Annual Report 2005‚Äď06

Highlights from Wave 1.5

Wave 1.5 provides the first opportunity to analyse Growing Up in Australia as a longitudinal dataset.

The analyses that follow are presented to give an example of the type of changes that are occurring in the course of one year in the children's lives. All cross-wave analyses in this section include only those respondents who responded to the relevant question at both Wave 1 and Wave 1.5. This eliminates differences between the sample at each wave as an explanation for differences over time.

Changes since Wave 1

Change is certainly a part of life. Most families (about 80 per cent of the B cohort and 70 per cent of the K cohort) experienced an important life event, such as a change in job or working hours, the birth of a child, or death of a close friend or relative, in the 12 months prior to Wave 1.5 (which is roughly the time between Waves 1 and 1.5) (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 - Life events that happened to child's (resident) parents in
12 months prior to Wave 1.5

Child's overall health rating

Overall, parents' ratings of their children's health were slightly lower in Wave 1.5 than in Wave 1 (Figure 2). This was true for both cohorts. There was a decrease in the proportion of parents rating their child's health as excellent and an almost corresponding increase in the proportion of parents who rated the child's health as very good. At the other end of the scale, however, slightly fewer parents rated their child's health as fair or poor at Wave 1.5.

Figure 2 - Parental rating of child's health at Waves 1 and 1.5

The above figure compares the overall health ratings for each cohort at each point in time. This aggregate actually masks considerable change at the individual level. If the child health rating is compared for each child at Wave 1 and Wave 1.5, more than half of the parents (53 per cent for the B cohort and 58 per cent for the K cohort) did not change their ratings between waves. However, 27 per cent of the B cohort and 24 per cent of the K cohort gave their child's health a lower rating at Wave 1.5, and just under 20 per cent for both cohorts gave their child's health a higher rating at Wave 1.5. Future analyses will identify factors involved in both improvements and deteriorations in child health over this 12 month period.

Sleep problems

At each wave, about 50 per cent of B cohort parents and 70 percent of K cohort parents stated that their child's sleeping pattern or habits was not a problem for them (Figure 3). However, parents in the B cohort reported that, on average, their child's sleeping pattern or habits was more of a problem at ages 1-2 years than at ages 0-1 years, with more parents reporting that sleeping caused a small problem and fewer reporting that it did not cause a problem. In contrast, for the K cohort overall, the study child's sleeping pattern or habits was causing less of a problem for parents at Wave 1.5, with more parents reporting that it was not a problem and fewer parents reporting that their child's sleep caused small, moderate and large problems.

Figure 3 - Extent that child's sleeping pattern or habits cause a problem for parent

When these data are examined at the individual child level, we find that the sleeping patterns or habits for 35 per cent of the B cohort and 58 per cent of the K cohort caused no problems for the parent at either wave. For 7 per cent of the B cohort and 3 per cent of the K cohort, the child's sleeping patterns or habits caused a moderate or large problem at both waves. For both cohorts, the child's sleeping patterns or habits caused less problems at Wave 1.5 than Wave 1 for about one-fifth of children, whereas it caused more problems at Wave 1.5 for 27 per cent of the B cohort and 11 per cent of the K cohort. In further analyses it will be possible to relate changes in sleeping patterns to a range of child, parent and family characteristics.

Parents were asked whether their child had particular problems on 4 or more nights a week, such as wheezing or asthma, waking during the night or not happy to sleep alone. Waking during the night was reported for a relatively large proportion of children. At Wave 1, 42 per cent of the B cohort had 'Waking during the night' as a problem, with 37 per cent recording this at Wave 1.5. For the K cohort, 18 per cent had problems with waking during the night at Wave 1, and 11 per cent still had a problem with waking during the night on most nights at Wave 1.5. Other common problems were: the child is not happy to sleep alone (about one in five or six children for the older cohort); and, the child has difficulty getting to sleep at night (about one in ten children for both cohorts at each wave).

About 42 per cent of the B cohort and 39 per cent of the K cohort did not show any sleeping problems at either wave. For those who did have problems, fewer than half the children had the same problem at both Wave 1 and Wave 1.5. In fact, very few children had problems such as snoring or difficulty breathing, and wheezing or asthma/coughing, at both waves. This suggests that many childhood sleeping problems are time-limited rather than chronic.

Developmental concerns over the early years of life

At both Waves 1 and 1.5, parents of the B cohort were asked if they had concerns over their child's expressive language development (how the child talks or makes speech sounds), receptive language development (how the child understands the things said to them) and gross motor skill development (use of arms and legs).

Given that all of these areas develop rapidly in the second year of life, we might expect parental concerns over their child's development to also increase from infancy to toddlerhood. This is borne out by comparing the parental concerns for the B cohort at Wave 1 with Wave 1.5, where very marked increases are evident - the proportion of parents with concerns increased from 2 per cent to 17 per cent for expressive language, 1 per cent to 32 per cent for receptive language and from 2 per cent to 30 per cent for gross motor skills. It is possible that the different collection methodologies may contribute in part to these large increases in parental concern.

