Annual Report 2007‚Äď2008

Director's report

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) addresses a range of questions about children's development and wellbeing. Information is collected on the study children's physical health and social, cognitive and emotional development over infancy and childhood, as well as their experiences in significant environments such as the family, child care, pre- and primary school and their broader neighbourhoods and community contexts.

The study involves two cohorts of children that are broadly representative of the Australian population - approximately 5,000 infants aged 0-1 years (B or infant cohort) and 5,000 children aged 4-5 years (K or child cohort). The first two waves of the study were completed in 2004 and 2006, and the third wave is currently in progress. In addition, two between-waves mail surveys were undertaken in 2005 (Wave 1.5) and 2007 (Wave 2.5).

The 2007-08 financial year featured a number of key events for Growing Up in Australia. Data from the second wave of data collection was released in September 2007. The second between-waves survey was distributed in August 2007 and the data released in May 2008. Following preliminary interviews in August and September 2007, interviewing of the main Wave 3 sample commenced in April 2008 and will conclude in late 2008. The inaugural LSAC conference was held in Melbourne in December 2007. Wave 4 development commenced in late 2007 and has continued through 2008.

Release of Wave 2 data

With the release of the second wave of study data in September 2007, the first set of longitudinal data became available for analysis. At the end of June 2008, there were 124 registered users of Wave 2 data, and the total number of data users reached 236.

The release of the Wave 2 data has been supported by two data user training workshops; one held in December 2007 in Melbourne and the other in Canberra in February 2008. There were approximately 30 attendees at each workshop, with very positive feedback received from both. It is intended that data workshops will continue to be offered on a regular basis.

Inaugural LSAC conference

The Institute hosted the inaugural LSAC conference in Melbourne on 4-5 December 2007. There were approximately 150 attendees, and 35 papers presented findings from the first two waves of the study. Further information on the conference is provided on page 37.

Wave 2.5

The second between-waves survey (Wave 2.5) was conducted between August and December 2007. Families were sent a questionnaire covering topics such as children's media and technology use, parental working arrangements and the child support arrangements of separated parents. Included in this Annual Report is an overview of Wave 2.5, plus findings concerning children's media and technology use and parents' attitudes towards and patterns of work.

Wave 3 data collection

Content for the Wave 3 data collection was finalised during the first half of 2007. Preliminary interviews were undertaken from August to October 2007, with over 400 interviews conducted. Following this, some refinement was made to the measures and fieldwork processes. In March-April 2008, approximately 160 interviewers were trained by staff from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Family Studies in preparation for the next fieldwork phase.

Interviewing of the main Wave 3 sample commenced in early April 2008. By the end of June 2008, almost 3,800 interviews were completed and a further 360 appointments made. Interviewing will continue throughout the rest of 2008. Feedback from interviewers suggests that the study continues to be well received, with many families and study children reported to be looking forward to taking part in the next home visit.

The principal data collection method is a face-to-face interview with the child's primary parent (Parent 1), with self-complete forms for the other parent living in the same house and for teachers, as in previous waves. Direct assessments of both cohorts of children are undertaken, as well as interviews with K cohort children. A computer-assisted telephone interview is conducted with parents who no longer live with the study child's primary parent.

Wave 4 (and beyond) development

During 2007, discussions were held on the future directions of the study, such as the domains of life that will become relevant as children move into adolescence, and methodological data collection options. Discussions on content and methodology specifically for Wave 4 commenced in late 2007, with this being the major focus of the Consortium Advisory Group meeting held in December 2007 (the Consortium Advisory Group provides ongoing advice on the development and implementation of the study). This was followed by extensive stakeholder consultations in the first part of 2008. A series of proposals regarding Wave 4 content domains and methodological options was presented at the Consortium Advisory Group meeting in May 2008. Further refinement and development of these options is underway.

Dissemination

The 2007-08 year has continued to see a steady release of papers and presentations using data from the Growing Up in Australia study (see pages 43-8). Numerous conference papers discussing study findings have been presented by Institute and Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) researchers, Consortium Advisory Group members and other data users. The 79th edition of the Institute's journal Family Matters, released in June 2008, featured findings from the study. This is the second time that the Family Matters journal has dedicated an issue to the study. This 2007-08 Annual Report includes articles that have been abridged from the longer versions published in the 79th edition of Family Matters.

Life at 3 documentary

The Life at 3 television documentary series, produced by Screen Australia in conjunction with Heiress Films, draws upon the methodology and research findings of the Growing Up in Australia study. Eleven children and their families are being followed over time, with coverage of children's behaviour and milestones and the impact of factors such as parents' relationships, finances, work and health.

Two initial episodes of Life at 1, documenting the children's lives at around 12 months of age were produced and screened on ABC TV in October 2006. Two further episodes of Life at 3 were screened in October 2008. The documentary explores the factors that help or hinder children to thrive, with information provided by the children's families and experts, including members of the Consortium Advisory Group, and analysis of data from the study.

It is very pleasing to see the successful progress of the study over 2007 and 2008. The first two waves of the study are completed, the third is underway, and preparations are well advanced for the fourth wave. We are seeing the benefits of these endeavours in the uptake of the data in policy arenas, the high level of interest from researchers both nationally and internationally, and the widespread community and media interest in the study's findings.

The outstanding progress of this landmark study is the result of the expertise, commitment and hard work of the Consortium Advisory Group, the team at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Institute's Project Operations Team and our colleagues at FaHCSIA. I especially acknowledge the efforts of Institute staff: Matthew Gray (Executive Project Director), Diana Smart, Carol Soloff, Linda Bencic, Sebastian Misson, Mark Sipthorp, and Siobhan O'Halloran. Ann Sanson (Principal Scientific Advisor) and Stephen Zubrick (Chair of the Consortium Advisory Group) are to be thanked for their leadership, which greatly facilitates the success of the study. I also gratefully acknowledge Andrew Whitecross and his colleagues at FaHCSIA for their continuing commitment to Growing Up in Australia, and their generous support and advice. Finally, my most sincere thanks go to the participating children and families for their ongoing support, without whom the study would not be possible.

Professor Alan Hayes
Director

Australian Institute of Family Studies

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