Data about fathers in birth cohort studies (Life Study)

The lack of data pertaining to fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives in birth cohort studies has long been a concern of the Nuffield Foundation. When the award of a new birth cohort study – Life Study – to UCL was announced in 2013, the Foundation awarded a grant of £31,000 to the Scientific Director and Principal Investigator Professor Carol Dezateux to explore the options for including fathers in Life Study.

This work convinced the major stakeholders of the scientific and policy value of including fathers as well as highlighting some of the ways this could be achieved in practice. In light of this, the Foundation agreed to co-fund with the ESRC a project to augment the recruitment, retention and data collection in relation to (especially non-resident) fathers in Life Study

Termination of Life Study

The Foundation and the ESRC agreed to contribute a total of £1.4 million, but the Research Councils’ subsequent decision to withdraw funding from Life Study because of difficulty recruiting participants meant that only £83,860 was actually committed.

The following outputs from this work are being prepared and we will link to them from this page when they become available.

  • A report of the qualitative research with lone mothers to explore access to non-resident fathers.
  • A description of the sampling strategy.
  • A scripted questionnaire for non-resident fathers.
  • Relevant extracts relating to learning on accessing resident and non-resident fathers from the full pilot report from Ipsos MORI.
Lessons learned

In January 2016 the Foundation and the ESRC awarded a grant of £8,842 to Professor Kath Kiernan from the University of York to provide a comprehensive overview of the work carried out in relation to fathers in Life Study. This will cover the planned programme up to when the children were aged 12 months, including questionnaire development and interview documentation and pilot work.

It will also draw out the lessons learnt from this project and discuss how future cohort studies might meet the challenges of collecting data on fathers, particularly non-resident fathers. A report on this work is scheduled for publication in summer 2016.

Project details



Professor Carol Dezateux, Institute of Child Health, UCL

Professor Kath Kiernan, University of York

First grant

Initial grant to UCL (Professor Carol Dezateux):

£31,000 (June 2013 - September 2015)

Second grant:

Joint Nuffield Foundation and ESRC grant awarded to UCL (Professor Carol Dezateux)

£1.4 million (due to run from March 2015 to November 2019, but only £83,802 committed due to termination of Life Study in January 2016)

Third grant

Joint Nuffield Foundation and ESRC grant awarded to University of York (Professor Kath Kiernan):

£8,842 (January 2016 - April 2016)

Project website

Executive Summary: Fathers and Partners in Life Study - Groundwork, Outcomes and Lessons by Professor Kathleen Kiernan, University of York, August 2016

Fathers and Partners in Life Study: Groundwork, Outcomes and Lessons by Professor Kathleen Kiernan, University of York, August 2016

Maximising the involvement of fathers and/or partners in Life Study: what can we learn from other relevant UK studies? by Caroline Bryson, Bryson Purdon Social Research, January 2014

Fathers and Partners in National and International Birth Cohort Studies by Professor Kathleen Kiernan, University of York, January 2014