‘Growing up in Great Britain’ by Ken Fogelman

Ken Fogelman (Ed.) (1983) Growing up in Great Britain: papers from the National Child Development Study London: Macmillan 0 333 34394 8

There had been no publication after the surveys at the ages of eleven and sixteen comparable to From birth to seven (Davie et al., 1972), though Ken Fogelman (1976) had produced a brief summary of the key findings from the survey at sixteen. So this collection was an attempt to draw together from published papers which had used the data a picture of childhood and adolescence in Britain. Unlike From birth to seven, which had been aimed at professionals, this volume was aimed at an academic audience and most of the material had already been published. However, by putting it together Ken Fogelman was able to highlight issues which might not have been apparent to readers of individual papers.

Key Points

  • Social class was the most important factor in educational attainments.
  • Housing conditions had generally improved for children the older they had got.
  • There was a generation gap between first and second generation migrant communities from non-European communities; it was most pronounced among migrants from Asia where the second generation had become most like the majority community.
  • One in seven sixteen-year-olds were not living with both parents; though half of this group were living in single parent families, less than 3% of children had lived their entire lives in a single-parent family; children in single-parent families tended to give slightly less favourable responses about their parents.
  • Income accounted for most of the disadvantage suffered by children in single-parent families, that is, they were as disadvantaged as children in two-parent families with the same income.
  • With earning a wage and becoming independent being a high priority for most young people, children from single-parent families were twice as likely and those from families on benefits were also more likely to be planning to leave school than those from two-parent families.
  • A proportion of those who had had hearing problems earlier no longer had them but their attainments were still depressed.
  • More children had visual impairments as they grew older though some had shown reduced impairment with age; myopia was more likely among higher class children with higher educational attainments.
  • Children with learning disabilities are more likely to be from the manual classes, to live in poor housing, to be fourth or later born, to have a birthweight below the tenth percentile, to have been born before 37 weeks and to have weighed less than 2.5Kg at birth.
  • Those from the non-manual classes are likely to have other disabilities; more boys are likely to have learning disabilities.
  • Bed-wetting had declined with age but those who had wet the bed at seven still had problems at eleven even if they were dry.
  • Insulin use had increased, suggesting that efforts to manage diabetes were being successful.
  • Compared with earlier studies there had been a decline in tonsillectomies and in circumcision.
  • Children who smoked were more likely to have a father who did; they were more likely to have more money and to go out regularly as were those who consumed alcohol.
  • Children in mixed ability schools did best in English and maths; those in streamed schools worst.
  • Children’s attainments were more dependent on the size of the school overall than on the pupil:teacher ratio or the class size, though they would be adversely affected if teacher turnover exceeded 20%.
  • While parents and children did not always agree in the assessments of schools, the young people were more satisfied where English and maths classes were larger.
  • Few young people were interested in jobs in industry, and social class was the most significant factor in choice of job.
  • Though there had been an increase in careers advice, it had little impact on choice of job, though some on encouraging young people to stay on at school.
  • Girls received more sex education than boys and were more likely to be given education in the emotional aspects.
  • Teachers’ ratings of children in English and maths at seven and their performance in English and maths at eleven were the best predictors of their attainments at sixteen.
  • Teachers’ assessments of a child’s use of books correlated with the child’s written ability but not with the number of books the child said they had borrowed.
  • Changes in a child’s social circumstances are the major factor affecting a child’s development and attainments.
  • Children in Scotland, who had been ahead at seven, were behind their peers in England and Wales at sixteen and had lower aspirations.
  • Poor school attendance and poor housing always affected children.


In the Introduction, he outlines the origins of the National Child Development Study which had followed up the 1958 cohort in 1965, 1969 and 1974 when they were the first group required to stay on at school until 16. He then discusses the extent to which they had been successful in tracing the cohort and the impact of refusals which had amounted to 6.7% in 1974 in part because many young people were taking exams.

In Part I A study of the response rates of 16 year-olds in the National Child Development Study, Harvey Goldstein concludes that children from disadvantaged groups had been less likely to provide information at sixteen years of age and that this had resulted in some small biases in the results which tended to understate disadvantage.

In Part II Ken Fogelman draws together the papers based on the assessments provided by the young people and their families.

