Growing up in Scotland: a study following the lives of Scotland's children

The first research report on Sweep 1 findings of the Growing Up in Scotland study.

Chapter 10: Conclusion

This report marks the end of the first year of the Growing Up in Scotland study. The second year (sweep two) of fieldwork, which commenced in April 2006, is well underway and interviewing will continue until Spring 2007 by which time fieldwork for sweep three will have launched. So far, the success of the first year has been carried over into the second stage of the study. The continued support from and enthusiasm of the study respondents is allowing the expansion of an already rich and diverse source of information on the characteristics, circumstances and experiences of young children and their parents in Scotland.

Information collected at sweep one and the analysis contained within this report will help the Scottish Executive start to realise a range of objectives associated with the initial motivation for the study. The data will:

  • Support the monitoring and evaluation of early years/children's services policies in the areas of childcare, education and social work, health and social inclusion.
  • Support the Scottish Executive Education Department's particular analytical requirements for both longitudinal and cross-sectional studies of children's development and well-being and the effectiveness of services provided for them.
  • Contribute to the development of the early years/children's services evidence base for the Executive and for the wider research community in Scotland.

Although this report contains data from only one sweep of the study, it is evident that a number of important themes are already emerging. Many of these - and particularly those related to the distinctive situations and service use behaviour of younger mothers, lone parents and more economically deprived families - have been highlighted as warranting more detailed examination. Through the development of new questions on existing topics such as parenting and child health and development, future sweeps of the main survey will allow a great deal of this further exploration to be undertaken For example, at sweep two the inclusion of more detailed questions around use of health services, and in particular, use of Accident and Emergency departments, will allow a more detailed investigation of some of the key distinctions in service use between sub-groups in the sample that have been identified in this report.

As well as providing more detail on existing topics, by repeating important baseline measures at each sweep, significant changes in a family's or child's circumstances can be tracked year-on-year. Among other things, such changes may be related to household composition, economic circumstances, parental employment, childcare arrangements or levels of formal or informal support. The baseline data also provide a reference point for cross-sectional time-series comparison. For example, data from sweep three, when the children in the younger cohort will be the same age that those in the older cohort were at sweep one, will permit comparison of these data on 2-3 year olds in 2005 with data on 2-3 year olds in 2007.

It is also planned that forthcoming sweeps will also widen the focus of the study to incorporate other perspectives (e.g. those of fathers, grandparents and non-resident parents) and issues that develop in importance as the cohorts age. The main survey at sweep two, for example, includes new sections exploring issues around neighbourhood and community, food and nutrition and the transition to pre-school. Height and weight measurements are being recorded at this sweep. New developments for sweep three include questions on child and parent social networks and the transition to primary school.

A key part of the design and philosophy behind GUS was that the study would be the centrepiece of a wider programme of research allowing follow-up studies of key sub-groups and providing a rich resource for other researchers. A number of additional research exercises have already been undertaken or commissioned. Each of these build upon or broaden the existing main survey and overview report. They include:

  • At sweep 2, a shorter face-to-face interview undertaken with the resident partner of the main survey respondent.
  • An ESRC CASE Award PhD Studentship which commenced in October 2006. For this project, entitled 'The habits of a lifetime? Babies diets and family life in Scotland', data from the first two sweeps of the study will be used to describe the food consumption patterns of babies, consider how these develop in relation to wider family life and to assess the implications for child health and social policy in Scotland.
  • A scoping exercise to ascertain the feasibility of a qualitative follow-up study focusing on the needs and experiences of minority ethnic households in Scotland, with very young children.
  • The publication of themed analytical reports which involve more focused and detailed analyses of the existing sweep one data and will provide further insight into a number of key issues already highlighted within this report.

To establish Growing Up in Scotland as a key Scottish research and policy resource, a wide-ranging dissemination and engagement programme has been developed for the study. This programme seeks to promote the study to a broad interest group encompassing central and local government policy personnel, voluntary and public sector practitioners and academic and research communities. A dissemination and engagement strategy is in place, which includes the employment of a dissemination officer, the construction of a study website and the establishment of a study interest group. Future activities will mirror the evolution of the study as a richer and more rewarding resource as further sweeps of fieldwork add to the existing data.

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