The Social Participation and Identity Project is based on a qualitative sub-study of 220 in depth biographical interviews conducted as part of the age 50 sweep of the National Child Development Study (NCDS), the UK’s pioneering birth cohort study which began in 1958. Its substantive focus on participation reflects a particular interest in claims, and associated policy concerns, about the decline of social engagement and cohesion in Britain over recent years. Methodologically, it is the first project in the world to address this and a range of related issues by conducting a systematic qualitative enquiry with members of an existing longitudinal, quantitative cohort study, with the possibility therefore of linking biographical narratives to structured survey data collected throughout the life course.
The project was originally confined to England and Scotland, where in 2008-09 researchers from the Centre for Longitudinal Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London and the ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester carried out 170 interviews.1 In 2009-10, funding from the Welsh Assembly enabled the Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) to conduct a further 50 interviews with NCDS cohort members in Wales.
This report describes some of the key characteristics of the Welsh sample. It also discusses some of the main themes arising from a reading of a sub-sample of the Welsh interviews and considers what these might suggest in terms of areas for research development. Firstly, however, it summarises the rationale for the project as a whole and the methodology that it developed for collecting qualitative narratives of social participation and identity.