Youthscan - The Sixteen-year Follow-up, 1986
The 1986 follow-up was carried out by the International Centre For Child Studies and named "Youthscan". In this sweep, sixteen separate survey instruments were employed, such as parental questionnaires, school class and head teacher questionnaires and medical examinations (including measurement of height, weight and head circumference). The cohort members completed questionnaires, kept two four-day diaries (one for nutrition and one for general activity), and undertook some educational assessments.
Reasons for a Mid-Teenage Sweep
The middle teens is a particularly critical stage of development. As compulsory schooling comes to an end, choices have to be made between staying on in education or leaving to get a job and what kind of occupation to pursue. At the same time relationships are changing within the family and with teenage peers. Partnerships are beginning to form, and the responsibilities of adult citizenship are beginning to loom. The attractions of teenage culture are also present as are the problems of teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, mental illness and crime. For the BCS70 cohort these developmental changes were taking place against a backdrop of radical economic transformation in which the effects of new technology and the economic recession had changed the nature of work and ended much of youth employment. Except in the most affluent areas, the alternative to work for an increasing number of young people leaving school was government training schemes or unemployment. This made a study of the cohort's experience at the age of 16 both essential in terms of the developmental record and timely in offering insights into the way young people were responding to change. Surveys at age 16 in the 1946 and 1958 birth cohort studies also opened up comparative possibilties .
It was planned originally to trace the cohort in time to see them at 15 1/2 years - well before the minimum school-leaving age. Unfortunately the start had to be delayed by the advent of industrial action by teachers who were asked to carry out the Educational tests. Indeed the strike continued through 1986 leading to a redesign of questionnaires and many of the test instruments for self-completion. The following description outlines any modifications carried out.
Approval was obtained of Society of Chief Education Officers, Association of Metropolitan Authorities, British Medical Association, Scottish Medical Association and Association of Head Teachers. The National Union of Teachers declined to recommend the study to its members but as far as we know took no action against any of their teacher members who cooperated but this clearly reduced the returns significantly.
It was decided to employ similar administrative arrangements to those used at ten years (see above) by enlisting the cooperation of Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and Regional Councils (RCs) (Scotland) to trace the whereabouts of cohort children who were on their secondary school registers. As before, LEAs and RCs would be asked to appoint a study coordinator to receive, distribute the Educational Pack for completion in school and return. District Health Authorities (DHAs) and Health Boards (HBs) in Scotland would be asked to cooperate and to appoint a medical and/or nurse coordinator with the remit to arrange for each study member a home interview and a medical examination with completion of a Health Pack. This was adopted but extra measures had to be introduced to cover the shortage of available teacher time and the higher number of children who left secondary school before the sweep could be accomplished due to the delay in starting the sweep.
As at ten years, the vast majority of LEAs (105/106="99%)" and of Regional Councils (9/10="90%)" agreed to join in the study. Each Education Department duly agreed to send trace sheets to all their secondary and special schools on which to enter names and addresses of cohort members who were on their school register. Independent schools were contacted by survey staff directly. This tracing exercise yielded 10,844 children. These numbers were increased further through Family Practitioner Committees (FPCs) and their Scottish equivalents, most of whom cooperated in the tracing of the cohort at local level. They were sent a list of most recent addresses of study children resident in their FPC area at sixteen or ten years, but untraced since then, with a view to updating wherever possible and to pass any new information to DHA coordinators. FPCs were asked also to assemble a list of names and addresses of all children on their register born in that particular week in April 1970, a procedure which further increased trace rates. Some were also traced through health records by DHAs/HBs. We are unable to identify how many extra sixteen year olds were traced locally in this way but it is estimated that the overall number traced from all sources was approximately 13,000. The pool of eligible survivors who qualified for inclusion at sixteen years was approximately 16,850 giving an overall trace rate of 77%.
A letter describing the sixteen year study was sent, as soon as identities and addresses became known to us, to all parents enclosing some details for the cohort member and asking for informed consent. This was known as the Parental Pack. As a precaution, the pack was sent also to the home address at ten years in those cases where there had been no response at sixteen years or a match had not (yet) been achieved between ten and sixteen year returns. To ensure that as many as possible newly-discovered or recently moved cohort families were informed, a supply of Parental Packs was lodged also with DHA/HB and LEA/RC study coordinators.