Growing Up in Australia: A Look Into The Lives Of The Under Seven Set

Growing Up in Australia: A Look Into The Lives Of The Under Seven Set

Media release — 19 June 2008

Most Australian children are growing up in homes where there's been an increase in families' perceived prosperity over the two-year period between 2004 and 2006.

Half of all children felt “happy about going to school when they got up in the morning” and more than 90 percent of two to three year-olds were read to from a book at least once a week.

Being told a story ”not from a book” happened for about 60 percent of two to three year-old children, according to the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The analysis of what children do at home comes from the latest annual report into the Institute’s Longitudinal Study ‘Growing Up In Australia’ – the first comprehensive study examining the lives of Australian children as they grow up.

“Nine out of ten children said they enjoyed reading and writing and seven out of ten children felt they were doing well at school.  The added bonus was that eight out of ten children felt that their teacher was nice to them,” said Institute director Professor Alan Hayes.

However other indicators of child health and wellbeing were less rosy, with the rate of breast-feeding still below national and international benchmarks.

The latest wave of research detailed in the annual report found:

  • When babies were one week old the rate of full breastfeeding was 80%;
  • By the time a child was one month old only 71% were fully breastfed;
  • At two months old the rate of full breastfeeding was 62%;
  • At three months it was 56% and;
  • At five months old only 28% of children were fully breastfed, dropping to just 14 % at six months.

“This is important information considering the World Health Organisation and the National Health and Medical Research Council recommend that as any many infants as possible are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life,” Professor Hayes said.

“It’s not just about a women’s employment pressures either, since we know from our other research that very few women are back at work before their child is three months.  This is a trend we’re all going to need to understand a lot more about,” he said.

One of the other most dramatic changes to Australian families in recent decades is the increase in the number of single-parent households.

The latest wave of research from the ‘Growing Up In Australia’ Study carried out in 2006, reveals 17 percent of children between the ages of four and five are living in single-parent households, up from 14% in 2004.

“Single mothers are less likely to be employed, but the gap between single mothers and women who are part of a couple narrows as children get older,” Professor Hayes said.

The research also reveals that between 2004 and 2006, Australians felt they were becoming more prosperous, with those saying their family was “very comfortable or prosperous” increasing from 17% to 24%.

At the same time, the number of people who felt they were “just getting along” fell from 34% to 25%.

“Usually this group had experienced some kind of financial hardship, like being forced to pawn or sell something and having sought help from a welfare or community organisation,” Professor Hayes said.

“While experiencing financial hardship at any point in time may have adverse consequences, the negative effects are likely to be more severe for families that experience financial hardships for a sustained period of time,” he said.

One reason for a decline in families’ financial wellbeing is the breakdown in relationships, as single parents are more likely to experience financial hardship than couples, according to the study.

“The biggest improvements in financial wellbeing were reported by parents who were a single parent last time we spoke to them in 2004 but who in 2006 were part of a couple family,” Professor Hayes said.

The Study also looked at child-care, finding that almost three quarters of children aged between two and three were receiving some type of regular non-parental childcare in 2006.

It also examined the amount of time parents spend with their children – showing that women spent more than 15 hours a day with their infant children – roughly double the amount of time that fathers spent with them.

The 2006-07 Annual Report on Growing Up in Australia: the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children

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