Social participation and identity

Combining quantitative longitudinal data with a qualitative investigation of a sub-sample of the 1958 Cohort Study


The aim of the project was to conduct qualitative interviews with a sub sample of individuals at age 50 from the 1958 British Birth Cohort study. Interviewing began in November 2008 and a total of 220 interviews were completed. The aim was to provide valuable resources for qualitative and mixed-methods research which would be of use to a wide group of social scientists.

  • Methodologically, this was the first attempt anywhere in the world to interview members of a longitudinal study in depth, with the possibility of linking biographical narratives to data collected in earlier waves.
  • Substantively, the interviews focused on respondents' accounts of social participation. Research in this area was focused around cross sectional surveys and this allowed us unprecedented insights into the dynamic, life course forces which facilitate or restrict various kinds of participation.
  • As a resource, transcripts of the 220 biographical interviews are now available via ESDS ( for a wide community of social science researchers with interests not only in social participation, but also more generally in the life course, health, leisure, the relationship between work, employment and household dynamics.

The project benefited from close collaboration between the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (CLS) at the Institute of Education and CRESC at the University of Manchester. While CLS took the methodological lead on the project, CRESC have particular strengths in the substantive area of social participation and social capital. The project was funded by the ESRC.

Project Team:

Jane Elliott, ESRC, Chief Executive

Sam Parsons, CLS, Researcher