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Growing Up in Scotland: Birth Cohort 2. Results from the First Year

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Executive summary

Introduction

Growing Up in Scotland is a large-scale longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of several cohorts of Scottish children from the early years, through childhood and beyond.

This report provides a detailed insight into the first set of data collected from the study's second birth cohort - representative of all children born in Scotland between 1st March 2010 and 28th February 2011 - around the time they were aged 10 months old.

Characteristics and circumstances of children and their families

The report begins by providing an overview of the circumstances and characteristics of children born in Scotland between 1st March 2010 and 28th February 2011 - the BC2 children - around the time they were aged 10 months old. Comparisons are made with children in the first birth cohort - BC1 - who were born in 2004/05.

This chapter introduces many of the complex inter-relationships between demographic factors, family structure and socio-economic circumstances which influence findings throughout the report.

  • The proportion of births to women in their thirties has decreased from 47% in 2004/05 to 44% in 2010/11. The main corresponding increase has been amongst mothers in their twenties, rising from 42% in 2004/05 to 45% in 2010/11. Births to teenage mothers also decreased from 8% to 6%.
  • At 10 months of age, 79% of children lived with two parents whereas 21% lived with a single parent. These figures are almost identical to those for BC1 which were 80% and 20% respectively.
  • 50% of parents were married, 29% were cohabiting and 19% were single, leaving only a small proportion either separated or divorced. Marriage had decreased - down from 54% - and cohabiting increased - up from 26% - since 2005.
  • 33% of children were reported to have had between one and three grandparents alive, 53% had four grandparents, and 13% had more than four. Children in BC2 had slightly more grandparents alive at age 10 months than did children in BC1.
  • Receipt of Working and Child Tax Credits is lower amongst families in BC2 compared with those in BC1 reflecting the lower thresholds for withdrawal of Tax Credits introduced in 2011. Receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit increased slightly.
  • After taking account of inflation, the data suggest that families in 2011/12 have lower incomes than families with young children did in 2005/06. Whereas 21% of families in BC1 had an annual income of less than £10,833, the same was true (in real terms) for 27% of families in BC2.
  • 57% of mothers were in some form of paid employment (including those on maternity leave). Mothers were more likely to be working part-time (40%) - defined as less than
    35 hours per week - than full-time (17%) - defined as 35 hours per week or more. There was little change in maternal employment status between the two cohorts.
  • Religious membership amongst children has decreased between the two cohorts.
    In BC1, 41% of children were described as being part of a religion. In BC2, this had decreased to 37%.
  • Most children (56%) lived in a property that was 'owner occupied' though the proportion in private rented homes has increased (from 6% to 16%).

Pregnancy and birth

This chapter provides a detailed description of the pregnancies resulting in, and the births of, the BC2 children. In addition, selected characteristics and outcomes of BC2 are compared with the pregnancies and births of the BC1 children.

It is important to bear in mind that each GUS cohort is representative, not of all pregnancies in the relevant time span, but of the subset of pregnancies resulting in a live birth in Scotland, following on from which that infant is still resident in Scotland at 10 to 12 months of age.

  • Median timing for first antenatal appointment (booking) was nine weeks gestation, with 75% of women booking by 12 weeks.
  • 19% of BC2 women reported they had been 'not very' or 'not at all well' during pregnancy, an increase from 13% in BC1 six years before. The proportion of women reporting an 'illness or problem' during pregnancy increased by 3 percentage points (pp) between BC1 and BC2.
  • 90% of women took folic acid during pregnancy but only 38% took vitamin D. Women in receipt of Healthy Start Vouchers (HSV) were less likely to have taken these supplements. After adjustment for socio-demographic factors it was found that there was no difference in vitamin D intake between those receiving HSV or not, but the difference for folic acid persisted (fewer receiving HSV took folic acid).
  • 84% of BC2 mothers believed it is better to avoid alcohol altogether during pregnancy, while 80% reported that they had drunk no alcohol during the pregnancy with the BC2 child. This latter percentage is higher than for BC1 (74%).
  • 73% of BC2 women never smoked during pregnancy, compared with 75% in BC1, but a further 9% of BC2 stated that they gave up once they discovered they were pregnant (a response option not offered in BC1).
  • 40% of all BC2 mothers attended antenatal classes, a decrease from BC1 (from 46%), however there was no significant difference between cohorts in the number of first-time mothers who attended antenatal classes (71% of BC1 compared with 69% of BC2)
  • Sources of information when pregnant that were most commonly cited were health professionals (90%), family/friends (71%), internet (55%), and Ready Steady Baby booklet (48%), with mention of the internet having more than doubled since BC1. The three sources felt by parents in BC2 to be most helpful were health professionals, family/friends and the internet, which was similar to BC1 except that the internet had replaced books/magazines in third place.
  • 60% of BC2 births were described as 'normal', a small, but statistically significant reduction from BC1 (62%).
  • Mean birth weight of children in BC2 was 3391g, very similar to BC1, and the prevalence of low birth weight (<2500g) was 7% in both cohorts. As would be expected, low birth weight was associated with whether the baby arrived early, on time or late and with socio-demographic factors (lower education, low household income and older maternal age).

