Manchester Metropolitan University researchers are leading the design of a survey for the first Europe-wide project to track the well-being of children as they grow up.

The European Cohort Development Project (ECDP) will establish the design of a European survey called EuroCohort for children and young people from birth until the age of 25 and aims to provide data to aid policymakers across Europe to make better decisions to secure their well-being.

The project, funded by the European Commission, will bring much needed attention to the reality that policymakers are unable to draw upon the type of data that is needed to address complex social problems which often have a negative impact on child and adolescent well-being.  According to the OECD publication ‘How’s Life’ (2015) there is a need for “longitudinal and purpose-built surveys of child well-being” in order to fully understand how it is that a variety of policies influence different groups of children at different points in their lives.  Without such data policies will be ill informed and less likely to be able to make a real difference.

Building evidence base

This new project is set to work out the requirements for a survey that will provide the evidence base to comprehensively inform progress on childhood health and well-being.

Once in operation, the survey will gather large amounts of data on measures of health and well-being, such as stress at school and happiness in the home. A comparison across European countries will strengthen the understanding of how context and policy influence such measures.

PERU’s Professor Gary Pollock, the project Director said: “The European Cohort Development project is a first as it is building towards a pan-European, longitudinal survey of child health and well-being. The aim is to arrive at a research framework that is scientifically robust enough for policymakers to take forward.”

Project launch

The next year and a half of the project is focussed on setting up the survey. The project holds its initial meeting in Manchester in January, where partners from 12 European countries will begin work to develop the research design and the data collection instruments. Due to the relevance of the future survey’s findings to national governments and institutions, the project team is involving them from the start.

The European Cohort Development project is led by PERU and has been awarded over 2 million Euros. The project includes partner universities from Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and The Netherlands. Representatives from UNICEF are also closely involved with the project and are keen to support the initiative to develop a Europe wide cohort survey.

The need for robust evidence on what determines the trajectories of development and child well-being across the life course cannot be understated. Pollock said: “We will be inviting important political and policy decision makers to participate in a discussion of costs and benefits that will inform the scope of the study. We hope that our research will contribute towards supporting better growing-up experiences in the near future.”

Dominic Richardson, Senior Education Specialist at UNICEF said: “The need for robust evidence on what determines the trajectories of development and child well-being across the life course cannot be understated. A Europe-wide survey fills an important gap in knowledge, and strengthens the ability of policymakers in different countries and contexts to learn and share good practice for child development. The ECDP is a vital next steps in improving child policy, and through this the living standards of all children in Europe.”