Wirral Child Health & Development Study

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The Wirral Child Health and Development Study is a prospective epidemiological longitudinal study starting in pregnancy established in 2007 to identify early social, emotional and biological risks and processes involved in the development of childhood conduct problems. The study was designed to identify pathways to antisocial outcomes that might require differing treatment responses and to identify pathways to childhood emotional problems. Moving into adolescence, the WCHADS team are interested in additional factors important for child and adolescent mental health, including social media experiences, friendships, bullying, risky behaviours and physical, hormonal and psychological changes associated with puberty.

Institute of Life & Human Sciences, University of Liverpool

Geographic coverage
England - Wirral, Merseyside

Start date


Sample type
Cohort study

Sample details
WCHADS recruited a sample mothers and infants. A larger (‘extensive’) general population sample was used to provide a stratified simple random subsample (the ‘intensive’ sample), with both followed in tandem. Participants were identified from first-time mothers aged 18 years and above who booked for antenatal care at the Wirral University Teaching Hospital at 12 weeks gestation between February 2007 and October 2008. The clinic was the sole provider of universal prenatal care on the Wirral Peninsula. The study was introduced to the women by clinic midwives who asked for their agreement to be approached by study midwives at their 20-week scan. The extensive sample of 1,233 women pregnant with their first child was recruited at 20 weeks of pregnancy and subsequently had a live singleton baby. Owing to the socio-demographic composition of the Wirral, 41.7% of the sample were in the most deprived quintile of deprivation at recruitment and the sample has with low numbers from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Inter-partner psychological abuse reported by the women was used as the stratification variable because of its known association with a variety of risk factors for early development. All participants scoring above the threshold for psychological abuse towards themselves or their partners at 20 weeks gestation were eligible for inclusion in the intensive sample plus a random selection from those below the threshold. 51% of the intensive sample were drawn from the women with high psychosocial risk and 49% from those with low psychosocial risk.

Sample size at recruitment
1,233 infants

Sample size at most recent sweep


Age at recruitment
Infants: 20 weeks gestation Mothers: 18-51 years

Cohort year of birth

Additional information


Related Themes
Biomarkers, cognitive measures, diet and nutrition, genetic data, language and literacy, personality measures, COVID

Reference paper

Sharp, H et al. (2015). Maternal antenatal anxiety, postnatal stroking and emotional problems in children: outcomes predicted from pre- and postnatal programming hypotheses. Psychological Medicine, 45, 269-283.

Medical Research Council
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