In Chapter 1 Social class and family size, he first summarises the results from the survey at age eleven; family size tended to be larger in the manual social classes and there was an inter-relationship between over-crowding and parental interest in education.

Reading gains were associated, in descending order, with social class, number of older children, number of young children, amenities, parental initiative, mother’s education, father’s education, living in Scotland and living in an owner-occupied house. Maths gains were associated with social class, parental initiative, living in privately rented accommodation, living in Scotland, amenities, mother’s education, father’s education, older children in the family, younger children in the family, over-crowding and sex. Positive social adjustment was associated with sex, parental initiative, social class, number of younger children, amenities, living in privately rented accommodation, no children being in a home, living in Scotland, number of older children, mother’s education and father’s education. Children’s height was associated with over-crowding, number of younger children, number of older children, living in southern England, social class, living in privately rented accommodation, sex and father’s education.

Looking at the changes in educational attainment that had taken place between the ages of seven and eleven, social class affected reading and writing but boys caught up in reading between seven and eleven while girls kept up in maths. The number of children in the household continued to have an effect but a change in social class affected both reading and arithmetic attainments.

Looking at the patterns of attainment to sixteen, social class widened the differences but family size gradually ceased to have an effect. The children in Scotland who had been ahead in reading at seven had been overtaken by the children in England and a child’s sex had little further effect. Poor reading ability did not lead to poor writing.

Boys were still growing at sixteen but girls were not; so family size was continuing to affect boys’ height to sixteen but no longer affected girls’ height. Among sexually mature children the influence of family size declined, being replaced by other environmental factors linked to family size.

In Chapter 2 Housing, he reports that overcrowding declined slightly from seven to eleven while amenities increased; any bed-sharing was associated with overcrowding and lack of amenities. Housing generally improved the older a child became but overcrowding, lack of amenities and type of housing were still associated with lower attainments in reading and maths at sixteen regardless of whether children had lived in better accommodation earlier in their lives or the number of moves they had had.

Apart from bronchitis, absences from school were not associated with housing nor were height and physical development, though truancy was related to overcrowding, perhaps because children in overcrowded situations get less sleep.

In Chapter 3 Immigrants, he reports that the greatest differences between first and second generations occurred among Asians. The first generation tended to have larger families and live in overcrowded accommodation where they shared amenities; they were less likely to be in council accommodation; however, the second generation was more like the majority community. Though similar in many respects, the differences between first and second generation West Indians were fewer and they were more like first generation Asians. The Irish had small differences between the first and second generations except in respect of housing but the second generation was closer to the majority community. The Europeans were varied but similar to the majority community. Children born abroad of British parents formed a privileged group.

Overall, apart from the Irish, second-generation children performed better than first-generation and slightly better than the majority community; apart from the West Indians, their performance related to other social conditions, including whether they were a first generation immigrant.

In Chapter 4 Single parent families, he reports that 16.4% of sixteen-year-olds were not living with both parents; about half were in one-parent families where lone fathers heavily outnumbered lone mothers; about a quarter were in step-parent families, more often with a step-mother than with a step-father. Overall, twice as many sixteen-year-olds than seven-year-olds were not living with both parents and the proportion not living with their father had increased more rapidly than the proportion not living with their mother. There was however no evidence that divorce law reform had had any impact on this.

Only 2.4% of parents in one-parent families were known to have been single at all four ages; most had been single at only one of the study ages. Most women who had become single mothers as a result of a marriage breakdown had remarried, whereas those who had been widowed had not. Children in one-parent families were slightly more likely to give unfavourable responses about their parents, except if they were not fatherless or had lived with a with lone father previously suggesting that mother absence provokes stronger reactions. However, a marriage break-up did not make children less optimistic about the future.

Though there were no differences between a father’s income in lone and two-parent families, mothers in lone-parent families were more likely to have a higher income than those in two-parent families. All other things being equal, household incomes in unbroken families were higher than in broken, and children in lone-parent families were at a disadvantage, though less so when living in council housing.

The children of lone parents were more likely to come from the lower classes, live in poor housing, be in financially disadvantaged families, attend more schools and be in care and their parents to have lower expectations. Apart from the daughters of divorced/separated parents whose maths attainments declined, the educational attainments of children of lone parents were accounted for by other factors. The key factor in the lives of the children of lone parents was income, not housing, and there were no differences related to when the family breakdown took place.

