Life at age 14: initial findings from the Growing Up in Scotland study

Growing Up in Scotland is a longitudinal study following the lives of young people. The report is based on data collected in 2019/20, when participants were 14 years, from 2,943 families. The report presents high level findings relating to young people’s experiences across a range of life domains.

1. Introduction and background

This report presents findings about the lives of 14-year-olds living in Scotland. It uses data collected from Birth Cohort 1 (BC1) of the Growing Up in Scotland study (GUS). The majority of the fieldwork was completed prior to the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. GUS is an important longitudinal research project aimed at tracking the lives of young people in Scotland from their early years and childhood, into adolescence and beyond.

This report covers several aspects of young people's lives including:

  • Experience of school and educational aspirations
  • Relationships with parents and peers
  • Activities and risky behaviour
  • Mental health and life satisfaction
  • General health, physical activity and sleep

The report presents high level findings from the most recently available data sweep. There is a substantial amount of further analysis that can be done, both of the data collected in this sweep alone and through combination with previous sweeps. The report is intended to give a flavour of the topics covered by GUS and we encourage researchers to make use of the wealth of information collected over the past 15 years of the study.

To find out more about GUS, access existing research reports and articles, and sign up to receive updates, visit the study website: Growing Up in Scotland

1.1 Study background and methodology

This report draws on data collected from 2943 families in 2019/20 when most of the cohort participants were aged 14 and in their third year of secondary school. Findings from interviews with parents and young people themselves are presented. The Sweep 10 questionnaires reflected an increased focus on the young person's views than the parents.

1.1.1 Study design

BC1 is comprised of a nationally representative sample of 5217 children living in Scotland when they were 10 months old and who were born between June 2004 and May 2005. A child cohort was also launched at the same time as BC1. A second birth cohort began in 2010/11, however interviewing was discontinued at age 5. More information on the study structure can be found on the website.

Over the years, GUS has administered surveys to parents, their partners, teachers and the children themselves. Data collection with the young people is an increasingly large part of the study, and began with a short questionnaire at Sweep 8. The surveys are generally administered using a mixture of interviewer-led (CAPI) and self-completion modes (CASI), and on the whole this has taken place at a face-to-face interview.

The GUS BC1 cohort children are split across two school years. To ensure that participants are in the same school year when they take part in the survey, fieldwork takes place in two phases. Fieldwork for phase 1 of Sweep 10 took place between January and July 2019. Fieldwork for phase 2 began in January 2020, was paused in March 2020, resumed in August 2020 and ended in October 2020.

At Sweep 9 a boost sample was recruited to compensate for differential and increasing non-response amongst disadvantaged groups. This sample took part in Sweep 10, with a lower response rate anticipated, given their demographic profile and shorter involvement in GUS. Sweep 10 also included a short questionnaire administered to the partner of the main carer.

1.1.2 Sweep 10 methodology

The Covid-19 pandemic necessitated that Sweep 10 fieldwork be paused in March 2020 when it was approximately 80% complete. Fieldwork was restarted in May 2020 using an alternative methodology, where a web survey (CAWI) replaced the CASI element and a telephone survey (CATI) replaced the CAPI portion.

Before fieldwork was paused in March 2020, data had been collected from 2417 families face-to-face; a response rate of 80%. Using the alternative methodology, data was collected from 526 families; a response rate of 57%. A lower response rate was expected given the methodology change, as well as the nature of the reissued cases, which included those who had not responded to the face-to-face interviewer and a high proportion of cases from the boost sample.

1.2 Analysis and reporting

Analysis of the Sweep 10 data was conducted by Scottish Government analysts using SPSS. The Sweep 10 dataset includes six different weights; for this report the main carer and young person cross sectional weights have been used (labelled 'Djwtbrtha' and 'Djwtchlda' in the dataset). For more information on GUS weighting, please see the documentation available via the UK Data Service.

1.2.1 Response rates and missing cases

All figures presented in this report have been calculated to exclude missing cases and non-applicable answers unless otherwise stated. This means that base sizes quoted will usually not match the total number of families involved in the data collection.

