Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)

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Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) is a long-term research project following a large group of children and their families over the years as they grow and learn.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies hosts the 'Growing Up in Australia' website for the study.

Management of the study

The Department of Social Services (DSS) funds and manages the study on behalf of the Australian Government.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics manages the sample, collects and processes the data and is responsible for respondent engagement.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies is responsible for coordinating the design and content of the study, and the preparation of research and statistical reports.

A consortium of leading researchers from a diverse range of disciplines including education, psychology, economics and paediatrics provides ongoing advice and technical expertise.

The Data Expert Advisory Group provides technical advice to the study. It consists of statistical experts external to the study as well as representatives from the three lead agencies.

The Longitudinal Study Advisory Group provides strategic and policy advice for LSAC, the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) and the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, including direction on the content, research questions and research priorities of LSAC.

About the study

The aim of LSAC is to provide a comprehensive national picture of the current generation of Australian children as they grow up.

Around 10,000 children and their families were recruited for the study. There are currently two cohorts of children. When the study began in 2004, they were 3-19 months and 4-5 years old.

Because it is a long-term project, looking at the same children in their family, school and other environments, the study is especially useful in enabling researchers to identify key factors influencing children's physical and mental health, social adjustment, cognitive development and school achievement. Only longitudinal studies can inform us about what influences different development trajectories.

Data is collected by interviewers during visits to the families. The children's parents, parents living elsewhere and teachers fill out questionnaires. As the children are growing older, they are gradually telling us more about their lives and will, in time, be the main respondent.

Each data collection period is called a wave. Waves are every two years. There were also between waves questionnaires sent at Wave 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5. Between Wave 4 and 5 a letter was sent to families inviting them to update their contact details online and inform us about the value of the newsletters and updates they received from the study. Between Wave 5 and 6 families were contacted to updated their contact details online. They were also received a link to a YouTube clip celebrating ten years of LSAC, and featuring Professor Steve Zubrick, Chair of the LSAC Consortium Advisory Group.

The study will improve our understanding of factors influencing development across the life course and help government to develop effective evidence-based policies on issues such as:

  • health
  • parenting
  • family relationships
  • education
  • child care
  • family support
  • separated families.

Data collection

At each main wave, a wide range of age appropriate developmental outcomes is measured – children’s health, physical development, emotional wellbeing and intellectual and social development. In addition, data is collected on the context in which development is occurring – family and community characteristics, learning environments and work and social environments.

The participants are the study child, and his/her parents and teachers.

Details about the various waves of the study are available on the Growing Up in Australia LSAC website.

Data Access       

The unit record LSAC data is available for research purposes. There are two versions of the data – the General Release data and the unConfidentialised data. The unconfidentialised data set contains more detailed information regarding children and their families such as specific geographic information. Only those with a demonstrated need will be given access to the unconfidentialised data. As the files are large, the data needs to be analysed with a statistical package such as Stata, SAS or SPSS.

Users can apply for more than one dataset using the same application form. Users of the unconfidentialised datasets will automatically be given access to the same general release. All datasets contain the latest wave of data as well as all previous waves.

The Growing up in Australia website contains a wealth of detail including data users information and many publications which give a picture of what the research has told us so far.

LSAC Child Health Checkpoint

In 2014 – 15 a once-off physical health assessment module will be conducted for 11 and 12 year old children in LSAC. The module will be conducted by staff from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in consultation with LSAC staff.

The assessment aims to assist researchers and policy makers understand how a child’s first decade determines their health as they approach adolescence.

More details about the LSAC Child Health CheckPoint are available at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute website.

Obtaining access to datasets 

Accessing LSAC data

LSAC data is available for research purposes.

For information regarding the DSS licensing arrangements for the LSAC, HILDA, LSIC and Journeys Home datasets and responsibilities of Data Managers and users of DSS datasets, refer to the Fact Sheets at Access to DSS Longitudinal Datasets

Application forms for Non DSS Staff are available at Access to DSS Longitudinal Datasets

Further questions regarding data access can be directed to longitudinalsurveys@dss.gov.au

LSAC research reports

The Department has commissioned and published a number of research reports for its Social Policy Research Paper series based on data from the study.

Other publications can be found in the research journal of AIFS and on DSS's Research Publications website.

You can also access DSS's Longitudinal Surveys Electronic (FLoSse) Research archive to browse or search for bibliographic details of research material using data from LSAC and DSS's other longitudinal surveys.

ABC Life @ series

ABC's Life at 3

The ABC's LIFE series, inspired by the study, follows 11 children and their families over time.

Information is provided by the children's families and child development experts, with reference to findings from the study. The series explores the different developmental pathways of the 11 children and asks what it takes to give a child the best start in life.

Life at 1 was the first instalment in the series and looked at the children when they were about 12 months of age. It was first screened on the ABC in 2006, and explored stress and personality.

Life at 3 screened in 2008 and looked at the children at around three years of age, focussing on the issues of behaviour and childhood obesity.

Life at 5 screened in 2011 and looked at how children develop reliance, and the skills they need to cope with starting school.

Life at 7 screened in 2012 and it tracked the development of 10 of the children’s temperament and their emerging relationships with their peers. The series also explored the children’s first steps towards independence and self-identity. In this series, the children explained in their own words how they see their lives in their ever-expanding world.

Production of Life at 9 is underway and is due to air in late 2014.

The ABC's LIFE series website has more information, and videos of the programs.

Annual Report

Growing Up In Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2011–12 Annual Report provides an overview of data collection processes for Wave 4.5 and Wave 5. At Wave 4.5, collection activity changed from a paper-based data collection exercise to internet-based capture of respondent details. In Wave 5 the older cohort of study children were aged 12 to 13 years old. Topics covered include romantic relationships, drug taking, alcohol use, bullying and victimisation, and peer relationships.

Growing Up In Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2010–11 Annual Report provides an overview of Wave 4 data and preliminary findings from the older cohort of study children aged ten to eleven years old.  Topics covered include children’s health, schooling, sleep, worries and concerns, parental monitoring and neighbourhoods.  Data from Wave 4 of the study was released in August 2011.

Growing Up In Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2009–10 Annual Report provides an overview of the Wave 3.5 data collection and findings from when the study children were aged 5-6 and 9-10 years old. The report includes information about the children's schooling, health and media/technology use.

Growing Up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children 2008-09 Annual Report presents an overview of the Wave 3 data collection and preliminary findings when the study children were aged 4–5 and 8–9 years old. The report also includes articles about breastfeeding and infants' time use, child and infant outcomes, and stress and psychological distress in mothers of infants.

More information

Further information can be obtained from the DSS LSAC project team lsac@dss.gov.au or by telephone on (02) 6146 2306.

The main website for the study is the Growing Up in Australia website at the Australian Institute of Family Studies. It contains a wealth of detail including a data users information page and many publications which give a picture of what the research has told us so far.

You can also access DSS's Longitudinal Surveys Electronic (FLoSse) Research archive to browse or search for bibliographic details of research material using data from LSAC and DSS's other longitudinal surveys.

Related information

The Guide to Australian longitudinal studies showcases why longitudinal datasets are valuable, what datasets are available and how they can be used to better inform policy.

Footprints in Time - The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children aims to improve the understanding of, and policy response to, the diverse circumstances faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families and communities

The second LSAC and LSIC Research Conference was held on 13 and 14 November 2013 in Melbourne.

The conference provided a forum for discussing research using the data of the LSAC and LSIC studies. The conference highlighted the range of topics that the data is being used to examine.

Information is available on the Growing Up in Australia website.

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