Though a quarter of sixteen-year-olds in two-parent families planned to stay on at school until eighteen, only one seventh of boys and one sixth of girls in one-parent families planned to do so, many because they needed to earn money but a third because they did not think they were good enough compared with one fifth in two-parent families. Twice as many boys and 50% more girls in two-parent families compared with children in one-parent families planned full-time study after school, though neither their teachers nor their parents had such expectations for the girls in this area. In this area there were no differences among girls from one or two-parent families in the higher social classes.

Since children from one-parent families are more likely to choose manual jobs and to cite pay as a criterion, giving young people money to stay in education might well work.

In Chapter 5 Families on low incomes, he draws on papers based on the follow-up studies at eleven and sixteen which included a question about sources of family income in the last twelve months. Around ten per cent of families had been receiving benefits at the time of the studies but only around six per cent on both occasions. Only the Irish had been over-represented among the groups receiving benefit.

At sixteen families not in receipt of benefits and with non-working mothers were only slightly better off than families receiving benefits where the mother was working; in other words, to get off benefits, mothers need a well-paid job.

Children whose families were on benefits at either study age had more money worries, lived in poorer housing conditions and were more likely to plan to leave school because they wanted money or independence. They were also regarded by both parents and teachers as more deviant.

In Part III Health and physical development, he draws together papers analysing the data relating to the medical assessment.

In Chapter 6 Speech, he reports that boys, children from manual classes, children in large families and later born children are more likely to have speech problems; however, there was more agreement that they had a speech problem among parents, teachers and doctors than about what particular speech problem it was.

Nearly a third had a hearing loss but speech therapy was not always available and it was mostly taken up for stammering or stuttering. Of those who had been identified at seven as having a marked speech problem, by eleven about a third were at ESN school, a third at ordinary school with speech problems and a third no longer had any problems. Of those with speech problems at ordinary school, about half were receiving extra help and they were more likely to have other problems. Of those assessed as no longer having problems, about half were still receiving help, their attainments were depressed and they were more likely to be rated as maladjusted.

By sixteen slightly fewer of the original group were at ESN school and slightly more were at ordinary school with no problems. There was a similar pattern to the results at eleven but those with problems at ordinary school were more likely to have hearing loss than those with no problems; their attainments were generally depressed.

In Chapter 7 Vision, he reports that at eleven 88% of children had optimal or near optimal vision and 5% impaired vision which was mostly unilateral rather than bilateral. Nearly twelve per cent of children had glasses but nearly five per cent of those not prescribed glasses had impaired visual acuity. There were no sex differences except that six times as many boys as girls had red/green impairment. There were no class differences.

By sixteen 85% were assessed as having normal or near-normal vision but more girls and more children from non-manual families were likely to have visual defects. Eighteen percent had been prescribed glasses (more girls than boys and more from non-manual classes).

Between the tests at seven, eleven and sixteen, more children had became impaired but some had also improved, more often in the non-manual classes suggesting the need for regular screening. Myopia tended to be acquired between seven and eleven and was more likely in non-manual families and among first born children whose parents took greater interest in school and who had higher educational attainments.

In Chapter 8 Hearing, he reports that, of those with a severe hearing loss at seven, half had recovered by eleven and their performance was closer to that expected for their age. Between seven and eleven there had been a general improvement but the study at sixteen had shown an unexpected decline in hearing compared with other studies showing an improvement at that age.

In Chapter 9 Other handicaps and defects, he presents data for all handicaps and notes that ESN children are more likely to be from the manual classes, to live in poor housing, to be fourth or later born, to have a birthweight below the tenth percentile, to have been born before 37 weeks and to have weighed less than 2.5Kg at birth; they were more likely to be shorter, to have poorer motor coordination, hearing loss, a speech defect, a history of convulsions, enuresis and a history of accidents; their parents were less likely to have taken an interest in their schooling and they were more likely to be maladjusted and to have low attainments though a few scored within the normal range on the tests. ESN children from the higher social classes were more likely to have additional handicaps as were those already ascertained at seven. Boys were more likely to be ESN.

