Annual Report 2005‚Äď06

Overview of 2005-06

Growing Up in Australia is the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (also known as LSAC). This study is following two representative cohorts of children and their families, recruited when the children were aged 0-1 years (B or infant cohort) or 4-5 years (K or child cohort).

The main activities since the previous Annual Report have been those associated with the release of Wave 1 data, the conduct of a between-waves mail-out ('Wave 1.5') and preparation for and commencement of the second wave of data collection.


The first wave of data from Growing Up in Australia was released in May 2005. The level of interest in the data from the research community continues to grow. The confidentialised files are available to approved researchers and there are now over 90 researchers who have been granted access to the data. The number of publications using Growing Up in Australia data has increased. The Growing Up in Australia bibliography (pages 38-41) lists articles in refereed journals and a large number of conference papers and presentations undertaken since the last Annual Report.

Family Matters, the Institute's peer reviewed journal, has contained articles featuring Growing Up in Australia analyses. For example, Issue 72 (Summer 2005) contained articles on the relationship between childhood injuries and family type, neighbourhood influences on children's wellbeing, work-family balance, child care, the role of grandparents in children's lives, and children's temperament and adjustment.

The Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has commissioned a number of papers and reports based on data from Wave 1 of Growing Up in Australia. Details are included on page 40. Four major reports due for release in the near future are:

Included in this Annual Report are a number of short articles, based on the Growing Up in Australia data, including sections from relevant Family Matters articles and highlights from some of the commissioned reports.

Wave 1.5

Wave 1.5 was conducted midway between Waves 1 and 2 (about a year after Wave 1) and consisted of a mail-back questionnaire that was distributed to the Growing Up in Australia families, along with a newsletter containing updates on the study. Information was collected on how the study child and their families were doing. It also assisted in maintaining contact with respondents and retaining them in the study.

The questionnaires for both cohorts included questions about the study child's health, behaviour, development and education/child care. Information was also collected about stressful life events experienced by the family as well as parental mental health. Parents were also asked what they liked about their child. The B cohort questionnaire included questions about service utilisation, parental employment history, and the use of maternity and other leave following the birth of the study child and return to employment (described in more detail below). The questionnaires for both cohorts also asked study families to confirm their contact details and asked about intentions to move house prior to the Wave 2 interviews.

A novel feature of Wave 1.5 was the option for study families to complete the questionnaire online. However, only 7 per cent of respondents used this facility.

The Parental Leave in Australia Survey

The B cohort questionnaire included detailed questions on parental employment and leave around the time of the birth of the study child. This nested component of Wave 1.5, entitled 'The Parental Leave in Australia Survey', was funded by an Australian Research Council grant held by Dr Gillian Whitehouse (University of Queensland), Dr Marian Baird (University of Sydney) and Dr Chris Diamond (University of Queensland).

This nested study was designed to redress the lack of information available on issues such as the number of pregnant women in paid work, the proportion eligible for 52 weeks unpaid parental leave, take-up rates of paid and unpaid parental leave, and women's patterns of return to work following the birth of a child. Some initial findings from The Parental Leave in Australia Survey are presented later in the Annual Report.

Response rate

The overall response rate to the Wave 1.5 questionnaire was 70.6 per cent (3,573) for the B cohort and 72.6 per cent (3,594) for the K cohort, giving an overall response rate of 71.7 per cent. Updated contact details were obtained for 80 per cent of the families in the study.

The lowest response rates to the Wave 1.5 questionnaire were from Indigenous participants (44 per cent), lone parents (53 per cent), Parent 1's (the parent who knew their child best) with poor spoken English (58 per cent), Parent 1's who hadn't completed Year 12 (62 per cent) and Parent 1's who speak a language other than English at home (63 per cent). The differences in the response rates for these groups were statistically significant.

The extent of differences in the characteristics of the families that returned the Wave 1.5 questionnaire and the full Wave 1 sample was tested by comparing the characteristics of Wave 1 and Wave 1.5 respondents (Table 1). Despite the differences in response from particular sub-populations, the characteristics of the Wave 1 and Wave 1.5 samples were generally similar, indicating that non-response had only a small impact on overall sample composition. The largest differences in sample composition, between Wave 1.5 and Wave 1, were greater proportions of families with higher levels of parental educational attainment and income for the Wave 1.5 sample.

