What is ROOTS?

The original ROOTS project has looked at many aspects of adolescent life:

• Moods
• Hormones
• Friendships
• Behaviour
• Genetics
• Family life
• Early life experience
• Activity
• Diet

There isn’t just one simple, straightforward answer as to why some teenagers find adolescence so difficult. We are more likely to find some of the answers by understanding how these important factors interact: How they affect each other; how (and if) they work together; whether some are more influential or potent than others; whether timing is important; whether the interactions are different for boys and girls.

Method

In May 2005 we began asking secondary schools in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk if we could invite their 14-year old students to take part in the study. Over the following 18-months, eighteen schools agreed and allowed us to interview students in school.

Letters, information sheets and consent forms were sent to parents via schools. We spoke at school assemblies where students were also given the opportunity to ask questions. Families who opted out at this stage were not contacted again. We obtained signed consent from both pupil and parent.

Phase 1

On joining ROOTS, students were interviewed by a fully-trained researcher, in school and completed a set of tick-box questionnaires (we call these self-report measures) asking about friendships, moods, activity, diet, events, thinking styles – and much more.

Students also provided saliva samples from which we can measure hormone levels (cortisol, dhea, testosterone) and extract dna for genotyping.

As we are also interested in diet and exercise, students wore pedometers for a week and filled questionnaires about their diet.

A parent, usually the mother, also filled in a set of questionnaires and was interviewed about the early life experience of their teenager and asked about any pregnancy or delivery complications.

Phase 2

Six months later students were invited to participate in an in-depth activity and diet sub-study in collaboration with the MRC. Here, they wore state-of-the-art activity monitors for 4 days, carried out a sub-maximal step-test to assess cardio-vascular fitness, and completed detailed 4-day diet diaries.

Over the next 2 years we kept in contact with our participants in many ways, for example, text, email, newsletters, Xmas and birthday cards, postal questionnaires and competitions.

Phase 3

In the final year all students were interviewed face-to-face once again – this started in February 2008 and finished in  December 2009.

Phase 4 – Roots joins NSPN

It is now 10 years since the original measurements were done and we now want to find out what happened to the people who took part now they are adults.  We would like to see if what we knew 10 years ago could predict any problems people might go on to have.

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ROOTS is joining the Neuroscience in Psychiatry Network (NSPN), a new study headed by Professor Goodyer. NSPN brings together a team of world class researchers from the University of Cambridge and University College London (UCL), funded by the Wellcome Trust.