By eleven bed-wetting had declined to a third of what it had been at seven but that included some who had been dry at seven; it was associated with being from a lower class, poor housing, being a fourth or later born, poor family finances, delayed development, being shorter, behaviour, speech and, in the case of girls only, coordination problems and lower attainments. There was a question whether bed-wetting was related to development since those who wet at seven still had problems at eleven even if they were dry.

The number of children with insulin dependent diabetes had increased possibly as a result of lower mortality and better management.

7.6% of children continued to have wheezy attacks at eleven; it was more common in boys, children from non-manual families and those with other conditions; they were more likely to go to hospital, be absent from school and have behaviour difficulties.

In Chapter 10 Other aspects of physical development and health, he considers a number of other aspects; 10% of children were left-handed and 5.8% mixed-handed; there were more boys than girls but there were no significant differences compared with other children.

Compared with the rates in the 1946 cohort (of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 1948) , there had been a small fall in tonsillectomies, mostly among young children, and a larger fall in circumcision, mostly in circumcisions before the age of four but this was mostly accounted for by a fall among the non-manual classes.

The rubella vaccine had become available in 1970 and 71% of girls had taken it up so far, less so among girls in independent schools.

Over 35% of sixteen-year-olds smoked; lighter smoking was more common in girls and heavier in boys. It was more likely among the manual classes and father was more likely to influence both boys and girls. Those who smoked tended to have more money and were more likely to go to parties/dance halls. Smoking was associated with alcohol in boys but less so for girls.

52% of boys and 40% of girls consumed alcohol at sixteen; they were likely to have more money and go to parties or dances. Interestingly, there was a lower incidence in Scotland.

In Part IV The school, Ken Fogelman reports on papers analysing the results of the educational assessment.

In Chapter 11 Ability groups in the secondary schools at 16 years, he reports that streaming was more common in comprehensive schools, especially larger comprehensives and secondary modern schools, and use of sets was more common in grammar schools, though there was significantly more mixed ability teaching in Scotland. The best teacher:pupil ratios in were in mixed ability schools, the worst in streamed.

Corporal punishment was very common in Scotland and most common in English streamed schools but least common in English mixed-ability schools. Uniform was infrequently compulsory in Scotland but most likely in English streamed schools though more setted schools require some element of uniform.

Children in mixed ability schools did best at reading and maths and those in streamed school worst. Children’s self-ratings at sixteen tended to reflect their attainments at eleven rather than their current performance and there was no association between children’s development and being in a streamed, setted or mixed ability school.

In Chapter 12 Other school characteristics, he reports that children’s attainments are associated, in descending order, with the type of school, school size, sex segregation, the teacher:pupil ratio, streaming, class size, hours per week spent on English, hours per week spent on maths, teacher turnover, parent-teacher meetings, whether the school has a uniform and corporal punishment.

The only other factors to have a significant effect were teacher turnover over 20%, which had an adverse effect, and parent-teacher meetings where teachers were concerned about the child, which had a positive effect.

The percentage of parents satisfied with school was similar across all classes though pupils from higher classes were more likely to express satisfaction with their school. Parents and children did not always agree on this, while boys and their parents were slightly more likely to be less satisfied. Parents’ satisfaction with girls’ schools related to class, with manual class parents whose daughters attended grammar schools reporting high satisfaction and non-manual class parents whose daughters attended comprehensive schools reporting low satisfaction regardless of their daughters’ attainments.

Young people, especially those from the manual classes, were more satisfied with grammar schools but there were no significant variables in parental satisfaction with grammar schools. Parental satisfaction with comprehensive schools was associated with smaller schools, lower teacher turnover, no punishment, voluntary uniform and larger English classes. The only significant variables in young people’s satisfaction with comprehensive schools were larger English and maths classes.

In Chapter 13 Guidance, careers and further education, he reports that boys chose jobs with ‘good pay’ and ‘variety’ while girls chose those with ‘variety’ and ‘opportunities to help others’ with ‘good pay’ coming in third. More boys expected to continue education. The influence of social class was seen in boys from the upper and middle classes choosing professions and engineering and those from the working classes engineering and building; girls from the higher classes chose clerical and teaching jobs and those from the middle and lower classes caring jobs. Young people’s education plans were associated with parental education. The lack of interest in industry as a career move was striking.