Infant feeding

This chapter provides a detailed description of the infant feeding experiences of children in BC2 making comparison with BC1 where possible. These experiences are described in relation to: breastfeeding initiation; breastfeeding at all for six or more weeks; exclusive breastfeeding for six or more weeks; exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months and age at introduction of solids. Some examination of take up and use of Healthy Start Vouchers is also included.

  • 36% of children were exclusively breastfed for six or more weeks and 11% until six months or more.
  • Breastfeeding outcomes are strongly associated with multiple socio-demographic factors.
  • The proportion of children who were breastfed at all (but not necessarily exclusively) for six weeks or more was unchanged between BC1 and BC2 (42%). However, after controlling for socio-demographic factors, the rate was actually found to be lower in BC2.
  • 42% of parents delayed introduction of solids until 21 weeks (five months) and 14% delayed until 26 weeks (six months).
  • Introduction of solids at six months was more likely amongst parents who had breastfed for at least six weeks, and even more amongst those who continued breastfeeding to six months.
  • 75% of mothers recalled having received breastfeeding advice 'at the time of birth' from any source. It is possible mothers also received such advice outside of the period they defined as 'at the time of birth'.
  • Initiation of breastfeeding was higher amongst those mothers who recalled receiving breastfeeding advice, from any source, 'at the time of birth', but particularly amongst those who recalled receiving advice from a midwife.
  • Among those who had initiated breastfeeding, recall of breastfeeding advice from a health visitor or other health professional was associated with continuation of breastfeeding to six weeks or more.

Parental support

Findings in this chapter describe the different sources and types of support that parents used in relation to information and advice on parenting. The chapter covers both formal and informal support and, alongside use of support and services, also considers satisfaction with, and attitudes towards, parenting support. Consideration of the child's contact with his or her grandparents and the support they offer to the family is also included.

  • Most parents were satisfied with the service provided by their health visitor during the first few months following the birth of their child. 83% of parents said their health visitor was either good or very good at providing helpful advice and 91% said the same in relation to listening to them.
  • Just under half of parents (48%) had attended a parent-baby/toddler group in the last
    12 months. Parental level of education and age had a key affect on whether or not the parent attended this type of group. For example, 22% of parents with no qualifications had attended such a group compared with 66% of parents with a degree.
  • 70% of parents had not attended any parenting classes or programmes over the past
    12 months. Just over half of parents (54%) indicated that they were unlikely to attend a parenting programme or class in the future. The most common reasons cited for not being likely to attend a programme or class in the future were not having enough time (25%) and feeling that they did not need to attend (22%).
  • 58% of parents indicated that they had not used any of the government sponsored support services, such as Play@Home booklets and ChildSmile. Parents with no qualifications were less likely to have used these resources than parents educated to a degree level (70% had not used any compared with 54%). Minority ethnic parents were also less likely to have used these resources.
  • Most parents said they preferred to receive information about parenting in person. 53% said they preferred to receive such information on a one-to-one basis from a professional such as a health visitor whilst 21% said they preferred to receive it in person from family or friends.
  • 77% of parents stated that they were either very or quite satisfied with the information available to them about parenting and 72% said they were either very satisfied or quite satisfied with the services available to support them in their role as a parent. There were no differences in levels of satisfaction between parents of different socio-economic backgrounds.
  • There were differences in attitudes towards formal support between different socio-economic groups. Younger parents, parents of lower educational level and income were more likely to find it harder to ask for formal help.
  • Almost all children in BC2 were in regular contact with at least some of their grandparents including 67% who had regular contact with all of them and 33% with some. Children in BC2 were slightly less likely than those in BC1 to have contact with all of their grandparents - decreasing from 71% to 67%.
  • Children whose parents had separated and those with younger mothers had contact with fewer of their grandparents than those whose parents were in a couple and those with older mothers.
  • Most common forms of support from grandparents were buying toys or equipment for the child (93%), looking after the child during the day (84% get this support at least sometimes), and more generally providing advice or support (80%). Grandparents also frequently provided care for the children. 56% looked after the child at least once a week and 45% babysat at least once a month.
  • Support was greater for parents in BC2 than parents in BC1. The most notable changes are in relation to helping out around the house - which increased from 44% to 69% - and helping out financially - which increased from 41% to 57%.
  • Some families draw more heavily on support from grandparents than others, particularly lone parents, younger mothers and first-time mothers. These are some of the same characteristics of those families who are less likely to have contact with all of the child's grandparents meaning that, in many cases, a higher level of reliance is being placed on a more limited resource.

