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Data about fathers in birth cohort studies (Life Study)

Researchers: Professor Carol Dezateux | Professor Kath Kiernan

Project overview

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.

Initial grant to UCL
June 2013 – September 2015  |  £31,000
Professor Carol Dezateux

Joint Nuffield Foundation and ESRC grant awarded to UCL
March 2015 to November 2019  |  £1.4 million but only £83,802 committed due to termination of Life Study in January 2016
Professor Carol Dezateux

Joint Nuffield Foundation and ESRC grant awarded to University of York
January 2016 – April 2016  |  £8,842


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 and will include questionnaire development, interview documentation and pilot work.

It will also draw out the lessons learned 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.


  • Professor Carol Dezateux
    Institute of Child Health, UCL
  • Professor Kath Kiernan
    University of York

  • Director, Welfare
    Nuffield Foundation

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