Cases may be missing or non-applicable for a variety of reasons, such as;

  • Routing (e.g. where a respondent's answer at a previous question meant they were not asked a follow up question)
  • Refusal or a 'don't know' response
  • Different response rates for the young people and parents (in general more parents responded than young people)
  • Different response rates to the different survey elements

Regarding the final point above, the change in methodology has made this issue more complex. The Sweep 10 study had more survey elements than in previous years, as in addition to the CASI/CAPI elements, the cognitive assessment and the height and weight measurements, there were also CATI and CAWI surveys. In general a lower

Table 1 Number of main carer/parent and young person interviews by survey methodology
Respondent Face to face Telephone Web Overall
Young person # 2325 449 332 2827
response rate 77% 49% 36% 73%
Main Carer/parent # 2411 503 357 2933
response rate 79% 55% 39% 76%

The methodology switch meant that some of the survey routing and question wording had to be amended to accommodate telephone and online surveying. Where this was done, the variables have been kept separate in the dataset. However for the purposes of this report, these were combined to be able to report an overall figure. More detail about where this was done and the relevant caveats can be found in Annex A.

1.2.2 Subgroup analysis

Subgroup analysis was conducted, looking at differences by sex, disability and area deprivation.

To maintain comparability with reporting from previous sweeps, we have looked at differences by sex. Sweep 10 included a gender identity question for the first time, and so analysis of this is also now possible. As sex was collected at Sweep 1, the data is complete for all Sweep 10 participants. The gender identity question was asked of the young person only at Sweep 10 on the self-completion (CASI/CAWI) questionnaire. This means the data is incomplete for families where only the parent/main carer responded or where the young person did not respond to the CASI/CAWI questionnaire.

A young person is considered to be disabled if it was reported in the survey that they have 'physical or mental health conditions or illnesses which lasted or is expected to last 12 months or more' and affects their 'ability to do activities normal for someone their age' 'a lot' or 'a little'. This question was asked to the main carer/parent at earlier sweeps and re-confirmed at the most recent sweep.

Area deprivation has been measured using the 2020 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)[2]. This measure splits the sample into five groups (quintiles), with the 1st group living in the most deprived areas and the 5th group living in the least deprived areas.

Only differences that were statistically significant at the 95% level have been included, however not all differences been reported (such as where the percentages involved were very small or there was no clear trend).

Table 2 Subgroup unweighted sample sizes

Group Category Number
Sex Male 1476
Female 1443
Disability Disabled 429
Non-disabled 2512
SIMD quintile SIMD quintile 1 (most deprived) 544
SIMD quintile 2 496
SIMD quintile 3 498
SIMD quintile 4 701
SIMD quintile 5 (least deprived) 704

1.2.3 Terminology and presentation

Throughout the report results from the young person are clearly noted and the corresponding charts are coloured orange. For the parents, the charts are blue.

There are a number of terminology points to bear in mind;

  • Throughout the report we refer to 'parents' however the respondent could also be a main carer/legal guardian; 62 main carer respondents did not identify as a parent (including step parents and foster parents).
  • The report is entitled 'life at age 14'. However, only 74.2% were aged 14 at the time of interview; whilst 23.3% were 15, 1.3% were 16 and 1.2% were 13.
  • At previous sweeps the young participants have been described as 'children'; in this report they are described as 'young people' reflecting their age.
  • Where figures of less than 1% are included in charts, they are sometimes not labelled for the sake of clarity.
  • The wording 'boys' and 'girls' has been used to describe the different sexes.
  • Area deprivation categories are described as SIMD quintile 1 (for the most deprived area) through to quintile 5 (for the least deprived).
  • The description of parents relates to the study child only. For example, 'parents of boys' should be interpreted as 'parents whose child in the study is a boy' and does not refer to the sex of any other children in their household.

It should be noted that some of the fieldwork for Sweep 10 took place whilst there were COVID-19 restrictions in place, especially in schools. This may have impacted some of the results.



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