Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children (LSAC)

Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children (LSAC)

Media backgrounder— August 2012
Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children (LSAC)

This backgrounder provides a brief snapshot regarding the purpose, key findings and progress of the Longitudinal Study of Australia’s Children (LSAC).

The backgrounder is intended for journalists, news commentators and other media presenters who maybe interested in the study.

Study background

Since 2004, LSAC has examined how Australia's unique social and cultural environment impacts on child development.

The study follows the development of 10,000 children and their families from all parts of Australia.

It is designed to identify policy opportunities for improving support for children and their families.

The Cohorts

Cohort B

  • In 2003-04, 5000 children aged 0-1 years were randomly selected to the Cohort B study group.
  • Today, the Cohort B children are aged 9-10 years.

Cohort K

  • In 2003-04, 5000 children aged 4-5 years were randomly selected to the Cohort K study group.
  • Today, the Cohort K children are aged 13-14 years.

Purpose of LSAC

The main aim of the study is to analyse:

  • children’s physical health and social, cognitive and emotional development; and
  • their experiences in key environments such as the family, community, childcare, pre-school and school settings.

Collecting information

  • Children and families participating in the study are visited once every two years.
  • At each visit the families are interviewed and direct observations and assessments are conducted.
  • Researchers measure a wide range of age appropriate developmental outcomes, influences and life events.
  • The information collected is then made available for further analysis.

Data availability

Research topics

The study has looked at a range of specific research topics concerning child development, including:

  • Factors that influence a child’s health and development over time
  • How family composition and family relationships influence child development
  • How labour force participation, education and economic status influence child outcomes
  • The effects of non parental child care on development outcomes
  • Influences of school engagement and achievement
  • Impacts of children's use of time on individual outcomes
  • Characteristics that influence children's resilience
  • Impacts of intergenerational characteristics on individual outcomes
  • How neighbourhood characteristics impact child outcomes
  • School and pre-school characteristics
  • Children’s language development
  • Impacts and prevalence of child obesity

Sharing information

The Institute has several regular research publications based on LSAC data. These include:

Life at… series

Life at.. is a documentary series that follows eleven children since they were 12 months old and explores what helps to give a child the best chance at life.

Coverage includes children’s behaviour and milestones and the impact of parent’s relationships, finances, work and health.

The documentary draws extensively on the experience of Growing Up in Australia, and includes expert commentary from members of the Growing Up in Australia Consortium Advisory Group.

Four series featuring two episodes each have been aired on ABC1 – Life at 1, Life at 3, Life at 5 and most recently Life at 7. For more information on the Life at.. series go to the ABC1 Life at... website.

LSAC Research Conference

Since 2007, LSAC has held a research conference every two years.

It brings together researchers and policy-makers to discuss findings from the LSAC study.

In 2011, a combined conference of LSAC and the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) was held.

The next conference is scheduled in Melbourne on 13-14 November 2013.

More information on the 2011 LSAC-LSIC conference

More information on the 2013 LSAC-LSIC conference

LSAC Annual Statistical Reports

The Growing Up in Australia LSAC Annual Statistical Report is a series of reports that provides policy-makers, researchers and practitioners with a valuable introduction to the wealth of information on the wellbeing of children and families collected in the LSAC study.

Growing Up in Australia LSAC Annual Statistical Report 2010

Key findings

Parenting practices and behaviours

  • Disadvantaged parents reported poorer parenting practices than more advantaged parents on almost all measures, including inconsistent parent, low self efficacy and low parental warmth
  • Lone mothers and young mothers reported increased odds of overprotective parenting and poor self-efficacy
  • Overall the majority of parents demonstrated competent parenting

Children’s experiences of childcare

  • By the age of 2-3 years old, 70% of children were attending some type of non-parental child care on a regular part-time basis

Jobless families

  • Children living in jobless families had worse outcomes on average than other children

Children’s pre and perinatal health experiences

  • Of study participants, 18% of women smoked and 38% of women drank alcohol while pregnant in Cohort B
  • Mothers from poorer socio-economic backgrounds were more likely to smoke, have high blood pressure and stress and anxiety or depression during pregnancy.

Growing Up in Australia LSAC Statistical Report 2011

Key findings

Parent’s mental health

  • 25% of lone mothers in the study experienced moderate to high levels of psychological distress – double the rate of coupled mothers
  • For parents of children in primary school, 12-17% of mothers and 10-12% of fathers in the LSAC study had moderate to high levels of psychological distress

Father’s involvement in personal care activities

  • When mothers work part-time or full-time, fathers are much more likely to help get kids dressed/ready for the day and help get them to bed
  • Fathers are more likely to be involved in personal care activities such as bathing or showering if the child is a boy

Characteristics of family housing arrangements

  • 75% of children in the LSAC study moved house at least once before the age of 10
  • Children are more likely to move in their early years, but the majority tend to move within the same local area

Children’s use of television

  • 45% of children over 2 years of age watch television more than the recommended 2 hours per day, especially on weekends
  • Children tend not to watch television in their first year of life
  • Children who watch less television and spend more time using print media tend to come from higher socio-economic backgrounds

Experiences of families with a child with a disability

  • Families with a child with disability were more likely to experience financial hardship and joblessness
  • These families were also more likely to report being unable to access help/support when needed

Children’s numeracy skills

  • Children living in lone-mother families, or families with three or more children had lower numeracy scores than those who were living with two parents and one or two siblings.
  • Socio-economic background predicted the level of numeric skill

In covering such a range of topics, the LSAC Annual Statistical Report is a valuable introduction to the wealth of information collected by the study.

Growing Up in Australia LSAC Statistical Report 2012

Due for release in early 2013.

Media Releases

Several media releases have been generated on study findings. These include:

The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children is conducted in partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

For further information please contact Growing Up in Australia.

Publication details

Media backgrounder
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, August 2012.

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