There is an alternative view of birth cohort studies you know Polly?

Studying ourselves is something the British do exceptionally well. Social scientists, geneticists, psychologists, demographers, medical researchers and epidemiologists flock here from all over the world, seeking answers to fundamental questions from our unique series of birth cohort studies. No one else has anything like them.

Thousands of babies born within a few months have been studied throughout their lives: the first cohort in 1946, the next in 1958, then 1970. The wealth of information is remarkable, with the oldest subjects now in their 60s. But a disastrous 30-year hiatus left a gaping hole in the histories of a generation. After 1970 surveys were cancelled by Margaret Thatcher, despising social science and perhaps preferring not to know the social consequences of her policies.

I would refer you to the views of Sir John Cowperthwaite when Financial Secretary to Hong Kong.

He refused to allow anyone to collect, let alone publish, GDP figures, on the grounds that some damn fool would only try and do something with them.

The less we know about the details of society the less temptation there is for damn fools to interfere with society.

3 thoughts on “There is an alternative view of birth cohort studies you know Polly?”

  1. At first I thought I was dreaming Polly’s columns in advance, but a quick Google shows me this:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/07/thatcher-cameron-birth-cohort-studies

    Studying ourselves is something the British do exceptionally well. Social scientists, geneticists, psychologists, demographers, medical researchers and epidemiologists flock here from all over the world, seeking answers to fundamental questions from our unique series of birth cohort studies. No one else has anything like them.

    Thousands of babies born within a few months have been studied throughout their lives: the first cohort in 1946, the next in 1958, then 1970. The wealth of information is remarkable, with the oldest subjects now in their 60s. But a disastrous 30-year hiatus left a gaping hole in the histories of a generation. After 1970 surveys were cancelled by Margaret Thatcher, despising social science and perhaps preferring not to know the social consequences of her policies.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jun/07/deficit-cuts-birth-cohort-studies-britain

    Studying ourselves is something the British do exceptionally well. Social scientists, geneticists, psychologists, demographers, medical researchers and epidemiologists flock to the country from all over the world, seeking answers to fundamental human questions from Britain’s unique series of birth cohort studies.

    No one else has anything like them. Thousands of babies born within a few months of each other have been studied throughout their entire lives: the first cohort was in 1946, the next in 1958, then 1970. Their parents, their families, their health, their progress in school, their relationships and their careers – all are still monitored regularly.

    The wealth of information is remarkable, now the oldest are in their 60s. But after 1970 there was a 30-year hiatus, leaving a gaping hole in the social and medical histories of a lost generation. The survey planned for the 1980s was cancelled by a Conservative government which despised social science – and perhaps would rather not know the social results of its own policies.

    Does she really get paid for this??

  2. And there’s more:

    June 2010:
    By the time research was done, the minister had long moved on and the department had new priorities. In politics, eye-catching initiatives too often trump evidence.

    March 2011:
    When results emerge, the minister has long gone and the department has new priorities. In politics, eye-catching initiatives rarely wait for hard evidence.

    June 2010:
    Britain may be good at analysing its social problems, but it is rather less good at policies that follow where the research leads.

    March 2011:
    Britain may be good at analysing its society, but rather less so at following where the research leads

    June 2010:
    Due to survey 93,000 babies born in 2012, this is the most detailed so far, collecting the strongest evidence yet on the first year of life. Mothers will be surveyed six months into pregnancy, then when their baby is four months and 12 months old, trying to find the earliest causes for effects later in life. Saliva samples will be taken, along with umbilical cord and placenta. Parents and children will be videoed. Every possible social, psychological and medical fact will be recorded, looking for the origins of attention deficit disorders, autism and mental illness. The material will be there for future studies decades ahead, looking back for infant signs of dysfunctions that develop later in life.

    March 2011:
    The 2012 birth cohort study will be the most detailed so far. Mothers will be surveyed six months into pregnancy and all through the first year to find the earliest causes for events in later life. Saliva, umbilical cord and placenta samples will be stored. Parents and children will be videoed. Every social, psychological and medical fact will be recorded, looking for the origins of attention disorders, autism or mental illness. The material will be there for future studies decades ahead looking back for infant signs of later dysfunctions.

    June 2010:
    It was the 1958 study that revealed mothers who smoked have smaller, sicker babies. Comparison between children of 1946 and 1958 saw them grow longer legs, with better nutrition ironing out class differences. The millennium study gave the wake-up call on finding a quarter of children obese by four years old. Only cohort studies could have revealed the sudden slowdown in social mobility between those born in 1958 and those in 1970. Answers are here to all the perplexing questions: what makes some children resilient to dreadful early beginnings while others are damaged for life?

    March 2011:
    The 1958 study revealed that mothers who smoke have smaller, sicker babies. Comparing 1946 and 1958 children showed better nutrition ironing out class differences in height. The 2000 study was a wake-up call with its finding that a quarter of four-year-olds were obese. Only cohort studies could have revealed the sudden slowdown in social mobility between those born in 1958 and those in 1970. Answers are here to elemental questions of nature and nurture: what makes some children resilient to dreadful early beginnings while others are damaged for life?

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