Growing Up in Australia
Newsletter No. 4, December 2003

Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, ISSN 1448-9147 (Online)

First Stage of Study Complete

The first stage of Growing Up in Australia is now complete, with over 500 families taking part. The response from these families was overwhelmingly positive. Families are saying such things as:

"I thought I would be too busy to do the study but I found it was an opportunity to stop and reflect about (child) and our life together as a family. It was time well spent!"

"I think it's great that my son is part of the study and he thinks he's pretty special for being selected."

"Truly valuable exercise the government is taking in studying our children, what could be more important than making sure we look after our future Australians."

We were very happy with how the first stage went, with valuable feedback that will enhance our strategies for the next stage, when 10,000 families (half with infants, half with 4 year old children) will be recruited into the study. Letters of invitation to take part will start to be sent by the Health Insurance Commission in January 2004 and the main data collection period will be from March to August 2004.

Response Rates

The overall response rate was a little lower than we would expect for the next stage, when 10,000 families will be recruited into the study. This was due, in part, to the selection of locations for the first stage that we knew would be harder to obtain participants, such as remote areas, inner-urban areas and those with large populations of families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Additionally, the wide range of publicity activities for the 2004 stage had not been fully implemented before the commencement of the first stage. We noted higher response rates among families with infants than 4 year old children (presumably because on average mothers of infants were more likely to be home and less likely to be quite as busy).

In the areas where there was a higher concentration of families from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds and high rise buildings (which are often harder for interviewers to access), as expected, response rates were lower. We have been working on various strategies to increase response rates for the next stage. These include distributing publicity material translated into a number of languages and reviewing our letters sent to families.

The Health Insurance Commission opt-out and information line gave us valuable information about why families did not want to take part in the study. Some of the reasons were that families felt they were too busy to take part or had concerns about their privacy. We have redesigned our brochure that goes out with letters of invitation to take these concerns into account. We have also included photos of two families that have been involved in the first stage with quotes about what they liked about taking part in Growing Up in Australia.

Further non-response analysis has been undertaken, to ensure that when the complete sample of families and children has been recruited into the study, it is truly representative of Australian children.

Study Instruments

There was a high level of acceptance of the parent self-completes and the Time Use Diaries, and high levels of consent to contact teachers and other centre based carers. As the response to the non-resident parents' self-complete questionnaire was very low it has been decided not to continue with this instrument for the next stage. Additionally it has been decided not to proceed with the cortisol saliva sampling (which is a measure of children's stress levels) for the 2004 stage. There have been changes to some of the instruments after the first stage, to ensure they can be as effective as possible for the 2004 stage.

2004 Stage

The range of material to be covered by the next stage includes:

A copy of the study instruments for the 2004 stage can be obtained by contacting us at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Promoting Growing Up in Australia

We have been working hard on raising awareness of the study in the general community. Posters and flyers have been sent to all pre-schools, kindergartens, child care centres, maternal and child health centres and Medicare offices across the country. We have also translated our publicity material into a number of languages so we can raise awareness about the study among families from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Some of the families from the first stage have been assisting with the publicity efforts. One family in Queensland has been interviewed by the Woman's Day for an article titled 'It happened to me'. This article should appear early next year.

Two other Melbourne based families have been interviewed for an article for Australian Parents magazine. The edition will go on sale on 21 January 2004. We are now gearing up for the launch of the study, hoping to get wide coverage on television, radio and the print media.

Remote Communities

Staff from our data collection agency and from the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) spent three days in Cape York, Far North Queensland, doing interviews in remote Indigenous communities. To do this they had to charter a small plane and fly in and out of the communities since there was no accommodation available.

These trips provided us with a wealth of information about the issues in collecting information from these communities, and we are still deciding the best approach to take for Growing Up in Australia. The trips have also been useful in helping the FaCS team prepare for the forthcoming Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children.

Interviewer Training

Interviewer training for the first Main Wave of interviewing will commence in the middle of February 2004. At the moment we are planning four training workshops, in Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.

Staffing

Before Christmas we say goodbye to Mary Sayers, who is returning to her position at the Department of Family and Community Services. Mary has been with the project for about 6 months and has worked endlessly on all aspects of publicity and promotion for the study. She has also looked after the process of seeking approval from Education Departments and other school authorities to collect information from the teachers of children involved in the study. Mary has been a wonderful member of the team and we wish her well for the future.

Contact Us

If you want further information on the Growing Up in Australia study, please visit our website at www.aifs.gov.au/growingup or contact us.

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