Data Collection

The Edinburgh Study has a complex design involving many methods of data collection. A variety of different data sources have been used to study young peoples’ lives.

Information for young people

Young people questionnaires

From 1998 to 2003 the young people involved in the study were asked to complete a questionnaire.

The questionnaires contained a core set of questions that were asked every year. However, in order to develop new areas of interests, some new questions were included every year. Questions were asked about leisure activities, family structure and relationships, health, neighbourhood characteristics, experience of offending and anti-social behaviour, friends, being a victim of crime, contact with official agencies such as the police, attitudes and aspirations for the future.

Between sweeps one and six, most young people took part at school. In future years, questionnaires will be administered by a trained interviewer or completed online.

If you would like to use our data collection instruments in your own research please contact us and reference the Edinburgh Study in any reports you produce.

Sweep 1 Questionnaire 1998

Sweep 2 Questionnaire 1999

Sweep 3 Questionnaire 2000

Sweep 4 Questionnaire 2001

Sweep 5 Questionnaire 2002

Sweep 6 School Leavers' Questionnaire 2003

Sweep 6 School Pupils' Questionnaire 2003

Response rates: In order to maximize study validity, a priority of the research team is to ensure that as many cohort members as possible participate in the study at every sweep. Response rates: In order to maximize study validity, a priority of the research team is to ensure that as many cohort members as possible participate in the study at every sweep.

Response rates at each sweep:

Sweep number Number of eligible
cohort members
% response rate
1 4300 96.2
2 4299 95.6
3 4296 95.2
4 4144 92.6
5 3856 89.1
6 3531 80.5


Young people interviews

To complement the quantitative aspect of the study a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews have been conducted with cohort members. The primary aim of these interviews was to add a qualitative component to the output of the Edinburgh Study.

In 2000 interviews were carried out with 40 cohort members (24 boys and 16 girls) who were identified as at possible risk of offending. The interviews were intended to explore a range of issues which might provide a deeper understanding of the reasons why some young people offend while others don't. These interviews focused on activities, involvement offending behaviour, experience of victimisation, alcohol and drugs use, growing up, controls on behaviour, attitudes towards crime and hopes for the future.

In 2004 interviews were carried out with 15 cohort members who had reported high levels of delinquency at age 15. These interviews have supplemented the statistical analysis of questionnaire data by providing more contextual detail about certain aspects of youth transitions and crime, such as motive for and changes in behaviour, young people’s feelings about crime and crime prevention, and how young people account for their own delinquent behaviour. These interviews focused on current, past and future behaviour (particularly delinquent behaviour) and motivations for these behaviours, reasons for alteration in behaviour, opinions about crime, views on effective prevention of delinquency among young people, and their aspirations and hopes for the future.

Other questionnaires

Teacher questionnaire

Information about the cohort members was collected from their teachers at sweep two. The questionnaire used was an abbreviated version of Robert Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), a well validated behaviour screening questionnaire used to assess aspects of problem and pro-social behaviour in 4 to 16 year olds. The abbreviated SDQ consisted of 10 statements about young people’s behaviour and emotional state. Teachers were asked to rate each statement as 'not true', 'somewhat true' and 'certainly true' for each member of the cohort, thus generating a total difficulties score. An overall 'impact' question was also asked to determine whether there were any difficulties causing problems for pupils in key aspects of their lives.

The response rate for the teacher questionnaire at sweep 2 was 95.5% (number 4,180) of all pupils enrolled at sweep 2.

Parent questionnaire

A survey of parents and carers of the cohort members was carried out in 2001 in association with the National Centre for Social Research. This involved a half hour interview with person who has most responsibility for looking after the cohort member. The interviews covered a of topics including family structure, relationships and conflict at home, parental supervision and discipline, parental contact with the school, parental knowledge of the child's leisure activities and offending behaviour, and other related topics.

Sweep 4 Parents Questionnaire 2001

74.3% (number 3259) of parents and carers who were eligible to participate completed the questionnaire at sweep 4.

Record data collection

Social work records

The City of Edinburgh Council’s Social Work Department is one of the main agencies responsible for providing support and advice to families with children. Referrals to the Social Work Department can be made for a number of reasons relating either to young people or their families and involvement can range from one-off duty referrals to extensive intervention by an allocated social worker, either on a voluntary or a statutory basis.

