10,000 Infants and their Parents to Participate in Growing Up in Ireland – a joint TCD and ESRI study

Posted on: 15 September 2008

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Barry Andrews last week launched the rollout of Growing Up in Ireland – The Infant Cohort, marking the beginning of research with 10,000 nine-month-old infants and their parents from across Ireland.

Research with the families will get underway in the coming days and continue until early next year with approximately 1,500 families invited to take part each month. The 10,000 families invited to take part in this stage of the study will be selected randomly from the Child Benefit Register.

To ensure a complete picture of each child is created, an in-depth interview will be conducted with the infant’s parents who will be asked questions about their child’s health, development and daily routines as well as the parents’ own health, lifestyle and family life. These same children will be revisited when they are three-years-old, to see how they will have grown and how their lives will have changed in the interim.

Launched in January 2007, Growing Up in Ireland is a Government funded study following the progress of over 18,000 children – a cohort of 8,500 nine year olds and a cohort of 10,000 nine month olds. The aim of the study is to paint a full picture of children in Ireland today and to understand what factors affect children’s development and wellbeing. The study is being conducted by a consortium of researchers led by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and Trinity College Dublin.

The results of the study will provide important information and evidence to support the development and provision of government policy and services in areas including education, healthcare, Social Welfare, child support and Family Support.

As well as launching the rollout of the infant study,  last week’s event also marked the   completion of the first wave of data collection with the Nine-Year Cohort which involved interviewing 8,500 nine-year-olds, their parents, teachers and Principals.

Research with the Nine-Year cohort began in the first half of 2007 when 8,500 children were selected randomly through the National School system. Participation involved both a school and home component. Each study child was asked to sit the Drumcondra test in English and Maths in school. In addition information about the child and their school was collected from the class teacher and school Principal. The study then moved into the homes of the children where separate questionnaires were filled out by the study child and his/her parent or parents. These recorded a wealth of information on the children, including details on health, education, diet and exercise, academic development, emotional health and well-being, parental / guardian lifestyle and behaviour. These children will be visited again when they are 13 years old.

Speaking at the event, the Minister for Children, Barry Andrews, said: “I am delighted to launch the rollout of data collection with the infant cohort, another significant milestone in the life of Growing Up in Ireland. The effectiveness of this phase of the study will rely to a large extent on the cooperation and involvement of the families invited to take part.  I would encourage all selected families to participate in the knowledge that taking part will be a rewarding experience and one which families can take pleasure in knowing that they are contributing to a ground-breaking study which will benefit present and future generations of children in Ireland.”

Also speaking at the event, Professor James Williams, Research Professor, ESRI and Principal Investigator and Co-Director, Growing Up in Ireland, said: “The Growing Up in Ireland team is delighted to announce the start of the first round of data collection with the Nine-Month Cohort, which we have been preparing for since the beginning of this year. We are looking forward to welcoming another 10,000 families on board with the study over the coming months. We are now taking another important step in a very exciting journey for the study. The information we collect from these families will add to a growing bank of invaluable data which will become a major element of the evidence base for policy and practice regarding children and their families, ensuring that every child can have the best possible start in life.”

Commenting on the completion of the first wave of data collection with the Nine-Year Cohort, Professor Sheila Greene, Director of the Children’s Research Centre, TCD and Co-Director, Growing Up in Ireland, said: “The completion of the first wave of data collection with our Nine-Year Cohort is a hugely significant milestone in the life of Growing Up in Ireland. The Study Team would like to express its sincere thanks to all those who have made it possible for us to reach this point, most importantly all our participant families and schools. Families nowadays have hectic schedules with many demands on their time, as indeed have our school teachers and Principals. With this in mind we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to our participants for finding the time to speak with our fieldworkers. We very much look forward to revisiting and catching-up with all these families in four years times.”

As the fieldwork with the Nine-Month Cohort gets underway, work is now ongoing on the analysis of the data collected from the Nine-Year Cohort and the first in a series of Growing Up in Ireland reports is due to be published next Spring. The first report will focus on describing the lives of nine-year-old children in Ireland today and will present finding on areas such as family context, parenting, health and educational development.

Those wishing to find out more about the study can visit the study’s website, www.growingup.ie or can Freephone 1800 200 434.