Parenting

This chapter examines how parents' attitudes and domestic organisation may be shaped by family circumstances and parenting support, and how all these factors may in turn affect parenting and the parent-child relationship.

In these findings, 'family disadvantage' refers to indicators including low maternal education, low household income and area deprivation. "Social support for parenting" refers to informal support from family or friends, and/or formal support (eg. organised groups and classes). The findings relate to an analysis of mothers only.

  • Family disadvantage and a lack of social support for parenting were both independently associated with parental attitudes and domestic organisation likely to impair responsive, effective parenting.
  • Parenting stress was greater for:

- parents without informal parenting support from family or friends

- parents in both the most disadvantaged, and the most advantaged groups

  • Parents from disadvantaged families were more likely to have negative feelings about parenting (incompetence, resentment, impatience or irritation).
  • Family disadvantage and a lack of social support for parenting were both independently associated with less frequent activities important for child development, including:

- looking at books/reading stories

- singing or saying nursery rhymes

- visiting other families with young children

  • Almost all (95%) of mothers reported frequently hugging their child.
  • Parents from disadvantaged families were less likely to have a warm relationship with their child, and to limit TV viewing to less than 2 hours daily.
  • Parental attitudes, feelings and domestic organisation were associated with lower frequency of activities important for child development. These associations held after taking account of family disadvantage and social support for parenting.
  • Differences between the cohorts in parental reading to children (but not in negative feelings) are possibly attributable to increased provision of formal parenting support.

Non-resident parents

The findings in this chapter describe, for families where one of the child's biological parent is absent from the household, the resident parent's relationship with the non-resident parent, the frequency and nature of the contact the child has with them, how the contact arrangements were arranged and the influence they have in some areas of the child's life.

  • At 10 months of age, 21% of Scottish children had a non-resident biological parent.
  • In families where there was a non-resident parent, 57% of parents had never co-habited and 91% had never been married.
  • 24% of children did not have contact with their non-resident parent.
  • Non-resident parents who lived further away from the child, who had poorer relationships with the resident parent and who were reported as being less interested in the child (by the resident parent) were all less likely to have frequent contact with the child.
  • In 40% of families with a non-resident parent, 40% of resident parents said they would almost always ask the non-resident parent when making major decisions concerning
    the child.

Childcare

This chapter provides a detailed insight into patterns of childcare use amongst families of
10 month children in Scotland. Regular use of both formal and informal provision is included covering the type of provision and the number of hours and days used. Cost information, and perceptions of affordability and availability are also described. In addition, the chapter also includes data on patterns of parental leave following the child's birth and on the availability and use of family-friendly employer policies.

  • Around half of parents (52%) were regularly using childcare for the cohort child. This has decreased from BC1, where the equivalent figure was 60%. Much of the decrease is explained by a greater proportion of mothers in BC2 still being on maternity leave at the time of the interview (child aged 10 months).
  • Compared with BC1, use of a single arrangement had decreased (from 69% to 64%) with a corresponding increase in two arrangements (from 27% to 30%) and three or more arrangements (from 4% to 5%).
  • Grandparents were the most common form of childcare used - used by 69% of BC2 families using childcare. Nurseries were the next most common provider (28%) followed by 'other informal' provision (18%) and then childminders (10%). These patterns are similar to BC1.
  • 79% of families using childcare were using at least one informal arrangement and 39% were using at least one formal arrangement. Compared with BC1, use of any informal provision increased from 75%, whereas use of any formal provision has remained static. Those who were using formal childcare arrangements in BC2 were more likely to be using them in combination with an informal provider.
  • On average, families using childcare did so for 22 hours per week. This is almost identical to the corresponding figure of 21 hours for BC1.
  • The average weekly cost of childcare was £88. Comparing with BC1 figures indicates that in real terms, there has been an average increase in childcare costs for a 10 month old child of £12 per week, or approximately £624 per year.
  • The proportion of parents reporting that childcare costs were 'very easy' to pay has reduced slightly from 14% to 10% whereas the proportion saying costs were difficult to pay increased a little from 21% to 24%.
  • Only 8% of parents using childcare said that arranging it had been difficult. The most common reason given for finding it difficult (given by 45%) was a lack of availability. Cost was cited by 15% whilst difficulty caused by irregular or unusual working hours was mentioned by 8%.
  • The proportion of mothers who took maternity leave for between six and 10 months, and for 10 months or more, doubled between BC1 and BC2 (from 22% to 46%, and 18% to 38% respectively). The proportion taking up to six months decreased from 60% to 16%.
  • In BC2, 85% of parents currently employed said their employer offered at least one family friendly policy. This represents a significant increase from 60% in BC1. Indeed, parents in BC2 were more likely than those in BC1 to rate their employer as very or fairly good in terms of allowing family friendly working (71% compared with 64%).

