Why am I so unique?



Why are the Children of the New Century so special?

Researchers predict that your generation is going to be much different from your parents and grandparents before you.

The world is changing quickly. Your generation is growing up in a time of big challenges, like climate change and international security. There are also new opportunities like globalisation, increasing cultural diversity and new technology. You’ve never known a time without computers, the internet or smart phones, and you can access information on almost any topic at the touch of a button.  Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter mean that your experiences can be instantly shared and friends can be people you’ve never met. In 1999, the government decided it would be really important to understand as much as they could about this special generation. They asked a group of researchers to set up a new study that would follow the lives of the children of the 21st century. The very next year, Child of the New Century began.

To learn more about why the study was started, visit the ‘History of the study’ page.

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Why have I been specially chosen?

You are one of 19,000 young people selected from 400 different areas of the UK to represent your generation. Each one of you was chosen because you’re unique, and together you represent the diversity of the children of the new century.

As you grow and change, so do the things that make you special. It may be where you live, how you’re doing at school, your family or your hobbies. We need to make sure that as many of you as possible keep taking part well into the future so that all the different types of voices of your generation can be heard.

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Why should I take part?

By taking part in Child of the New Century, you’re helping to make life better for young people your age, as well as for future generations.

Politicians, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and others use findings from the study to improve services and policies to help young people.

It’s your story and only you can tell it. We’ve been following you since you were 9 months old and we really want to keep hearing from you as you grow up.

You’re unique and the picture isn’t complete without you. If you choose not to take part, we can’t replace you with anyone else.

It’s important that we understand what life is like for all different kinds of young people – from different parts of the country, different family backgrounds, different ethnicities, etc. That’s why we need as many of you as possible to keep taking part – each and every one of you brings something new to the story.

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How was my family initially recruited?

Your family was recruited because of where you were living and when you were born. Nearly 400 areas were randomly selected for the study from across the whole of the UK. In those areas, we aimed to contact the families of all the babies born between 1st September 2000 and 31st August 2001 in England and Wales, and between 24th November 2000 and 11th January 2002 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

At that time, virtually all families in the UK received Child Benefit. The government department administering Child Benefit – called the Department for Work and Pensions – had the names and addresses of some 27,000 families with a baby born between those dates and living in those areas. The Department for Work and Pensions wrote to all of these families inviting them to take part and giving them a chance to opt out.

Around 24,000 of these families were then approached by an interviewer when their baby was around 9 months old, and 18,552 families were successfully interviewed at the first survey.

Another 692 families, who were missed initially, were added to the study at age 3. They were recruited in the same way and lived in the same areas.

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Who else takes part?

19,000 young people from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken part in the study.

In many cases, parents, teachers and even brothers and sisters have also taken part.

In the future, we may also want to talk to the people who may be important to you as an adult, such as your partner or children, if you have them.

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Do my parents have to take part?

We know that parents are an important part of your life, so as you’re growing up, we ask your mum, dad or the person who takes care of you to take part as well. We are only able to interview parents who live with you. You can still take part, even if your parents don’t want to.

When you’re an adult, we may ask other important people in your life to take part, such as your partner or children (if you have them). But it will be up to them whether or not they want to.

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Why don’t you interview my parent who doesn’t live with me?

When we’ve visited you, we’ve interviewed your parents or guardians living with you. However, a number of study members don’t live with both their parents, for example where parents are divorced or separated. In the vast majority of these cases, study members are living with their mothers but not their fathers.

Studies like ours have always struggled to keep fathers involved once they’ve left the family home. In the early days of CNC, we attempted to include those fathers who were not living with their children full-time. In advance of the Age 5 Survey, we carried out a pilot study with children who had fathers living elsewhere. We asked these fathers to complete a questionnaire, but unfortunately less than 14 per cent responded. The numbers were too low to be representative of the wider population of non-resident fathers, and would likely result in an unbalanced and even misleading picture of the involvement of these fathers in their children’s lives. For this reason, we decided we would not interview non-resident fathers as part of the study.

However, we recognise that many non-resident fathers play an important role in their children’s lives. We have tried to gather information as best we can about all fathers not living in the home. While you were growing up, we asked your mothers a range of questions about your father’s involvement in your upbringing, and we asked you about your relationships with both parents.

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What has CNC found out?

You can read about findings from Child of the New Century in the what we’ve learned section. Here are a few highlights:


Children whose mothers drank heavily while they were pregnant were more likely to have behaviour problems at age 3 than those whose mothers didn’t drink or drank lightly.

Having only one or two alcoholic drinks a week during pregnancy is not related to children’s behaviour or abilities at later ages.

Home and family

  • Children who have a regular bedtime tend to do better at school in areas such as reading and maths than those who don’t. The same researchers found that children who go to bed at the same time every night benefit from being in a better mood and generally get on better with others.
  • Watching TV for more than three hours a day could be linked to anti-social behaviour such as stealing or fighting, although the authors emphasise that lots of other factors influence children’s behaviour too.


The month in which children were born could influence which classes or sets they are in. Children born in the summer months were more likely to be placed in lower sets because they were almost a year younger than their classmates born in September.

Happiness and aspirations

  • In the Age 11 Survey more than half of young people said they were ‘completely happy’ at school, while nearly 3 in 4 were ‘completely happy’ at home.
  • Overall, the most popular jobs with children in the Age 7 Survey included teacher, scientist, hairdresser, sports player, firefighter, vet, doctor, artist and builder.

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