MCS6 participant engagement

About the participant engagement research

The age 14 survey of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) was the first time the cohort members themselves act as the main respondents. Up until age 7, the cohort members’ parents were the main respondents, answering questions about their children.

We know from other studies that the transition from childhood to adolescence can cause attrition. CLS is taking proactive steps to ensure that we are communicating with our cohort members in a way that is appropriate and engaging for young people.

CLS commissioned research into young people’s communication habits and preferences, as well as their understanding of research, and the MCS in particular. We asked cohort members and other young people what they would like to know about the study, and how they would like to receive information from the study team.

You can download the full reports to the right of this page.

Key findings from the participant engagement research:


  • Young people often understand ‘research’ as market research. There is much less understanding of social research.
  • Young people want to know what the purpose of the research is, what difference it makes to society, and what the personal benefits of participating in the study are. Simply reporting policy uses of the data is not sufficient without explaining how those policy decisions affect the lives of everyday people.
  • In the early teenage years, many young people still looks to their parents for advice, support and guidance, but the parents’ role in decision-making does start to decrease at this age.
  • Young people have a strong awareness of privacy issues.
  • Young people did not fully understand what the effect of them dropping out will be on the study.
  • Fathers and boys were more at risk of disengaging with the study.

Communications and feedback from the study

  • Parents felt that study communications should be sent to them until the cohort members turned 18.
  • Young people wanted more frequent communications (e.g. once a term). Only contacting them once a year may not be engaging enough. A strong website provides scope for offering more frequent content.
  • Materials with strong, professional brands appealed most to young people.
  • The general principles of plain English and good web-writing apply to young people. It was more the topics covered that need to be relevant to the age group.
  • Young people felt that too many graphs or statistics could be off-putting, especially for participants who don’t like maths.
  • Post is still seen as a good means of communication. Young people don’t often get post addressed to them, and find it exciting when they do.
  • Young people felt that a Facebook page for the study would be valuable, but were less keen on email communications.
  • While smartphone use is growing exponentially among young people, mobile phones and phone numbers are seen as very personal to young people.


  • Young people reported that they did not need incentives to participate.
  • Specific aspects of the survey need individual explanations, particularly physical measurements and saliva samples. Young people were uncertain about providing this information, and wanted more information on why the data is needed.
  • Young people reported that they enjoyed self-completion questionnaires as it gave them time to think about their answers.