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Growing Up in Scotland

Families from all over Scotland are taking part in GUS. The study provides crucial evidence to help the Scottish Government and others develop and monitor policies and services for children, young people and their families, particularly in the areas of education and health.

While the main aim of the study is to provide information to support policymaking, it is also intended to be a broader resource to be drawn on by academics, voluntary sector organisations and other interested parties.

Since cohort children were aged 10 months, families have been visited regularly (mostly annually or biennially) by interviewers to capture information from parents on a range of topics including family circumstances and experiences, child health and development, parenting and family relationships, support and use of services, diet and physical activity, school, and peer relationships.

The children themselves have routinely completed cognitive assessments and their own questionnaires as well as having their height and weight measured at regular intervals. The children in the original GUS birth cohort (BC1) were born in 2004/05. The tenth sweep of face-to-face data collection, at age 14, was completed in autumn 2020 and data from around 3000 families has been made available via the UK Data Service. The study has recently launched its eleventh sweep of data collection, during which cohort members will be aged 17.

GUS has played an important role in demonstrating how inequalities in Scotland are evident from an early age, spanning a range of health and developmental areas, including language and obesity. Importantly, GUS has also contributed to our understanding of what early circumstances and experiences may help improve outcomes for children – especially those growing up in less advantaged circumstances.

Findings from GUS have informed the development of a Scottish Government policies on home learning activities, parenting and parental support, early learning and childcare and child health. Information from the study has also informed the revision of national guidance for practitioners working with young children in Scotland.

Sample design

Eligible families were identified using Child Benefit records. All families were initially grouped into geographic clusters with clusters then selected at random from a list stratified by local authority and area deprivation. Families within the selected clusters then received a letter inviting them to take part in the study. If there was more than one eligible child in a household, one child was selected at random

GUS has collected information on three nationally representative cohorts of children:

  • Birth Cohort 1: 5,217 children, born in 2004/05
  • Child Cohort: 2,858 children, born in 2002/03
  • Birth Cohort 2: 6,127 children, born in 2010/11

Each cohort includes children born over a 12 month period.

To address attrition amongst the original BC1 sample, in 2018 Birth Cohort 1 was ‘boosted’ with a further 502 children born in 2004/05 (see further details below).  This sample was also drawn from Child Benefit records.

Sample boosts

In 2018, 502 children were recruited to BC1 to improve the representativeness of the data. Drawn from Child Benefit records, eligible children were from at least one of two key sub-groups: having a mother aged 16-24 at birth or living in 15% most deprived data zones in Scotland.

Linked data

GUS has collected consent from parents to link the survey data to administrative data held by health and education authorities in Scotland. This includes pre-school, education and health data.

Following sweep 11, linked administrative data will be extended to include information on attainment from the Scottish Qualifications Authority and details of post-school destinations from Skills Development Scotland.

For more information about the linked data please contact the ScotCen research team:

Management and funding

The study is funded and managed by the Scottish Government and is currently carried out by ScotCen Social Research, part of NatCen Social Research.

Accessing the data

GUS survey data and supporting documentation can be accessed from the UK Data Service.

An overview of the topics covered at each sweep, and all documentation, including user guides and copies of the questionnaire are available from the study website.

Some linked administrative data – on the early learning and childcare centres attended by children – is also available via UKDS. However, linked health data is held on the National Safe Haven and accessed via the electronic Data Research and Innovation Service (eDRIS).  Linked education data is held by Scottish Government. Enquiries should be directed to the GUS research team:

Introducing Growing Up in Scotland

Other resources and multimedia

Overview of sources of information at each age in GUS


Related content

Visit the study website