Childhood mental health trajectories and lifetime consequences: a cross-cohort programme of work

Policy circles and a range of disciplines increasingly recognise that childhood mental health shapes later outcomes across all important life domains including health, partnerships, employment, and incomes.

The project will use data from the 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) and Next Steps. This project will examine young people’s mental health trajectories today in the context of previous generations. This cross-cohort comparative project will add new evidence about how the mental health of contemporary children evolves from early childhood onwards through to adolescence. It will draw on all the latest data from all the CLS studies in order to assess how these trajectories are shaped. Using the adult cohort studies (NCDS and BCS70), it will shed new light on the long-term adverse effects of mental health problems in childhood, and the factors that may reverse these.

Research questions

  1. How do children’s conduct, emotional wellbeing, hyperactivity, and peer relationships evolve during childhood?
  2. What determines these trajectories?(such as parenting/relationships, separation and divorce, parental work, transitions from primary to secondary school)
  3. How do the long-term effects of mental health problems in childhood across generations of adults (adding new data from Next Steps on 25 year olds) relate to the effects of recent recession on young people’s mental health?
  4. Are the effects of early life adversities (such as health related behaviour and lifestyle choices) reversible so that they will not affect later outcomes?


Patalay, P. and Fitzsimons, E. (2016) Correlates of Mental Illness and Wellbeing in Children: Are They the Same? Results From the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 55(9), pp. 771-783.

Ploubidis, G., Sullivan, A., Brown, M. and Goodman, A. (2017) Psychological distress in mid-life: evidence from the 1958 and 1970 British birth cohorts. Psychological Medicine 47(2) pp. 291-303.


Children’s mental wellbeing and ill-health: not two sides of the same coin

In this blog for World Mental Health Day, Dr Praveetha Patalay uses data visualisation to examine the factors that influence children's mental illness and wellbeing using the Millennium Cohort Study.


January 1, 2016 – December 2018

Project team:

Alissa Goodman (Lead)

Emla Fitzsimons

George Ploubidis

Praveetha Patalay