At Wave 1.5, parents of the K cohort children were asked about a range of concerns they might have for their children. About 31 per cent of parents had concerns over their child's behaviour, 45 per cent had concerns about how their child was getting along with others, 44 per cent had concerns about how the child was learning to do things himself/herself and 44 per cent had concerns about how their child was learning (pre-) school skills. Despite these concerns, almost all parents (96 per cent) thought their child plays and works well by himself/herself compared to other children the same age.

Children's education and child care (K cohort)

With the children in the K cohort being around the age of starting school at Wave 1.5, a major focus of the Wave 1.5 questionnaire was their adjustment to school entry. Most of the children (57 per cent) were attending a preparatory year1 in primary school, 28 per cent were in Grade or Year 1, 15 per cent were still attending pre-school and 1 per cent were not at school or pre-school.

The vast majority of children attending school (94 per cent) or pre-school (92 per cent) were reported as looking forward to school or pre-school on most days. When asked how often the child appeared reluctant to go to school or pre-school, 12 per cent of parents reported that this happened at least once a month, 7 per cent at least once a week, and 2 per cent on most days. This pattern was very similar, whether the child was at school or pre-school.

Over three-quarters (77 per cent) of parents reported that their child liked their teacher a lot, 20 per cent quite a bit, 3 per cent a little, and only 0.2 per cent not at all. Slightly more children attending preparatory years liked their teachers a lot, compared to those attending Grade/Year 1.

Reading

Most children (56 per cent) spent 11-20 minutes per day on average doing reading activities at home either with an adult or by himself/herself. A further 26 per cent read for an average of 21-40 minutes a day and 5 per cent read for more than 40 minutes. Only 13 per cent of children spent less than 10 minutes a day on reading activities. These percentages varied a little by the level of education program the child was attending (see Figure 4), with children at school being more likely to spend more time on reading activities at home.

Figure 4 - K cohort: Average number of minutes per day child does reading activities at home

Child care

At Wave 1.5, about half of the 5-6 year old children were in some form of non-parental child care other than preschool or school. The most common form of non-parental care was 'Other home based care', regardless of whether the child was at school or preschool, followed by 'Before or after school care at school' for those at school, and 'Child care centre' for those at preschool (see Table 2).

Table 2. K cohort: Use of child care by attendance at pre-school or school
  PreschoolPreparatory
year
Grade or
Year 1
Total (a)
  Proportion (%)
Child care:57.346.649.748.9
Before or after school care at school10.216.116.515.2
Child care centre16.41.22.94.0
Family Day Care3.52.02.52.4
Other home based care30.729.130.029.5
Occasional care5.92.92.93.3
No child care42.753.450.351.1
(a) Includes small number of children who did not attend pre-school or school

As expected, beginning school decreased the number of hours in regular (non-school) child care (see Figure 5). Children who were at pre-school were more likely to have child care (57 per cent) than children in the preparatory school year (47 per cent) or Grade/Year 1 (50 per cent). However, 19 per cent of children at school who used child care did so for ten or more hours a week.

Figure 5 - K cohort children using child care: Educational year level by hours per week of child care

Infant and toddler child care (B cohort)

Table 3 shows the use of child care arrangements in the B cohort at ages 0-1 and 1-2 years. Almost twice as many were using child care at age 1-2 years than when they were aged 0-1 years (36 per cent compared with 65 per cent). Child care centres had slightly outstripped grandparents as the most common form of child care, and the proportion of children in each type of care had increased substantially.

Table 3. B cohort: Child care use by child's age
  0-1 years1-2 years
  Proportion (%)
Child care:36.365.3
Child care centre11.732.7
Grandparents18.429.4
Family Day Care3.98.9
Other relative or nanny4.57.0
Occasional care centre2.16.1
Parent who does not live with child0.51.2
Other2.84.5
No child care63.734.7

Of those responding to Wave 1.5, 31 per cent of children were not in child care at either wave, just under 33 per cent were in child care at both waves, just under 33 per cent were only in child care at Wave 1.5, and a few per cent were only in child care at Wave 1.

For children who were in child care at both Waves 1 and 1.5 (33 per cent of the Wave 1.5 respondents), they were on average spending longer in child care at the time of Wave 1.5. As Figure 6 shows, there was a considerable decrease in the proportion of children having only 1-9 hours of care per week, and increases in the proportion of children with 10-19, 21-29 and 30 or more hours care per week.

The impact of these different childcare experiences over time, along with the quality of care received, on children's educational, health and social outcomes can be examined in future analyses.

Figure 6 - B cohort children in regular child care at both Waves 1 and 1.5: Hours spent in child care

Due to the brevity of the questionnaire, little contextual information was collected that could help to explain changes found between Waves 1 and 1.5. This information will be gathered at Wave 2, allowing the data from Wave 1.5 to then add to the depth of information on the trajectory of developmental change in relation to the child's life circumstances.

  1. Preparatory year is any pre-year 1 program located within a school (also known as kindergarten, transition or reception depending on the state or territory). [back]

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