Having careers guidance was not associated with career choice but had some effect on whether young people stayed on at school; compared with earlier studies, this study showed there had been a gradual increase in careers advice.

In Chapter 14 Sex education and preparation for parenthood, he reports that the young people said they needed more knowledge about family problems (around 80%), care of babies (around 75%), the growth of the child (around 60%), sexually transmitted diseases (around 55%) and birth and conception (both around 30%). The young people’s sources of knowledge had been:

boys girls

conception friends parents

birth TV parents

STD TV book

care of children parents parents

growth of the child parents

family problems parents parents

Girls always had more school lessons than boys and these had covered reproduction (around 90%), the emotional aspects (around 70%), contraception (around 60%) and sexually transmitted diseases (around 70%). Less than 60% had received education on all four topics. Sex education was most likely to take place in all girl schools and least likely in all boy schools; it was 50% more likely in comprehensive and secondary modern schools than in grammar schools.

There were variations in the areas in which young people wanted to know more but no significant variables.

In Chapter 15 Other aspects of schooling, he reports that changes in attainment, up or down, were greater in primary school than in secondary school and that teachers’ ratings in English and maths at seven and children’s scores in English and maths at eleven were the best predictors of attainments at sixteen.

Children in ESN special schools at seven made the same reading progress to eleven as those in ordinary schools and better progress in maths but ESN children in ordinary schools who received help did even better.

There were links between school attendance, attainment and behaviour but no class differences and no association between attainment and primary school attendance.

In Part V Measuring behaviour in the school and home, he discusses the use of the Bristol Social Adjustment Guide which had shown lots of movement in the results at different ages.

In Part VI Written language, he discusses the current debate about reading comprehension, showing that it was more closely associated with productivity which was in turn associated with the teacher’s assessment of the child’s use of books but this did not correlate with their borrowing of books; so what were they reading?

In the Overview, he summarises the key factors identified in the studies at seven, eleven and sixteen. Housing improves for children as they grow up but four per cent had been in overcrowded housing at all three study ages. Though twelve per cent had been living with one parent at one of the three follow-ups, only 26 children out of the entire sample (or two per cent of those living with a single parent) had been with one parent at all three follow ups.

Only 40% of children had remained in the same assessment category at all three follow-ups showing that changes in a child’s circumstances had influenced the results.

By sixteen the impact of family size, though still present, had declined.

Though the Scottish children had made the highest reading progress early on, they were behind at sixteen and had lower aspirations to continue in education. Similarly, though girls had been ahead in reading and maths at seven, they were behind at sixteen and they were less likely to plan to go to university or to stay on at school.

Sixteen-year-olds make high use of medical facilities; it is important that those prescribed glasses wear them. Compared with earlier studies smoking was down for boys but hardly at all for girls. There was a significant shortfall in the number of rubella vaccinations. There had been an increase in insulin dependent sixteen-year-olds. There was a need for more careers guidance and sex education. Better use could perhaps be made of TV and magazines for sex and health education.

School attendance tended to remain the same but poor school attendance resulted in lower attainments; a lot of handicapped children needed ascertainment. Poor housing always had an impact.

Most second generation migrants were better off than first except West Indian and Irish.

The impact of being in a one-parent family was no worse than being in a two-parent family in the same circumstances.


Moving beyond the general finding in Fogelman (1976) that just the fact of being in care brings disadvantages to children in Britain, the more detailed studies suggest some of the reasons why.

Firstly, social class is a key variable and this immediately suggests one reason why George Lyward (Burn, 1956) and A. S. Neill (1962) might have started with an advantage since, initially at least, they were only able to take children whose parents could afford to pay. But it also raises the question whether it is appropriate always to offer children care which is not too dissimilar from that to which they are accustomed (Redl and Wineman, 1952). Packman (1975) records that, by the 1960s, the Oxfordshire County Council Children’s Department was making grants to children in care for foreign travel, music lessons and coaching in various subjects.

It also raises the question of the most appropriate educational level for those caring for children in out of home care. Carers with a higher educational, and therefore normally a higher class, background are more likely to influence children towards and develop the relationships with teachers which support a positive attitude towards education. Employing staff whose educational experiences are marginal rather than mainstream (Millham et al., 1980) may perpetually limit the possibility of influencing children in care towards greater educational attainments. We now also know that class is not a significant variable in the outcome of foster care; rather it is the quality of the relationships the foster parents make with the foster child’s parents (Trasler, 1960; Fanshel and Shinn, 1978) .