Data has been collected from social work records for all cohort members from birth to to 2005 (approx. age 18). The percentage of participants who had a Social Work record is presented in the table below. (Social Work data are currently being reviewed and the table below will be updated shortly)

Sweep number (age) Number of records Percentage of cohort*
1 (birth to 12 years) 405 8.8%
2 (age 13) 293 4.2%
3 (age 14) 357 7.8%
4 (age 15) 422 9.2%
5 (age 16)
6 (age 17)
7 (age 18+)

* Percentages calculated will all cohort members who ever participated as the base.

monitoring formis used which enables us to collect information on:

  • Referral history
  • Allocation history
  • Case history
  • Child on child protection register
  • Evidence of offending
  • Involvement of other agencies
  • Issues relating to the child
  • Issues relating to family
  • Case status at time of data collection

Children's hearing records

The Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA) is responsible for conducting children's hearings in Scotland. Anyone can make a referral to the hearing system, although the majority are made by schools or police officers. Reasons for referral to the hearing system vary, but the Reporter must frame grounds for a hearing within certain pre-specified categories which include offending, truancy, being beyond the control of a relevant person and lack of parental care.

Data has been collected annually from the children's hearing records of those young people who have had contact with the agency between Sweeps 1 and 4.

Sweep number (age) Number of records Percentage of cohort*
1 (birth to 12 yrs) 387 8.4%
2 (age 13) 247 5.4%
3 (age 14) 311 6.8%
4 (age 15) 472 10.3%
5 (age 16) 386 8.4%
6 (age 17) 113 2.5%
7 (age 18+) 22 0.5%
At any sweep 19%

* Percentages calculated will all cohort members who ever participated as the base.

The monitoring form enabled us to collect data on:

  • Referral history
  • Nature of grounds of referral
  • Hearing history
  • Hearing decisions
  • Evidence of child offending
  • Issues relating to child
  • Issues relating to family
  • Issues relating to school
  • Case status at time of data collection

Police records

In 2001 and 2002 retrospective data was collected from Lothian and Borders Police records on police warnings issued by Juvenile Liaison Officers. This included information on the number of warnings, nature of the offence and other related information, such as whether or not a referral was made to the hearing system.

In 2006, the study collected data on convictions and sentences from the Scottish Criminal Record Office (SCRO). The main findings from this aspect of the research are published in Research Digest no. 14 entitled 'Criminal Justice Transitions'.

School records

Before collecting information from the schools a letter was sent to all parents. Data was collected on primary school attended, entitlement to free school meals and attendance record. With the assistance of the City of Edinburgh Education Department information was collected for children attending mainstream and special schools. Information from the independent schools was collected by contacting each school individually (only four of the independent schools were able to provide this information).

School attainment

School attainment information was collected in the form of Scottish Qualifications Authorityexamination results for standard grade and higher examination results (or GCSE/A-level equivalents).

Neighbourhood information

One of the main aims of the study is to examine the interactions between individual level factors (such as personality and family) and neighbourhood level factors (such as the physical environment and social controls in the community) which contribute to criminal offending. In order to study the social geography of Edinburgh and these neighbourhood level factors, a computerised Geographic Information System (GIS) has been developed.

Various sources of geo-coded data are being examined, including police recorded crime information, 1991 and 2001 census data and information from the City of Edinburgh Council on unemployment, land use and housing.

The information about neighbourhoods is being used to study crime patterns in three main ways:

  • The postcode of each member of the cohort has been geo-coded. Information about the cohort members such as offending behaviour can be visualised spatially and compared with other geo-coded information such as local unemploymen
  • The GIS has also been used to define 91 neighbourhoods in Edinburgh, based on six census characteristics indicating levels of social stress and police recorded crime data
  • An Edinburgh-wide community study was conducted in 2001 which involved surveying a representative sample of the adult population to examine the influences of neighbourhood and community on crime and criminality.
Previous Edinburgh Study surveys

Technical Reports

These reports outline the technical aspects of the Edinburgh Study. The reports provide information on the planning, design and implementation of the Edinburgh study.

McVie, S., Palmer, J. and McAra, L. (2007) Sample safeguarding exercise

The purpose of this report was to inform the methodological development of future phases of the study. We are immensely grateful to the Scottish Executive for funding this sample safeguarding exercise to determine how successfully and by what methods the cohort might best be contacted in the future. The final report is available on request.

McVie, S. (2003) Technical report: Sweeps 3 and 4

This report focuses on level of participation including non-response and refusal rates, questionnaire design, school fieldwork arrangements, collection of contact information, sources of additional data collected, survey of parents, data management, methods and subject of analysis, geographic information system and the neighbourhood case studies.

McVie, S. (2001) Technical report: Sweeps 1 and 2

This report focuses on access and consent, questionnaire design and piloting, practical aspects of data sources, data management and the development of a geographic information system.

Research in a Nutshell

Watch Prof Lesley McAra’s Research in a Nutshell video on the ESYTC

Watch Prof Susan McVie’s Research in a Nutshell video on the ESYTC