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From birth to nine months
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This book documents the early lives of almost 19,000 children born in the UK at the start of the 21st century, and their families. It is the first time that analysis of data from the hugely important Millennium Cohort Study, a longitudinal study following the progress of the children and their families, has been drawn together in a single volume. The unrivalled data is examined here to address important policy and scientific issues. The book is also the first in a series of publications that will report on the children’s lives at different stages of their development.

The fascinating range of findings presented here is strengthened by comparison with data on earlier generations. This has enabled the authors to assess the impact of a wide range of policies on the life courses of a new generation, including policies on child health, parenting, childcare and social exclusion.

Babies of the new millennium (title tbc) is the product of an exciting collaboration from experts across a wide range of health and social science fields. The result is a unique and authoritative analysis of family life and early childhood in the UK that cuts across old disciplinary boundaries. It is essential reading for academics, students and researchers in the health and social sciences. It will also be a useful resource for policy makers and practitioners who are interested in childhood, child development, child poverty, child health, childcare and family policy.

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This chapter examines the relationship between a child’s development and the family environment, looking at the relative influences of the child, family and environmental factors in shaping individual development during the first year of life. The first year of life is increasingly regarded as a ‘critical’ stage of a child’s development and of emerging family relationships. The most frequently studied early indicators of child development include biological factors such as illness at birth, low birthweight and physical disability. This chapter focuses on indicators of early child development as measured by developmental delays in gross motor and fine motor development, as well as the development of communicative gestures.

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After considering the data sources in more detail, this chapter describes health during infancy of the cohort children through investigating the baby’s birthweight, its infant weight at 8–9 months and the early nutrition and patterns of breastfeeding. Then, it considers a range of parental and community influences on the baby’s health are — namely, parental smoking and alcohol use, immunisation, health problems and other uses of services. Finally, the chapter examines indicators of good health in infancy and concludes with the implications of the findings for child health policy.

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This chapter reviews the circumstances of birth for babies born at the start of the 21st century. It outlines the initial conditions of life for this new generation. This chapter considers the family into which a new baby is born — in particular it looks at parents and their relationships, siblings and the wider kin. Then, it examines the ethnic identities and the religion of parents, and their own languages and national and cultural heritages. The health of parents is another important element of the ‘endowment set’ for cohort babies which may affect the extent to which parents can provide effective care for the baby. Finally, the chapter describes the housing conditions and neighbourhood context in which these families live.

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This chapter presents some concluding remarks. In what has been an unprecedented time in the UK for family policy initiatives and developments, the new large-scale longitudinal survey of babies that was launched in the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) of 18,819 babies has provided an interesting opportunity for analysis. This book has given people the chance to start to dip into the richness of this new survey, explore its potential, compare its findings with earlier generations and provide some benchmarks for the future with this new generation of children who have started out life in this era of new UK family policy. This chapter presents some final thoughts about policy questions such as babies under different family structures and parenting regimes; fathers’ involvement in childcare; child poverty; working mothers; parental employment; babies’ health and development, and social capital.

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This chapter introduces the main topics covered by this book. The initiation of a new cohort study of approximately 18,800 UK babies born in the Millennium provides the opportunity to reflect on the circumstances of children in Britain at the start of a new century. This book focuses on the information collected in the new Millennium Cohort Study of these babies covering the period from pregnancy through to nine months old. However, it also offers a perspective from earlier generations in selected respects, to show how circumstances and experiences differ. The book focuses on particular aspects of starting out on life in the 21st century; these include pregnancy experiences; birth experiences; child health; growth and development; parents’ health; household structure; socioeconomic circumstances of parents; employment and education of mothers and fathers; childcare arrangements; household income and attitudes to parenting and employment.

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The Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) provides data from mothers and fathers about their involvement with their new baby and in family life, uniquely, for a very large sample of UK fathers. This chapter first examines the effect of the baby. It looks on an under-researched group — fathers — as they appear in the existing literature, followed by a report on the division of domestic work between mothers and fathers. The discussion then presents what the survey finds about fathers’ involvement with the cohort child, irrespective of whether they are living in the same home. It also reviews parenting beliefs and attitudes as well as the overlaps in mothers’ and fathers’ views about parenting, and some of the mothers’ feelings about having a new baby.

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Fathers’ contributions to childcare have increased, but are still far outweighed by mothers’ contributions. Increased paid work among mothers has also necessitated increased childcare outside the immediate family. This chapter focuses on paid work and childcare while mothers are employed, as elements of family life, at the dawn of the 21st century. The chapter describes first the employment status of parents at the point where their baby was aged 9–10 months, and then the childcare they arranged while they were employed. Finally, it examines indicators of mothers’ and fathers’ work-life balance.

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In the UK, birth registration and NHS maternity statistics systems collect information about trends in demographic structure and patterns of care at delivery. This chapter analyses the data about pregnancy and mothers’ use of services in their social context, and relates them to the trends documented elsewhere. It reviews the process of giving birth in the Millennium. First, it examines the timing of motherhood. Then, it looks at the age of motherhood, whether it was planned and whether fertility was assisted. The chapter follows with a consideration of the use and experience of the health services related to maternity and delivery. Finally, it considers mothers’ intentions about future fertility.

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Probably one of the single most important elements of a child’s origins that affect their development and subsequent life chances is the family’s economic circumstances. This chapter reviews the socioeconomic human capital of parents of Millennium Cohort babies and considers families’ financial resources. It examines the extent of families living in poverty at the start of the cohort child’s life and the family characteristics associated with living in poverty are described. Measuring poverty involves discussing how to assess poverty using income and relative poverty measures available in the data. The chapter also includes an examination of how families feel their financial circumstances changed over the time of having this birth. Finally, it considers the contribution to family resources and relationships of wider kin, in the form of grandparents who are part of babies’ social, relationship and financial capitals at the start of their lives.

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