Child health and development

This chapter provides a detailed insight into a range of data on child health and development including general health, accidental injury, the acquisition of motor skills and early communicative behaviour, parental knowledge of early child development and concerns about development, sleep, tooth-brushing and child temperament.

  • 95% of children in 2010/11, and 94% in 2005/06, were described by their main carers as having 'very good' or 'good' health. In 2010/11, 79% of children in one child households had 'very good' health, this declined to 70% in households with four or more children. 78% of children in the two least deprived quintiles had 'very good' health, compared with 72% in the most deprived quintile.
  • 12% of children in 2010/11, and 13% in 2005/06, had a long-term condition or illness. In 2010/11, boys (13%) were more likely than girls (10%) to have a long-term condition or illness. Children born to mothers aged 30 and over (13%) were more likely to than those aged under 30 (10%). 19% of low birth weight children had a long-term condition compared with 11% of those whose birth weight was not low.
  • Children in 2010/11 were reported to have experienced a mean number of 2.4 different health problems since birth (aside from long-term conditions or accidents). This was higher in boys (2.6) than girls (2.3). Boys with mothers aged under 20 when they were born were the most likely group to have experienced a higher number of different problems.
  • Most parents had contacted someone about their children's health problems: 40% made contact about all of them, 45% about some of them, and just 14% said they had not contacted anyone. 49% of mothers under 20 had contacted a professional about all their child's health problems compared with 38-39% of those born to mothers aged 30-39 and 40 or older.
  • In 2010/11, 8% of children (8% of boys and 9% of girls) had received treatment for an accident. This represents a small (but statistically significant) reduction from 2005/06 when 10% of children had done so (11% of boys, 9% of girls). In 2010/11, 13% of children whose mothers were aged under 20 at their birth had received treatment for an accident compared with 6% of children with mothers aged 40 or more. Education level, income and area deprivation were unrelated to accident treatment rates.
  • Seven milestones were asked about in the 2005/06 and 2010/11 interviews to assess motor skills development. 17% of children in 2010/11 had missed one of the milestones compared with 20% in 2005/06. Second and subsequent born children were more likely than first born children to have missed milestones than first born children as were children born to mothers aged 40 or over and those with low birthweight.
  • Ten communication behaviours were asked about in the 2010/11 interview. All but one of the behaviours were displayed by the majority of children, with only around a quarter of children able to nod to indicate yes at 10 months. For half of the individual items, girls' communication skills were more advanced than boys, and children in the most deprived areas were more likely to display the behaviour than children in the least deprived areas.
  • Compared with the average child, early communication skills were less well developed if a child was not a mother's first born, if they lived in the least deprived areas, and if they had a main carer from an ethnic group other than white. Children with delayed motor skills, and those with low birth weights, also had less well developed communication skills.
  • Just 5% of carers in 2010/11 reported some or a lot of concerns about their child's development, learning or behaviour. This was a reduction from 8% in 2005/06. 9% of carers in the lowest household income quintile had concerns compared with 4% in the two highest quintiles.
  • 4% of main carers whose children had met all of the six motor milestones (described above) reported some concerns, compared with 34% for children missing two or more milestones. The prevalence of concerns was also a little higher for children with the lowest level of communication skills compared with those with the highest level of skills (10% versus 4%). This possibly suggests that delays in motor skill development trigger concerns more readily than problems with communication skills.

Parental health

Parental health was assessed in relation to a number of indicators covering physical and mental health, and health behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol and use of illicit drugs.

  • 88% of main carers said that their general health was good, very good or excellent. Socio-economic status, whether measured by income, NS-SEC or area deprivation, had the greatest effect on general health. For example, 93% of parents living in the least deprived area reported their health as good or better compared with the proportion dropped from 93% in the least deprived quintile to 83% in the most deprived.
  • 14% of main carers had a long standing illness, including 5% who said this was limiting. Variations were again evident by area deprivation, particularly in relation to limiting illness.
  • Socio-economic status was also associated with physical and mental wellbeing as measured by the SF-12. Parents in more disadvantaged circumstances were more likely to report lower levels of both.
  • 24% of main carers smoked. This represents a decrease - from 28% - compared with 2005.
  • 12% of main carers were classified as hazardous drinkers according to the AUDIT-PC scale.
  • Hazardous and binge drinking varied according to demographic and socio-economic characteristics. Differences were particularly stark in relation to maternal age with younger mothers significantly more likely to be classed as hazardous drinkers and to report binge drinking monthly or more often.
  • 24% of main carers had taken drugs at some point in their lives though only 3% had reported drug use in the last year.
  • Similarly, 4% of those in the top income quintile had used drugs in the last year, compared with 22% in the bottom income quintile. Younger mothers and parents living in more deprived areas also reported higher drug use in the last year.