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From a news article:

Prospective birth cohort studies suggest that childhood infections are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia in adulthood and with abnormal neurodevelopment in childhood/adolescence as measured by school grade or neurological soft signs; however, studies using IQ tests in a general population sample are rare,” Golam M. Khandaker, PhD, department of psychiatry, University of Cambridge, and colleagues wrote. “It is unclear whether lower IQ mediates or moderates the association between childhood infection and adult psychosis.”

What is a "prospective birth cohort study"? Is it a study planned in advance, before the data collection process begins? Is it always a study that begins before the persons to be studied have been born?

Or can it be a study conducted post-factum, with some information taken from records that existed prior to the beginning of the study?

I translated this term into Russian word-for-word, but was told by a fellow translator that I should explicitly point out in my Russian translation, as an explanation for the reader, that these studies are "begun prior to the birth of the test subjects". I started googling for clear authoritative definitions and have found none thus far.

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Yes that is what is meant. Prospective means the study subjects are recruited at the beginning. Since it's a birth cohort they have to be enrolled at or before birth.

Consider this a non-authoritative answer.

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