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  • Author or Editor: Kate Smith x
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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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Older people’s perspectives on their experiences of ageing and dependency shed light on the complex nature of dignity as a personal and social concept. In this study, participants revealed how, as they became dependent on others for support and care, their lives felt increasingly precarious and their sense of dignity was challenged. Influenced by their life-course experiences as well as by their social circumstances, their response to this challenge included both perseverance and adjustment to change. The attitudes and behaviour of others, including those of professionals, contributed in crucially important ways to maintaining their sense of identity and dignity.

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Our article draws on research undertaken with children during the 2020–21 COVID-19 pandemic in order to consider the potential of digitally mediated participatory research for child-centred research practice. Our specific focus is on how children’s inclusion can be centred in the absence of opportunities to meet in person. We reflect on how we sought to support children’s engagement through offline and online creative activities and explore how these digitally mediated spaces can facilitate children’s inclusion, creative engagement and dialogue. We offer examples from our arts-based, digitally mediated research to consider how researchers might work remotely, yet inclusively, in contexts where children have been marginalised and their voices silenced. Our research suggests that scaffolding creative activities through bespoke digital animation and asynchronous chat can facilitate children to participate in ways of their choosing. However, to address equity of inclusion researchers must attend to the contingencies of children’s digital, material and social exclusion.

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Since 2007 Born in Bradford (BiB) has been following the health and wellbeing of over 36,000 families living in Bradford, an ethnically diverse and deprived city in the North of England. It hosts three birth cohort studies, two of which have gathered recent pre-COVID-19 information on their participants. BiB have explored the short- and longer-term societal impacts of the COVID-19 response on health trajectories and inequalities in vulnerable families from minority ethnic and deprived backgrounds. This chapter describes the findings from: two time points of the longitudinal BiB COVID-19 surveys (April–June 2020 and October–December 2020) which were compared to recently collected pre-pandemic baseline information; and an in-depth qualitative study on mental health. When compared to pre-pandemic data, three overarching themes were apparent across a large number of parents and children: (i) increased financial insecurity; (ii) increased mental ill health; and (iii) reduced physical activity. These themes were evident at both survey time points, indicating long-lasting impacts of the pandemic. The Government’s response to the pandemic has had unintended negative consequences, with the greatest impact being on those families who were already vulnerable. To recover effectively from the pandemic, additional support will be needed to support the most vulnerable families.

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