Longitudinal Studies: Animated Explanations

Longitudinal studies

Although longitudinal studies, such as Wikstrom’s PADS (“Peterborough Adolescent Development Study”: 2002 – 2010) research – designed to understand how families, schools and communities shape young people’s social development – are a well-established and hugely-valuable source of comparative data, teaching them as part of an a-level Sociology research methods course can be a little, shall we say, dry?

To make things a little more interesting, therefore, you might want to have a look at this series of five, short (around 1 minute each), animated films designed to provide an easy introduction to the joys of longitudinal research.

Overview: This Introduction to longitudinal studies is probably a good place to start, both because it’s basically the beginning and it outlines what they are, what they do and how they can be used. In this respect, the animation introduces three basic ideas:

• different types of longitudinal study (such as cohort studies and household panel studies).
• how data is collected.
• how studies can be used (specifically in relation to social policy).

Subsequent films pick-up and develop these general ideas in terms of:

design – with a focus on sampling.

types of longitudinal study.

data collection tools.

How longitudinal data is used for research.

Throw-in a few limitations of longitudinal studies –

• Time: the PADS study, for example, was carried-out over a 10-year period.

• Cost and management: Wikstrom’s study involved managing a diverse group of around 30 student investigators and academic collaborators.

• Attrition rates – over a long period of time people may gradually leave the study.

• Sample degradation: although you may begin with a representative sample this may degrade over time as and when people leave. This may gradually erode the study’s representativeness.

– and you’ve got the basis for a complete longitudinal lesson.

Don’t thank me.

Someone’s got to do it.


ASPIRES 2 is a contemporary example of a longitudinal study designed to “study young people’s science and career aspirations”.

It’s of interest sociologically because a major objective has been to “understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people’s science and career aspirations.”

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