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200 and counting

Press release issued: 27 June 2005

Children of the 90s, the long-running research project following the lives of thousands of Bristol families, has reached an important milestone in its own development.

Children of the 90s, the long-running research project following the lives of thousands of Bristol families, has reached an important milestone in its own development.

On Friday 24 June, the study, formally known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) celebrates the publication of its 200th scientific paper.  The research into paternal postnatal depression and its effect on young children appears in The Lancet.

ALSPAC's first paper, published by Professor Jean Golding in 1989, outlined a European study of pregnancy and childhood in various countries.  The following year she began to recruit the first of 14,000 mothers who would be at the centre of the research.

Since then, Children of the 90s has become the most comprehensive study of early childhood anywhere in the world.   ALSPAC has become a mine of information used by researchers from universities across the UK and worldwide as they examine all aspects of health, behaviour and development.

Collaborating scientists include  allergy experts, anthropologists, audiologists, biochemists, cardiologists, criminologists, dermatologists, educationists, economists, endocrinologists, epidemiologists,  exercise physiologists, geneticists, gynaecologists, microbiologists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, paediatricians, pathologists,  pharmacologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, respiratory physiologists, rheumatologists, social scientists, toxicologists...

Over the years their research has covered everything from asthma to working mothers...and much more.  Last year alone, we published 33 peer-reviewed papers in academic journals.

Among the findings:

  • Frequent use of household cleaning products and other chemicals in the home could be linked to cases of asthma among Britain's children.
  • Peanut allergies may be linked to the use of certain skin creams containing peanut oil which are used to treat eczema.
  • A mother's stress during pregnancy may effect the brain of her unborn child in ways linked to dyslexia and autism.
  • Toddlers who spend more than eight hours watching television each week are at an increased risk of obesity as they grow up
  • Women who ate fish regularly during pregnancy had children with better language and communication skills by the age of 18 months.   Eating oily fish in pregnancy improves your child's eyesight
  • When couples split up - there is a direct positive relationship between the amount of contact their children have with their natural father and their behaviour.
  • The benefits of breastfeeding could last a lifetime - children who were breastfed have lower blood pressure years later.
  • Mothers who go back to work while their babies are still in infancy aren't putting their children at a disadvantage
  • Air fresheners and aerosols are associated with higher levels of diarrhoea, earache and other symptoms in infants, as well as headaches and depression in mothers.
  • Women having their babies by Caesarean section could find it harder to conceive next time.
  • Frequent use of Paracetamol during the later stages of  pregnancy may increase the risk of asthma in your child.
  • Parents who smoke, even passively, take longer to conceive

With financial backing from the Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council and the USA's National Institutes of Health, among others, we are currently looking at all aspects of childhood as the Children of the 90s go through their teenaged years.

Professor Golding says the credit must go to the families who have given up their time to help the research.     "They, together with our research staff have already achieved so much that has changed the lives of children all over the world.   

"Everybody at Children of the 90s is delighted to have got here.  This is something that all of us - especially our families - can be really proud about.     We couldn't have done it without them."

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