Secondly, poor housing and low income had greater impact than being in a broken family; indeed changing children’s overall social circumstances had more impact on their development than anything else. Helping people to cope with a bad situation is of no benefit; only getting them out of that bad situation is likely to have an impact (Clarke and Clarke, 1976b). Restoring children to a situation where things are really no better than when the child was taken from the situation is likely to lead to the least satisfactory outcome for children (Tizard, 1977; Wiener and Wiener, 1990) .

By implication poor accommodation and lack of money to provide stimulating experiences for children in care is also likely to have an impact on children in care; nearly two-thirds of sixteen-year-olds at home had their own room while many children in care were still sleeping in dormitories (Millham et al., 1975). The main reason children at home wanted to start work was to earn a wage and be independent; it is perhaps hardly surprising that most children in care would not choose to continue in education in view of the limited money they would have.

Thirdly, people should not be surprised that children wet the bed; more children do so at home than there are living away from home.

Fourthly, children do want to know about sex education and in particular the emotional aspects of sex and families. They don’t know it all and they know that.

Finally, children’s behaviour and development is not stable. Even though the researchers had used the same test of behaviour every time, most children’s results had been different at different ages and only 40% of children had been assessed as within the same band of development at all three surveys. Children do have the capacity to change for the better as well as for the worse and the most important factor in encouraging that is the social circumstances in which the child finds him or herself. As George Lyward, A. S. Neill and F. G. Lennhoff (1960) found in their practice and Clarke and Clarke (1976a) demonstrated from research, short term interventions are far less, if at all, effective than positive long-term environments, whether at home or away from home.


Burn, M (1956) Mr Lyward’s answer London: Hamish Hamilton See also Children Webmag May 2009.

Clarke, A M and Clarke, A D B (Eds) (1976a) Early experience: myth and evidence London: Open Books See also Children Webmag May 2010.

Clarke, A M and Clarke, A D B (1976b) Studies in natural settings In A M Clarke and A D B Clarke (Eds) Early experience: myth and evidence, Chapter 6, pp. 69-96 London: Open Books

Davie, R, Butler, N R and Goldstein, H (1972) From birth to seven: the second report of the National Child Development Study (1958 Cohort) London: Longmans See also Children Webmag November 2010.

Fanshel, D and Shinn, E B (1978) Children in foster care: a longitudinal investigation Guildford: Columbia University Press See also Children Webmag March 2009.

Fogelman, K (1976) Britain’s sixteen year olds: preliminary findings from the third follow-up study of the National Child Development Study (1958 Cohort) London: National Children’s Bureau

Lennhoff, F G (1960) Exceptional children: residential treatment of emotionally disturbed boys at Shotton Hall London: George Allen & Unwin See also Children Webmag August 2010.

Millham, S, Bullock, R and Cherrett, P (1975) After grace, teeth: a comparative study of residential experience of boys in approved schools London: Human Context See also Children Webmag March 2010.

Millham, S, Bullock, R and Hosie, K (1980) Learning to care: the training of staff for residential social work with young people Farnborough: Gower

Neill, A S (1962) Summerhill: a radical approach to education London: Victor Gollancz Originally published 1960 Summerhill: a radical approach to child rearing New York: Hart See also Children Webmag July 2009.

Packman, J (1975) The child’s generation: child care policy from Curtis to Houghton Oxford: Blackwell

Redl, F and Wineman, D (1952) Controls from within: techniques for the treatment of the aggressive child Glencoe ILL: Free Press See also Children Webmag November 2009.

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1948) Maternity in Great Britain: a survey of social and economic aspects of pregnancy and childbirth undertaken by a Joint Committee of the Royal College . . . and the Population Investigation Committee London: Oxford University Press

Tizard, B (1977) Adoption: a second chance London: Open Books See also Children Webmag January 2010.

Trasler, G (1960) In place of parents: a study of foster care London: Routledge & Kegan Paul

Wiener, A and Wiener, E (1990) Expanding the options in child placement Lanham MD: University Press of America See also Children Webmag January 2010.

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