cohort of 8000 children will be followed during the first five years of their lives and letters are being sent to randomly selected families with nine-month-old babies inviting them to take part in the Children of the 2020s Study.

Funded initially for five years, parents will be asked about their child’s development, their neighbourhood and family context, family structure, health and mental health, the home learning environment, and formal and informal childcare provision and preschool education.

Between the surveys, the research team will invite parents to use a smartphone app to log their baby’s language and development, while receiving news and tips from the team of experts.

The study will be led by UCL researchers in partnership with Ipsos and the universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Birkbeck. UCL says the evidence gathered will be used to 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 in England.

The Children of the 2020s Study joins UCL’s previous cohort studies, which follow the lives of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970, 1989–90 and 2000–02.

Professor Pasco Fearon, director of the study, said:

“More than 75 years ago, the first British birth cohort study, which is housed at UCL, was launched to track the lives of babies born just after the war. And now, Children of the 2020s will provide vital evidence about the early years as families navigate their way out of the COVID-19 pandemic and through the cost of living crisis.

“Our first five years are a crucial developmental period in our lives — every new experience can play a pivotal role in how we fare later on.

“This new study will investigate how children develop and the circumstances and early years services that can make a difference. By understanding how these factors impact their development, we can learn how to support them, so they are able to make the best start at school and flourish as they are growing up.”

Further information can be found here.