Family-related life events

Insights from two Australian longitudinal studies
Research Report No. 22 – December 2012

Appendix D. Supplementary information, LSAC analyses

At each wave of LSAC, parents are asked to nominate one parent as the “primary carer”; that is, the parent who knows the most about the child (Parent 1). In most families, parents nominated the mother as the primary carer (96–98% of cases, varying slightly across cohorts and waves). This parent provides an extensive set of data about their child and about themselves, and also, on some items, about the other parent. Interviews and self-complete questionnaires are used to collect this information. Where there is a second parent (or another person who fulfils some aspects of the parental role, including a grandparent to the child), this other parent is also asked to complete a questionnaire, which contains a large amount of information, particularly relating to parenting practices and different measures of wellbeing. We refer to all respondents as “parents” and refer to the second parent (Parent 2) as the partner, even though in a small number of families these respondents have different relationships to the child and each other.

Other instruments (e.g., time use diaries and child self-reports) are also included in the study, although they are not used in these analyses of LSAC.

The focus of this research is the series of questions concerning experiences of “life events”, described in detail below. In Waves 1 to 3, these items were collected in a self-completion questionnaire and so were subject to some non-response, as seen in Table D1. In Waves 1 and 2 this was administered as a leave-behind questionnaire, although respondents could complete it while the interviewer was present. In Wave 3, parents were asked to complete this while the interviewer was in the home. In Wave 4, these items were collected as part of a computer-assisted self-interview, resulting in considerably higher response rates.

Because non-response to the study and attrition across the waves tends to be higher among the more disadvantaged families (Sipthorp & Misson, 2009), the LSAC sample responding to the life events questions is unlikely to fully represent the most disadvantaged Australians. While non-response to the life events questions at Wave 4 is less of a concern, given that there was little item non-response at this wave, there are some overall biases in this sample due to survey attrition. Sample weights adjust for this to some extent, but it is possible that the prevalence of particular life events may be somewhat higher than indicated from these data. This needs to be kept in mind when generalising from these results to the wider Australian population.

Table D1: LSAC sample size, B and K cohorts, Waves 1–4
  B cohort K cohort
0–1 year 2–3 years 4–5 years 6–7 years 4–5 years 6–7 years 8–9 years 10–11 years
Total families 5,107 4,606 4,386 4,242 4,983 4,464 4,331 4,169
% of Wave 1 sample   90.2 85.9 83.1   89.6 86.9 83.7
Life events questions answered 4,297 3,476 3,725 4,202 4,192 3,415 3,656 4,111

Note: The number answering life events questions is the total responding to at least one of the life events items. Some respondents did not provided responses on specific questions.

The collection of life events data in LSAC has been described in the report. Some life events were asked about, but not analysed in this report. These are:

  • had a serious problem with a close friend, neighbour or family member;
  • had problems with the police or a court appearance;
  • was seeking work unsuccessfully for more than one month;
  • thought would soon lose job;
  • had a crisis or serious disappointment in your work career;
  • increased work hours [from Wave 4];
  • decreased work hours [from Wave 4];
  • changed jobs or returned to work [from Wave 4]; and
  • was away from home a lot [from Wave 4].

These life events were not considered to be of direct relevance to this research project.