Growing Up in Australia
Newsletter No.¬†6, June 2004
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, ISSN 1448-9147 (Online)
Main Data Collection
We are now about half way through the data collection period, with over 5,500 interviews completed and about 1,000 appointments made.
Interviewing is occurring over 4 fieldwork phases. We are now in the middle of the phase 3 fieldwork and expect that the main data collection will be completed by the end of August, with some follow-up occurring through September.
The sample was selected and letters of invitation sent by the Health Insurance Commission (HIC) separately for each period. All letters of invitation have now been sent, with mail-outs occurring in late January, early March, mid April and late May.
The study continues to be well received by both interviewers and families. Interviewers are reporting that they are enjoying meeting the families and carrying out the surveys. The families are responding positively and the majority are completing the interview without any problems. Comments made by the interviewers include:
'The parent greeted us (supervised interview) very enthusiastically. She agreed to the interview there and then. She was very hospitable and cooperative'.
'Parent one was completely organised and ready for an interview which made my job very easy'.
'She remembered getting the literature and was keen to do the interview'.
So far, however, response has been a little lower than we had hoped. About 15 per cent of families are choosing to opt-out after receiving the HIC letter, and a further 2 per cent of letters are 'returned to sender'. The opt-out rate is slightly higher than we found in the first stage of the study in 2003.
Contact details for the remaining families are then passed to I-view, the data collection agency, and a further letter is sent indicating when an interviewer will be calling. About 3-4% of families chose to withdraw from the study at this stage.
Once the interviewers are able to make contact, they are achieving good response rates (over 80 per cent of selected families, with whom contact is made, agree to an interview), but we are still losing about 12 per cent of families at this stage. In addition, quite a number of contact details are turning out to be out-of-date (around 15 per cent on average).
Hence the final response rate is likely to be around 53 per cent of those initially sent a letter by HIC. Efforts are being made to improve the response rate by:
- Checking the Medicare database for updated addresses for the 'return to senders' and other families whom interviewers identify as having moved. New addresses were located for about 25% of families in these situations.
- Organising another round of publicity via media releases to local papers and other media.
- Active refusal follow-up by more experienced interviewers and supervisors (though note that interviewer refusal rates are improving).
In addition, the recruitment rate for families in the 4 year old cohort is lower than for the infants. We had allowed for a lower rate of recruitment in the sample design, but even this rate has not been achieved (the design allowed for 56 per cent recruitment rate for infants and 53 per cent for 4 year olds. The infant recruitment is on target but the current rate for 4 year olds is about 51 per cent).
As a result, we asked HIC to select additional families in phases 3 and 4 to ensure we obtain final numbers of about 5,000 in each cohort.
Data from the main study are due to be released to researchers and policy makers in April 2005.
A discussion paper (no.3) on data management is available on the website. This report outlines data management issues, including recommendations on file structure, data security, data access and data release, and confidentialising of data. Comments on this report are welcome. Please contact us with any feedback.
Policy Analysis Report and Outcome Index
A publication using Growing Up in Australia data to address key policy issues will accompany the data release in April. This report will be a 40-50 page document containing simple analysis including graphs, tables and descriptive text and organised into key themes of direct relevance to policy makers.
This publication will feature an 'outcome index' which is being developed as a single composite measure of a child's development at a particular time. This index will provide a means of summarising the complex information from the study for policy makers, the media and the general public, as well as potential data users. Information on the structure of this index will be available later in the year.
Between Waves Contact
Given there are 2 years between the Wave 1 and Wave 2 interviews, we will be contacting families by mail about a year after their first interview, mainly as a sample maintenance tool. We will be sending a short questionnaire asking for a few updates on the child's progress and changes to their family and child care/schooling arrangements. This will be sent at the end of August to the 526 families who were part of the preliminary study in 2003, along with a colour newsletter updating families on the study.
As part of this mail-out, negotiations are underway for the infant cohort to be sent additional questions on work and family, as part of a study being conducted by Dr Gillian Whitehouse of the University of Queensland.
Australian Early Development Index (EDI)
Based on the Canadian EDI, an Australian version of this teacher-completed checklist is being developed that measures readiness to learn at school in 5 domains (physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communications skills and general knowledge). This checklist will be validated by including it as part of the mail-out to the teachers of children recruited in 3 states in phases 3 and 4 of Growing Up in Australia, with the expectation that 1,000 returns will result.
Wave 2 Development
The tender process for a data collection agency for Waves 2-4 of Growing Up in Australia has started. Expressions of Interest were sought during May, with 6 agencies invited to tender. Tenders are due by 1 July. Tenderers have been asked to comment on and cost a number of design options for future waves. This will help inform decisions on the design that will be used for Wave 2 before the development of instruments commences (pre-testing will occur later this year). A paper on the proposed content domains for Wave 2 is currently being prepared.
There are a few changes happening within the Project Operations Team at AIFS. Ann Sanson will be returning to Melbourne University in August, but will continue her role as Project Director for this study. Carol Soloff, who was outposted from the ABS as Survey Manager for the past 2 years, was the successful applicant when the Project Manager position for Growing Up in Australia was advertised recently. Alex Fraser, who was with us for 6 months as Survey Officer, left the project to undertake research work in education innovation. Both the Design Manager and Survey Officer positions have been recently advertised, and it is hoped that these positions will be filled by early August.