Search Archives and Manuscripts

Reference SA/PIC/F/7
See the rest of this archive
Previous Numbers PIC.VII
Level Series
Extent 3 boxes
Title National Survey of the Health and Development of Children (NSHD)
Date 1946-1998
Box Number 28-30
Ordering Instructions This archive record describes a grouping of orderable items: to order any of them for consultation, order copies or view them if they have been digitised, navigate down the archive hierarchy to Item level.
Description Contains correspondence, reports, and reprints of publications relating to the National Survey of Health and Development.
Historical Background

In 1946 a National Inquiry into Maternity Services was initiated to study children and their families. A Joint Committee consisting of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Institute of Child Health, and the Population Investigation Committee (PIC) was established to enquire into the social and economic aspects of child bearing in Great Britain. The subjects of the Inquiry were the children of women who gave birth during the week ending 9 March 1946. The preliminary report was published in Population Studies in 1947 and prepared by J. W.B. Douglas and Griselda Rowntree. Funding for the Inquiry and the subsequent follow-up studies was received primarily from the Nuffield Foundation. Others contributing funding towards the study were the National Birthday Trust Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Medical Research Council (MRC), Population Council Inc, the National Spastics Society, and the Population Investigation Committee itself.

In 1948 Maternity in Great Britain was published. Following the initial Inquiry, it was agreed that the information collected would provide a valuable basis for a follow-up study. The intention was to investigate a sample of the mothers and children, giving special consideration to comparative development and morbidity of premature and full term children. The follow up study was directed by J.W.B. Douglas with the assistance of Miss G. Rowntree. The sample consisted of approximately 6000 children.

Follow-up studies continued at different intervals focusing on different aspects covering accidents, infections, diseases, hospitalisation, the use of child health services, sleeping conditions, housing, occupational status of parents, and health visitors' assessment of maternal efficiency. In 1952 the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists withdrew from the Joint Committee and the Society of Medical Officers took their place. From 1952 the follow-up study became known as the National Survey of the Health and Development of Children. In collaboration with the National Foundation for Educational Research in England and Wales and the support of Scottish Council for Research in Education, the Joint Committee arranged for tests of reading ability and intelligence to be given to all children in the sample in Feb 1954.

Children under five, by J.W.B. Douglas and J.M. Blomfield, was published in 1958. The first survey covering the secondary school stage was carried out in Jun 1959. This included two separate questionnaires for each child. One filled in by teachers and the other was for the first time filled out by the children themselves. It was also decided to test whether the sample of children had become atypical due to being under observation. As a result a sample of children of the original survey but not included in follow-up sample were given the same medical examination, and information collected on their use of medical services. The survey children were tested in arithmetic, reading and general intelligence with tests designed by National Foundation for Educational Research.

From Apr 1962, under Dr Douglas, a separate MRC unit was established at the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE) to study environmental aspects of mental and physical illness. The work of the follow-up study was transferred to the new Unit of MRC. The Joint Committee dissolved itself and a smaller committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Moncrieff appointed. PIC staff continued to have involvement. It was financed by grants from the Home Office and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

The survey children continued to be followed up throughout the 1960s. A new development included interviewing the mothers of the second generation of children. Interviews were planned for each family as the first-born child reached 4 years old in order to examine the association between the standards of care received by the mothers themselves and the care they give to their own children. When children reached 8 years of age they were retested with the same test their parents completed at that age.

Towards the end of the 1970s the Neurosciences Board recommended that the study move to Bristol after 1979, when the Director, James Douglas, retired. Prof. John Colley was appointed the new director. The Survey was initially to continue for a seven-year period as an MRC external scientific staff team known as the MRC National Survey of Health and Development. Future plans included the continuation of annual contact with survey members by way of birthday card, the continuation and completion of the Second Generation Study, a postal follow-up of the whole cohort, and later a home interview study. The move took place in 1980 and severed the link between the Survey and LSE and the PIC. It became financed entirely by the MRC. During the 18 years the National Survey was based at LSE members of the Unit published findings in 3 books, 19 chapters in other books, and 82 papers in scientific journals.

Access Status Certain restrictions apply
Access Conditions

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, with the exception of:

SA/PIC/F/7/3 Restricted access until 1 Jan 2056

SA/PIC/F/7/5 Restricted access until 1 Jan 2065

Readers may obtain permission to consult material designated as 'restricted access' on completion of a Restricted Access application form.

Reproduction Conditions Images are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.
MaterialType Archives - Non-digital
System No. 470e2c36-422c-41d2-8a02-add71bd6b0fc