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Almost £9 million to follow the Children of the 90s into adulthood

25 January 2006

Children of the 90s, the ongoing study of 14 thousand children based in Bristol, has been awarded £8.9 million by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

Children of the 90s, the ongoing study of 14 thousand children based in Bristol, has been awarded £8.9 million by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council to study the young people through their teenage years.

Under the new five-year programme, researchers will monitor the children as they go through adolescence into early adulthood focusing on some of the most important areas of concern in public health such as asthma, obesity, depression and risk-taking behaviour.

The study, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), has a new Director. Professor George Davey Smith, one of the World’s leading epidemiologists, will take over from Professor Jean Golding who is retiring as head of the project.

Professor Davey Smith says: “In the current climate this award is a big achievement for us. It is a clear recognition of the importance of the project to scientific research today, and a tribute to the dedicated staff and families who have made Children of the 90s what it is today”

“By collecting data from before birth through to late childhood we will create a resource which will enable scientists to understand so much more about the causes of ill health, chronic disease and impaired development – and eventually do something to reduce the burdens of common disease.”

The new grant will take forward the work which began 15 years ago when Professor Golding enrolled 14,000 pregnant women who were due to give birth in the old county of Avon between April 1991 and December 1992.

Many of these children, who are now in their teens, are still closely involved with the project. As they go through their teenage years, it is hoped they will continue to participate in the study.

Professor Golding says: “In the past 15 years our researchers have collected a wealth of data on the children and their families, which along with the biological samples and medical records has made this one of the most comprehensive studies of pregnancy, infancy and childhood ever undertaken.

“I am delighted that Professor Davey Smith and his team have secured this award that will ensure that the study continues. Although I will no longer be responsible for running the study I intend to continue to work on the data we have collected and to pursue my own research interests ”

The co-directors, Dr Andy Ness and Dr John Henderson, say: “We know that a lot of ill-health among adults is a consequence of things that happened very early in life – even in the womb. Subtle things that happen to the mother may have profound effects on her child many years later.

“The transition from childhood to adult life is an important period that encompasses rapid changes in biological and psychological processes. While we have established a comprehensive study of early childhood, there is currently a lack of corresponding data anywhere on adolescent health, even though this is such a critical time.”


1. The new grant coincides with a change in the management of the study. Professor Golding has been made an emeritus professor and will continue with specific research work with the study while handing over day to day management to an executive group, headed by a new executive director Ms Lynn Molloy. Jean says: “My role is changing, but I will still be very much involved with ALSPAC. Once the new management structure is in place, I will have more time to get on with my own research. I have some interesting projects which we have already started and which I will now be giving my full attention.

“Over the years I have been very privileged to watch the Children of the 90s growing up. Most of them are now teenagers – but I feel I’ve known the families since before the children were born. I’ve always enjoyed the close relationship with them and I look forward to continuing that in the future.”

2. The new ALSPAC executive group will be

  • George Davey Smith, Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol. Overall director
  • Dr John Henderson, Consultant Senior Lecturer, and consultant paediatrician, Bristol Children’s Hospital
  • Ms Lynn Molloy, Executive director, former Business Manager with the Twin Research Unit at Guy’s & St Thomas' in London
  • Dr Andy Ness, Consultant Senior Lecturer.

3. ALSPAC The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (also known as Children of the 90s) is a unique ongoing research project based in the University of Bristol. It enrolled 14,000 mothers during pregnancy in 1991-2 and has followed most of the children and parents in minute detail ever since.


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