Table 1. Wave 1 characteristics of families responding to the Wave 1.5 questionnaire compared with the characteristics of the full Wave 1 sample (unweighted data) (a)
Wave 1 characteristicsB cohortK cohort
Wave 1.5Wave 1Wave 1.5Wave 1
Age range of children (b)  
B cohort / K cohort  
3-5 months / 51-53 months41611.657011.238010.652610.6
6-11 months / 54-59 months263173.6373773.2261472.735972.1
12-14 months / 60-62 months50314.175114.756415.780016.1
15-19 months / 63-67 months230.6491.0361.0661.3
Family type  
Couple family:333993.5463090.7320889.3428686.0
- both biological332293.0459990.1313287.2413082.9
- other (e.g. step/blended)170.5310.6762.11563.1
Single parent family2346.54779.338610.769714.0
Only child143140.1201839.538110.657111.5
One sibling137038.3187736.8184851.4241248.4
Two or more siblings77221.6121223.7136538.0200040.1
Cultural background  
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander942.62304.5892.51873.8
Mother speaks a language other
than English at home
Work status  
Both parents or loan parent work184451.8243947.9211959.1275755.5
One parent works (couple family)145140.7207740.8118132.9163132.8
No parent works2687.557711.32888.057811.6
Educational status  
Mother completed Year 12262373.5341066.9225163.1289658.6
Father completed Year 12201961.4265758.5178055.8224452.7
Parents' combined income  
Less than $800 per week88125.9153331.781624.1136129.2
$800-$1,499 per week146743.1198041.0126937.5173537.2
$1,500 or more per week105531.0132227.3130238.4156733.6
New South Wales110330.9161531.6112931.4157331.6
South Australia2667.43476.82376.63396.8
Western Australia36910.353310.436810.250710.2
Northern Territory551.5871.7531.5821.7
Australian Capital Territory892.51072.1842.31132.3
Capital City Statistical Division228864.0319462.5225662.8309562.1
Balance of state128536.0191337.5133837.3188837.9
Number of observations3573  5107  3594  4983 
(a) See the 2004 Annual Report for details on how the Wave 1 sample composition compared
to the ABS 2001 Population Census data for children aged 0 and 4 years.
(b) Age range of children at Wave 1.

Maintaining participation and contact with study families

The success of longitudinal studies relies on the retention of study participants across the waves of the study. A number of strategies are being used to maintain contact with children and their families, and to encourage participants to update their contact details when necessary. Strategies include:

We also keep in touch with the study families by sending birthday cards to the study children. A 2006 Growing up in Australia calendar, featuring children's drawings of their families, was sent in December 2005, along with a newsletter.

Wave 2 design and questionnaires

Wave 2 development commenced in late 2004 and was finalised in early 2006. The first phase of data collection for Wave 2 was undertaken in October and November 2005, with over 400 families interviewed. The main second wave of data collection is being conducted during April to November 2006. A major improvement to the data collection is the use of computer assisted interviewing rather than the paper and pencil forms used in Wave 1. This will increase the accuracy of the data collected.

Information about the study child and their family is being collected via:

In addition, for the K cohort children, who are aged 6-7 years at Wave 2, there are:

Wave 2 fieldwork

The fieldwork for Wave 2 is being conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). About 150 interviewers were trained in seven training courses conducted during March and April 2006. Feedback from interviewers indicated that families had been looking forward to the Wave 2 interviews and that the retention of the sample between Waves 1 and 2 will be high, with many of those who did not respond to Wave 1.5 responding to Wave 2. Wave 2 data will be released in 2007.

Looking ahead to Wave 3

Work began on the development of Wave 3 in early 2006 and will be completed in 2007.

Design teams, convened by members of the Consortium Advisory Group and comprised of experts from academic, research and government agencies, have been formed to work on content in the areas of health, education, child care, family functioning, child functioning and socio-demographics. Most members of these teams also worked on Wave 1 content.

Fieldwork for Wave 3 is scheduled to commence in March 2008.


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