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Discovering ALSPAC

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) is a large scale study of children in Avon, England born during the 1990s. The programme is also often referred to as The Children of the 90s. It is a study of genetic and environmental factors contributing to long term health and development.

ALSPAC is a longitudinal study, that is to say it is a correlational research study that involves repeated observations of the same variables over long periods of time to provide results that demonstrate a concordant pattern. A long-term and large-scale population study, ALSPAC is a study of the biological and environmental influences affecting a person’s health. The ALSPAC project obtained a mass of health and lifestyle data collated from questionnaires completed by parents, physical examinations of children, health records, biological sample analysis and tests on the home environment and also by the children themselves.

ALSPAC is used by researchers in health, education and other social science disciplines all over the world. The study is hosted at the University of Bristol and was initially led by Jean Golding and is now directed by George Davey Smith.

 

Subsequently ALSPAC has become known as an invaluable resource to researchers around the world investigating child health issues and the causes and prevention of childhood ailments and disorders.

 

Economic and Social Research Council

 

Over 14,000 mothers signed up to ALSPAC during pregnancy in 1991 and 1992, and the health and development of their children has been followed in great detail ever since. ALSPAC families have provided an array of genetic and environmental information over the years. This resource is assisting scientists with research into a wide range of health problems.

The ALSPAC project focused on gathering data from a geographically defined population from the West of England, collected as part of the European Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ELSPAC). The child has been followed since the 8th gestational week and at various ages between 0-7 years. Detailed data on pregnancy (clinical and biological markers including maternal blood samples), birth, child growth, socioeconomic circumstances and outcome (blood pressure, lipids, weight and height) are available. More detailed nutritional data are available for about 1,000 children. Over 8,500 children have been seen at age 7 years and 70% of these gave a blood sample.

 

A brief Timeline of ALSPAC questionnaires

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A sample of 14,541 pregnancies with a mother as a resident in Avon with an expected date of delivery between 1 April 1991 and 31 December 1992 is created. Resulting in 14,062 live born children entering the study

During pregnancy questionnaires regarding medical history and physical health of the mother and grandparents were completed by mothers. Other data also obtained from mothers included exposure to environmental pollutants / electrical equipment, sleeping patterns or deprivation, diet, caffeine and alcohol consumption, smoking and use of illegal drugs. Information on the psychological wellbeing of the parents was also obtained. Socio economic situation including neighbourhood was also acquired.

Questionnaires completed by the mother, about the mother at four regular periods during the pregnancy continuing annually after the birth of the child to a total until the child reached 12 years.

During early years of the child, data regarding health, lifestyle (sleep patterns, diet and physical activity) and development were collected. A series of questionnaires about the child to be completed by the child were sent out, beginning at 5 years of age and continuing until 16. In addition the mother completed a questionnaire about the child over a similar time span until the child reached 16 years of age.

 

ALSPCAC has led to some major outcomes. Some of the latest findings include:

High lead levels in blood could lead to premature births 14 May 2014

Men who started smoking before age 11 had fatter sons 02 April 2014

Frequent childhood nightmares may indicate an increased risk of psychotic traits 28 February 2014

 

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