Guide to the National Child Development Study
ESDS Longitudinal provides:
a web-based download service
specialist user support (linking with specialist support provided by the Centre
for Longitudinal Studies (CLS))
training and workshops
a range of value-added data enhancements for a number of key UK longitudinal
data collections, including the National Child Development Study (NCDS)
The NCDS is a continuing longitudinal study that seeks to follow the lives of
all those living in Great Britain who were born in one particular week in 1958.
The aim of the study is to improve understanding of the factors affecting human
development over the whole lifespan.
The NCDS has its origins in the Perinatal Mortality Survey (the original PMS
study is held in the Data Catalogue under SN 2137). This study was sponsored by
the National Birthday Trust Fund and designed to examine the social and
obstetric factors associated with stillbirth and death in early infancy among
the 17,000 children born in England, Scotland and Wales in that one week.
Selected data from the PMS form NCDS sweep 0, held alongside NCDS sweeps 1-3,
under SN 5565.
To date there have been eight attempts to trace all members of the birth cohort
in order to monitor their physical, educational and social development. The
first three sweeps were carried out by the National Children's Bureau in 1965,
1969 and 1974. These sweeps form NCDS1-3, held together with NCDS0 under SN
5565. In 1985 the NCDS moved to the Social Statistics Research Unit (SSRU) -
now known as the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) - and the fifth sweep
was carried out in 1991. The sixth sweep was conducted in 1999-2000, the
seventh in 2004 and the eighth in 2008-2009.
The NCDS has gathered data from respondents on child development from birth to
early adolescence, child care, medical care, health, physical statistics,
school readiness, home environment, educational progress, parental involvement,
cognitive and social growth, family relationships, economic activity, income,
training and housing.
Access to the NCDS
Users registered with the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) have access to
the NCDS datasets via the instant download service or can analyse, visualise,
subset and download selected data from NCDS via the online Nesstar software
ESDS Nesstar Catalogue:
Exploring data online using the ESDS Nesstar Catalogue:
Users can register with ESDS at:
NCDS - ESDS data holdings
The NCDS data currently available via ESDS cover sweeps 0-8.
In addition, a number of studies based on sub-samples of cohort members of interest to
particular research questions are available; for example, data collected in the
course of a special study of handicapped school-leavers, at age 18 (held under
SN 2024) and data from a 5 per cent feasibility study, conducted at age 20 (held under
SN 2025), which preceded NCDS4. A parent migration dataset, based on NCDS5, is
held under SN 4324; and a pilot study aiming at understanding
individual behaviour was undertaken in 2010 (SN 6752). Finally, quantitative longitudinal data are combined with a qualitative investigation
of a sub-sample of the NCDS cohort aged 50 in a social participation
and identity study held under SN 6691.
Very usefully, a separate dataset covering response and deaths in NCDS over all eight
sweeps is available under SN 5560. Other datasets merging all data on certain topics in successive sweeps into one longitudinal dataset are: a study detailing partnership histories, compiled from
NCDS sweep 5 (age 33) onwards (SN 6940); and data on work and non-work activities lasting one month or more from sweep 4 (age 23) onwards (SN 6942).
There are a host of invaluable NCDS resources available on the CLS web site, accessible via
See also the Question Bank - National Child Development Study - Overview:
Users are also welcome to keep up to date with NCDS and other longitudinal data
developments via the ESDS Longitudinal JISCmail list and/or by registering
with the CLS.
ESDS user documentation for the NCDS can be downloaded in the form of
multi-volume user guides in PDF format via the 'Doc' column at . These guides cover the elements
of NCDS that are currently held by ESDS.
CLS: Key publications:
CLS: Flagship publications:
For further work on the NCDS, search the bibliography at:
L33004 Guide to National Child Development Study