The UK is world-renowned for its unique portfolio of national birth cohort studies. The Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) is home to four multidisciplinary, nationally representative longitudinal cohort studies, which form a vital part of the UK’s data infrastructure. These studies are: Millennium Cohort Study (MCS, b.2000/1), Next Steps (b.1989/90), 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), National Child Development Study, (b.1958, NCDS). The Centre is responsible for the scientific direction and operational management of these studies, making the data available to researchers and policymakers worldwide (via the UK Data Service), providing training in their use, leading methodological innovation in survey and statistical methods, and communicating their findings. The CLS studies form the platform for a vast range of research across many disciplines, and there are more than 4,000 scientific publications recorded using these. Key types of scientific research questions supported include: Short, medium- and long-term effects of early (and -earlier) life circumstances; Factors that confer resilience to negative early experience; Returns to investment in, and determinants of accumulation in all forms of capital; Intergenerational transmission of advantage and disadvantage; Individual change over time and the mapping of lifetime trajectories; The changing experiences of different cohorts. Areas of contribution to date include in perinatal and early child development; education policy; social mobility; health inequalities; gender and ethnic inequalities; mental health and well-being; family formation, partnerships and childbearing; values and attitudes, social participation and networks; life course and genetic epidemiology, and ageing. Methodological advantages of these studies include national representation; in depth coverage of key life course stages and developmental processes; casual identification including using rich early life controls, longitudinal, and quasi-experimental methods; intergenerational dimension; identification of age, cohort or period effects and cultural or policy effects. Current methodological/operational innovations include bio-social enhancements,enactment of record linkages via consent; innovations in data collection, including via online, wearables, etc.; methodological advancements in missing data, measurement error, and causal inference; harmonisation, discoverability, access, and training.
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